Giving a winning student leadership election speech can make a massive difference to a student’s election chances. They may possess all the desired qualities to do a great job but fall at the most important election hurdle – giving a winning speech.
Teachers and parents often struggle to help students prepare. Unless you’ve had plenty of public speaking practice, you’re more to resort to platitudes such as “just do your best”, “you’ll be okay” or “they’ll like whatever you do.”
Alternatively, you may give generic (and often-incorrect advice) such as “prepare well”, “make sure you rehearse your speech” or “be sure to make eye contact with your audience.”
The following student-friendly strategies developed over more than 20 years as a professional speaker will help every student to give a winning student leadership election speech.
1. Simplify design
Speech design is the trickiest part for most students.
For a start, they should think of their presentation as a talk rather than a speech (despite this article headline). They are having a conversation, albeit all one way, to persuade their fellow students to vote for them. Conversational tone wins the day in any presentation.
The best student election speech follows a structure, which stops rambling and provides guideposts for the listeners to follow. Listeners, like travellers, feel comfortable when they know where they are going so structure is confidence-building for the audience as well as the speaker.
There are many structures or frameworks for presentations, but perhaps the simplest and best structure for students follows the Rule of 3. That is, the talk has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Within each section three points are made. Students should spend more time on the body of the talk than the introduction or conclusion as that is where the substance lies.
The job of the introduction is to get the audience’s attention, let them know what they will hear and introduce the speaker.
Students can grab attention with a very short story or anecdote; make a bold statement about being a leader or say something funny or humorous. Don’t be boring. Stand out!!
They should also let people know who they are, briefly outlining any leadership experience they may have had. Then they should very briefly signal what they will cover.
The Rule of 3 applies in the body of the speech. Students should give three compelling reasons why they can do the leadership job. This means they may sift through all the reasons why they can do the job and pick out the three reasons mostly likely to resonate. Each reason should be stated clearly and backed up with evidence or an example. The reasons can relate to some or all of the following:
Character -e.g., honesty, kindness, reliable
Competency – e.g., good organiser, good teammate, have great ideas
Contribution -e.g., what would do if elected, what causes, what you’d do well
In the last part of the talk students should remind people why they’d do a good job, how they will contribute and that they deserve listeners’ vote– a final call to action.
Students can put their main points on cue cards and use them when they practise. Cues cards should fit into the palm of their hands, so they aren’t distracting to listeners.
2. Prioritise practice
Practice may not make perfect, but it can ease nerves and make the talk more memorable. The best way to practise is to speak using the cue cards in front of a mirror or a wall.
Students shouldn’t try to memorise the talk word for word, but instead know what they want to say. Knowing the first sentence helps students start confidently, which does wonders for their nerves and builds self-confidence.
Parents and teachers should ask students to tell them about their talk. “So Gemma, what are you going to tell these students tomorrow?”
“I’m going to tell people that I have lots of leadership experience. I’ll talk about the time I was a Guide leader at camp and what I did to help. I’m then going to cover…..”
Going over the main points prior to delivery aids recall and ensures students focus on the big picture rather than minor details when they speak.
Encourage students to practice confident body language prior to giving their presentation. Many great student talks have been ruined by fidgeting fingers, fumbling feet and an inability to stand up straight. Encourage them to practise confident body language until it becomes automatic.
3. Deliver with panache
The biggest obstacle most students have prior to giving a talk are the negative thoughts that clutter their brains. I always advise students to sit quietly before a talk focussing fully on the task at hand. Five minutes prior to giving a talk is a great time to practise some mindfulness and deep breathing techniques to clear the nerves and shut down the mental chatter.
When it’s time to give the presentation, students should walk confidently to the centre of the stage or speaking space, stand still with two feet shoulders length apart, scan their eyes across the audience and begin speaking with a smile on their face.
Encourage students to pause and take a breath when they look at their notes. If possible, they should resume talking with a smile. Staying calm and confident when speaking without projecting arrogance is one of the most persuasive actions a student can make.
Speaking in public is a game of bluff.
Students who can deal with nerves and put self-doubt aside have a head start when trying to persuade others to vote for them.
Good presentation design, practising the right things and knowing how to calmly approach the speaking space are key to helping students put their best feet forward and deliver a talk that wins the day.