February 24, 2015

How to Host a Preservation-Themed Honk and Wave

For weeks you’ve driven awareness for your preservation issue with contact calling parties, Instagram tours of historic sites, and video interviews with supporters. Now, the finish line is nearing. You want to shift into high gear and make one last push to get the word out. Why not host a honk and wave?

The idea is simple enough. Find a busy thoroughfare, attract as much attention as you can, and display your issue. But there are always ways to fine tune the engine. Here are six tips that will help you put the pedal to the metal with your honk and wave event.

For one of its Cincinnati honk and waves, the National Trust crew posted up on an overpass and engaged different flows of traffic simultaneously.

Assemble Your Pit Crew

Ideally, you’ll have between four and six people working to attract attention and get the word out. Take turns performing tasks, and have someone on hand to run out for refreshments or snacks. Playing off each other and keeping morale up is also key.

“Honk and waves can get real old after approximately five minutes,” says Grant Stevens, who hosted several of the events during the National Trust’s efforts to Save Cincinnati’s Union Terminal last fall. “You have to entertain yourselves.”

Find the Starting Line

You need a high-traffic area, but one where drivers will be able to notice you. Major intersections work well because you can alternate your focus between opposite directions of traffic.

Both morning and evening rush hour are good choices for your honk and wave, but keep in mind who your target audience is and where they’ll be headed at a given time. Consider posting up near stadiums before and after ballgames, near grocery stores on Sunday afternoons, and near churches, synagogues, and mosques on the weekends.

Chaz Wiederhold of the Cincinnati Museum Center really got into the honk and wave groove in Cincy.

Be a Showboat

Bright clothing and pompoms can really catch the eye, but an even better way to engage with folks is with your enthusiasm. Be as animated and passionate as you can. It’s contagious. Also, the more noticeable you are to motorists, the safer you’ll be on the roadside.

Flaunt Your Signage and Decals

A sign or two that simply says “Honk” lets people know how to interact with you and helps draw even more attention to your cause. But once you attract attention, you need a way to get your message across. Banners with a recognizable logo or photo, a catchy slogan, or a simple message are the strongest tools for communication.

Also keep in mind that motorists need to be able to read your signs. In Cincinnati, the National Trust’s “Honk” signs were about the size of a yard sign while the banners measured four feet by six feet.

The National Trust's Jason Clement on Cincy's near east side in November 2014.

Track Your Performance

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Setting goals and keeping track of your progress leads to success. Have a goal for how many people you’d like to engage with through honks, gestures, or other responses, and use that goal as motivation. In addition, by keeping track of your progress, you’ll be able to determine what sites and times are most effective for future events.

Keep it Street Legal

Hosting a honk and wave on public property is usually straightforward, but check your local laws and regulations to be sure.

Honk and waves are just one part of the race for a preservation victory, and these six tips should help you get closer to taking the checkered flag. Good luck!

David Weible was the content specialist at the National Trust, previously with Preservation and Outside magazines. His interest in historic preservation was inspired by the ‘20s-era architecture, streetcar neighborhoods, and bars of his hometown of Cleveland.

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