Door knocking etiquette
A few words about this, as you’ll be doing a lot of it. There are a number of things to remember when knocking on doors. I’m 1.88 metres tall, so seeing me at the front door can be a little intimidating. I have a little ritual which seems to be effective, and puts people at ease.
Rehearse your script
Make sure you know what you’re going to say. How are you going to explain why you’re at their front door? How are you going to explain the project’s scope? How are you going to tell them about your organisation’s role?
Always good if you’ve just clambered up a steep driveway.
Have your ID ready
Just in case.
Knock or ring the door bell
Knocking is more effective. Door bells don’t always work.
Take two or three steps back
This isn’t just so the householder feels comfortable, it’s also to avoid the barking dog behind the door feeling threatened. Remember the dog treats?
Honestly, this is the best thing you can do when you are cold-calling.
When, and if, they answer the door…
Keep your hands across your chest. Don’t try to shake hands
A psychologist might be able to explain why this is important. I have no idea, but it seems to put people at ease. (And this guide was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, so by the time you read this, maybe shaking hands isn’t a thing anymore).
Tell them your name, where you’re from and why you’re there… be human
“Oh hello. My name’s Guy. I’m working with Donegal County Museum on a history project, and I wonder whether you might be able to…”
Your tone of voice, your smile, your demeanour will all help to open those doors. Have a listen to the audio below. Which would you rather hear on the doorstep?
Don’t expect everyone to be friendly or interested, but if you do these few things, most people will spare you a few minutes.
The risks of lone working.
And sadly, I must add the following caveat. As I mentioned, I’m 1.88m tall, very broad, and male. If you’re a woman, the experience of knocking on a stranger’s door, in a community you may not know, will be very different. How you and your organisation address this is out of my control.
I posted a tweet when I was writing this, and I received a few sobering replies…
I deliver to around 400-800 addresses a day when working. I have been verbally abused about 5 times in three years and can only recall one address that I got the hell out of asap. But I have met a lot of creepy people whose houses I would not go inside !
— Rebecca Jones#FBPE (@beccimojon) April 16, 2020
Often think back to one of my first jobs. Was doing research that included some door knocking. In an inner city housing estate in Belfast around about the time of the GFA. On my own at night. Any wonder the Ma was frantic.
— M. (@for29years) April 16, 2020
This reminds me of canvassing . From the few I did door to door . Sometimes just the look of the door would put fear into you.
— Vonny (@VonnyR7) April 16, 2020
I’d want a lone worker policy in place, to include fully charged phone, details re keeping safe, me contacting employer with details of where I’m going, length of visit, time expected back and check in texts to linemanager when visits complete.
— Siobhan Coyle (@siobhancoyle) April 16, 2020
I was once a card carrying Census Enumerator. After a few dozen houses you get to know what kind of welcome or response to expect.
— Angela Holohan (@angelaholohan) April 16, 2020
It is important that you think about this issue and put in place controls to reduce the potential risks to you or your employees/volunteers. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust has excellent advice, suggestions and resources for lone workers.