Many of our students at Relevant run for high school elections. Occasionally they will ask for help campaigning or writing their speech. Believe it or not, I haven’t seen that many helpful articles on google for this subject. I thought I’d share my opinion on it all here.
I was Student Body President at Rossview High School and have run many many times for student council elections. My overall record in school elections is 5-1.
Let me clarify very quickly for our cynical readers that I in no way claim to be an expert on this subject, I do, however, have some experience.
Here are 5 tips on winning a high school election
1. Give a good speech.
There are a few keys to a good election speech. First, your speech needs to be short (like 1-1.5 minutes max). Honestly, how many high schoolers do you know that like to listen to speeches? Keep it very short and simple. If you’re not funny, don’t try to be. The worst thing you can do is try to be funny and not be. You’ll stick out to people more if you’re up there less. Just be succinct. Second, make your speech about the future, not the past. So many people try to load their speeches with their own “responsibility testimony” or something. The entire speech is them listing reasons why they’re qualified to be elected. “As a member of the Junior Civitan club…” Stop. We don’t need to know every club and activity you’ve been involved in. People don’t care what you’ve done, they care about what you’re going to do. Instead of that approach, cast vision for the future. Casting vision is simple: 1) Define a problem. What’s a problem everybody at your school agrees is a problem? 2) Offer a solution. Explain (succinctly) what you will do when you’re elected. Don’t promise things you know your principal will never do. This is not about having a detailed plan for how you’re going to fix everything. This is just about painting a picture for people of what the school could and should be like. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” or “Imagine how much better this place would be if…” This will inspire people and motivate people. Third, say your name… a lot. Say your name at the beginning. Say your name at the end. Then say it again at the end. Say it again if you have to. The most important thing people need to remember from your speech is your name. It’s your name they have to vote for. I have heard several times, “I really loved your speech but I couldn’t remember your name!” Finally, don’t be glued to your notes. If you write a short, simple speech, you should be able to remember it very easily. Even if you’re not a great public speaker, you can practice enough that you won’t have to read your speech straight from the paper.
2. Campaign during lunch.
Lunch is the one time during the day when all genres of kids show up together. Use that time to spread the word that you’re running and gain momentum for your campaign. I’ve only lost one election in my school days, and I think it’s because I didn’t do this one principle. If you’re a little nervous, get over it and do it. You’ll be glad you did in the long run. People don’t mind as much as it seems if you walk up and say, “Hey, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but my name is ______ and I’m running for _____. Would you guys vote for me?” Go for it.
3. Intentionally pick a few campaigners.
Find a few people who are well-liked and in different circles and specifically ask them to help you campaign. Tell them, “I really need your help if I’m gonna win this thing.” If they get on your team, you’ll gain credibility with the masses and get your name out there a lot faster.
4. Ask people to vote for you.
It sounds obvious, but so many fail to do it. If you’re walking down the hallway, ask as many people as you can. If you’re sitting next to people in class, ask as many as you can. It’ll seem forward and awkward at times, but it’s important to get people to say, “Yea, I’ll vote for you!” I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “Sorry, I wanted to vote for you but so-and-so already asked.” Ask people, and then follow up with them on the day(s) of the election.
5. Be nice the other 180 days of the school year.
In all honesty you could give Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech and be a jerk to everyone the rest of the school year and you’d lose the election. Don’t be fake, be nice the whole year… not just at election time. Campaigning starts the first week of school, not the week before the election.