Five Tips For Writing Your Stump Speech -

A solid stump speech is one of the most effective tools that you as a candidate have at your disposal. It is defined as a candidate’s standard speech, delivered day after day during a typical political campaign. Once the campaign gets running, you may use it a dozen times or more in a single day alone. Every chance you have to speak, no matter how big or small the audience, is a chance to build relationships with potential voters, donors, and volunteers.

You need to make the most of these opportunities. The right stump speech makes all the difference. So, what makes a good stump speech? Here are the five biggest things to keep in mind as you write yours. 

1. Tell Voters Who You Are

The first step is easy: remember to tell voters your name and the office you’re running for! A lot of candidates forget this. People want to know who to keep an eye out for on their ballot. Establishing the specific office that you’re running for right off the bat also sets up your personal story and your “why” for later. Think of it as a Checkov’s gun of sorts, an important element that will become more and more relevant as you move further through the speech. 

2. Tell Your Story

Your story should illustrate who you are and your competency for the work ahead. That’s why the story of self is such a valuable tool for providing background and demonstrating qualifications. Voters also want a leader they can relate to. Detailed storytelling creates commonality, giving voters the ability to connect with you on a deeper level. Here’s the basic structure we recommend for telling your story of self. 

Start with a challenge that you’ve faced in life. This could tie back to your experience as a small business owner, a volunteer, a parent, or any key part of your background. What choices did you make to tackle that challenge? Emphasize these choices as you speak to your audience. This is important, because the next step is to describe the outcome of those choices. Did you make the right decision? How did your choice affect others? 

Following these steps paints you as an active, not passive, changemaker for your community. Be sure to clearly describe how you came to your decision, and how you chose to evaluate the outcome. Ultimately, these stories are meant to illustrate your values, and demonstrate your empathy for others. 

3. Explain Your “Why”

Now it’s time to connect your story with the problem you want to solve. Show your audience why you’ve decided to run for office. When voters can connect your motivation to the policies you want to enact, they can trust you to hold yourself accountable. For example, a business owner might say they will bring their enterprising mentality to the state government. A parent running for school board may promise to bring the same commitment they have with raising their children to the board.

Whatever your “why” may be, it’s important to craft it and refine it early. It’s arguably the most valuable storytelling asset at your campaign’s disposal, as it bridges your past experiences to your future aspirations. 

4. Bridge From Me To We

Now that you’ve told your story, explain why your story matters to them. Identify issues in your community that voters care about, and discuss your plan to address those problems once elected. Don’t be afraid to discuss your policy proposals in more detail. If you have plans for specific issues like unpaved roads, discuss them. The more concrete your goals are, the more eager voters will be to see those goals come to fruition. 

Tailor discussions to the audience. If the stump speech is for a school’s parents association, talk about the plan for addressing a teacher shortage. If you don’t yet have a plan for a specific issue, lean into your story and engage the audience. Your stories show the audience how you tackle problems. The same energy you put into overcoming challenges is the same energy you will put into solving new problems. This is the trust factor at work.

5. Make the Ask

At the end of a stump speech, you hopefully convinced a large portion of the audience to support you. They may be looking for ways to help your campaign.

This is the moment where the specific ask must be made. What do you want them to do? You may want them to register to vote and commit to voting on Election Day. Maybe you want them to donate to your campaign if you’re speaking at a fundraiser. You may want them to volunteer and host campaign events. Regardless, the request must be clear at the end of the speech, if not verbatim. 

Now that we’ve covered the 5 key elements of what goes into your stump speech, we want to leave you with some tips on the best ways to deliver your speech. 

Be Conscious Of Time

After you’ve written your speech, refine for time and length. A good stump speech is brief. Try to keep your remarks to five minutes, and be able to go down to 2-3 if necessary.  If you can take questions after, make sure to leave time to do so. The key here is to engage with your audience, rather than simply talking at them. Brevity helps with this. 

Remember, stump speeches should be longer than an “elevator pitch”, but shorter than a traditional speech. When it comes to timing the speech juuuust right, the delivery matters as much as the content. This means you must practice, practice, practice! Everyone speaks at a unique pace, with different intonation and distinct emphasis on the phrases that strike you at a particular moment. Get familiar with your speaking voice, and how quickly you can naturally move through a given word count. Speak in front of friends, or watch yourself on video, and pay attention to your use of hands and other body language.

You should be able to recite this in your sleep and adapt it for any occasion or group.

Don’t Be Afraid to Adapt

Your speech will inevitably change over time, but with experience it should get better, more effective, sharper and easier to give. Be ready to adapt your speech for every venue you speak in, and the audiences present. Count yourself lucky though. No matter how good your stump speech is, it isn’t likely that major outlets will break it down paragraph by paragraph.

Get Started

By the end of the campaign, you will want to throw away your stump speech, and never hear it again. That’s a good thing! It means you performed this one speech so many times you conveyed your core message to voters. This repetition is why your stump speech is so important. It is your best chance to make the right impression and be memorable to voters come election day. These tips will help you start writing your stump speech. Download this Stump Speech Example to help you further visualize your stump speech! 

CTA: Craft Your Stump Speech

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Dana Bottenfield

Dana Bottenfield joined NDTC as an instructional designer in 2019. Dana works with experts in political campaigns and strategy to create curriculum for NDTC’s Online Academy, virtual live trainings, and cohort-based learning programs. Dana holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from The University of Kansas and a MA in Victorian Literature from The University of Exeter, UK. She spent 15 years in publishing before moving to a career in content development and instructional design for industry leaders. Dana’s favorite hobbies include cooking overly complicated meals and exploring trails and parks with her dog, Midge.