If you aren’t a kid in a costume asking for candy, the idea of ringing a stranger’s doorbell to ask for something isn’t very attractive. However, you’ll find that being able to connect with voters in ways that may be out of your comfort zone is a necessary part of nearly every campaign at all levels.  

These conversations can be one of the most difficult and awkward tasks you’ll face during your campaign. They can often make or break whether or not people feel that you’re a qualified candidate worthy of their vote.

There are plenty of situations that provide you with the opportunity to make these invaluable connections. We want you to be prepared to successfully capitalize on as many as you can.

Luckily, we have some tips to help you confidently and effectively establish connections with your voters in the various situations you’ll most likely face on your path to election.  (Hint: Get them talking about themselves.)

Connect with Voters – Canvassing

Knocking on the door of a stranger to try and sell yourself as the ideal candidate is an understandably daunting task. It’s easy to fumble around with your message, which then causes you to come across as unorganized at best, or not someone who is qualified for office at worst.

A great way to combat the fear of addressing people you’re unfamiliar with is to diffuse any potential awkwardness before it even has a chance to take place.  

Before launching into your campaign message, start the interaction off with a personalized compliment. Tell them how beautiful the flowers on their front porch are, or how lovely the birdhouse hanging from their tree is. This will make you seem far more personable from the start and much less like a salesperson going door to door, and you’ll likely connect with voters on a different level.

Making an initial and positive connection is essential in starting off the conversation in the right way.

Connect with Voters – Phone Banking

If you’re reaching out to a voter over the phone, you obviously won’t be able to use parts of their landscaping as an initial talking point. However, if you do your research, there are other points of interest you can bring up that are just as effective.  

For example, bringing up a mutual friend or colleague, a shared alma mater, or areas of their profession are all great ways to start the conversation and create a personal connection. Unfortunately, you might not always have the luxury of being prepared with specific information about the person you’re calling.  

If the only background you have is their prior voting history, and you can see that they typically vote for Democrats, a great option would be to bring up generally non-problematic ideologies or values shared by the party. This can be something as simple as equal rights, or the importance of widespread access to public education.  While it may not be as impactful as a more personal piece of information, it can still make a difference.

You can also start by asking their opinion. It is hard to go wrong by starting a conversation by asking someone their opinion about a local issue.

For instance, you could lead off with:

“Hey, Ms. Voter. This is Kelly Dietrich. I don’t think we’ve met before, but I’m running for school board. Look, I know these cold calls can be awkward, but I think an elected official should talk to and listen to their voters. And, that’s why I’m calling. I’d  love to hear your thoughts on how our schools are doing with…”

There you go. You’re off to a strong start and engaging the voter directly for her opinion.

Connect with Voters – Public Speaking

Now that you have some helpful tools to tackle one-on-one interactions, we can focus on addressing larger groups. Be it a crowd at a large event, or a small group of potential supporters, it is still every bit as important to be personable and relatable.  

Keep your message short and to the point. Use relevant and personal experiences to craft your message rather than listing your policy stances or your entire resumé. Focus on stories specific to your own experiences which will allow you to speak from the heart. You’ll naturally become more confident and relaxed as you address your crowd.  

A speech that evokes an emotional or personal connection with a voter through a personal story is far more likely to stand out above an opponent’s and will stick with the voter all the way to the polls.

Don’t talk too much. It’s a running joke that talking is all most politicians do. Brevity can be your friend.

Finally, when you’ve finished, take questions. Let people ask you about their concerns. This is a great way to really connect with the audience, build relationships, and learn more about the people you want to represent. Be honest and forthright with your responses, remembering to maintain the confidence that you’ve built up to this point.   

Now You’re Ready

Be it over the phone, face-to-face, or while addressing a crowd, using interactions to connect with voters is arguably one of the most important parts of securing their votes. So much so in fact, research has shown that taking the time to knock on a voter’s door and engage in a conversation makes them 40% more likely to support that candidate.

However, while no two candidates’ campaigns are alike, the one thing they all share is a lack of time. No matter how much money you’ve raised or how organized your team is, your deadlines aren’t something that can be bought or negotiated, and your time something that you can’t afford to waste with impersonal and unmemorable interactions.

Now, equipped with these helpful tools and tricks, you can be confident that every form of contact you make with your voters will be meaningful and worth not only your time but also your voters’.  

Want more tips for talking to voters? Check out our course on GOTV

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Jacob Vurpillat

Jacob is the Manager of Political Communications for NDTC. Jacob was initially an intern for NDTC in 2016 before moving on to work for both a Chicago Alderman and an Illinois State Representative. After working in Parliament in the Republic of Ireland, Jacob joined NDTC in April of 2018. Jacob is a graduate of DePaul University with a degree in Political Science. Outside of politics, Jacob tries to forget the Chicago Cub's century of losing while enjoying their recent success.