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Update 2/6/2018

I won the election! What worked for me is described in the Selected answer of this question.

Conundrum

Currently, I am in my last semester of undergraduate college in a fraternity in the United States. We are about to have elections for an interim position that will last right up until I graduate.

Elections work like this: Candidates are nominated by someone else, or they have to nominate themselves (but need to be confirmed by a "second" from someone else, to do so). Then usually there is a week or so grace period before voting starts. On the day of voting, another round of nominations is conducted. The most senior scroll number (determines the order in which the brother was initiated) begins their speech. There will be a 5-minute time constraint and brothers can only ask a certain number of questions.

This position serves two roles. The first is managing three people: a Historian, a Photographer, and a Webmaster. The second is contacting Alumni whenever major events happen. As a person on my way out, I want to go out with a bang, and in doing so, act as an example that everyone has something to contribute, no matter how close to graduation you are. However, I have lost the past 8 or 9 elections for various positions in the house.

From what I have gathered, there was rarely ever a problem with me, but the other guy blows everyone else away. There are only two times I can recall where the loss was definitely my fault. One was for Chaplain and I screwed up a question about how to deal with someone else having depressions. Another was for Secretary. I proposed a manual folder for a current online folder. The rationale of "it won't get lost on the internet if its stored in a physical folder" did not seem to convince them.

The gravity of speeches is important. On the other hand, some people are experienced and qualified to the point that they are a shoe in. But that is by no means a hard and fast rule. I have seen people who plan for months and show consistent effort for one position, but lost to a guy that ran the night before.

Question

How do I pitch my platform for the situation described above?

  • Congrats on your win! Well done & just shows that you can accomplish almost anything that you really put your heart & mind into. Hope you guys have a great year! (Send my EOY party invite to... ) – user11886 Feb 10 '18 at 18:29
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+100

Your most valuable experience is in having seen a number of elections come and go. If we think about what you saw in past elections we will also see the key to winning the position you want.

Most people, particularly at the college level where there are not rigid party lines do not make a cold, logical assessment of who would be better for the position. And even if they do, it's often not difficult to change their mind when they hear the speeches. Most people will go with their gut feeling, their impression of who they want to vote for.

It's a little late to suggest that you join Toastmasters (or a similar organization) and polish your public speaking skills. But realize that speaking ability is important. If one candidate stumbles & messes up questions badly - that will weigh heavily against them. Usually there are not huge gulfs between candidates and the more enthusiastic, charismatic or polished speaker will have a decided advantage.

What can you do to tilt the odds towards you? You should do everything that you can. That means mobilizing as many friends or classmates as you can to generate some chatter and tell their friends that you would be great in this role. In particular, your friends should be there when speeches are made to loudly cheer and hoist some signs with your name on them (unless this is prohibited). Enthusiasm is contagious and people like to vote for the popular guy too, so it all helps.

Practice speaking a lot between now and then. Even if it's only reading from a book aloud to a group of friends to get as comfortable as you can speaking in front of others. Be as prepared as possible. Don't write your speech the night before. Get your friends to ask you questions off the cuff and do your best to answer them so that you get used to thinking on your feet.

Try to write a few thoughts, you shouldn't memorize a set speech but brainstorm with friends to see if you can have a few memorable anecdotes or a relevant story the fits in with your speech. A short anecdote or humour will help you connect with your audience. When you speak project as much confidence and enthusiasm as you can. And tell your class why you will be the best person for this position. Tell them that you are going to bat for them and that you are going to make this a memorable year for the entire class.

I don't know you, I don't have enough information to tell you how to precisely pitch your platform. What I am suggesting is that you enlist your friends to help you brainstorm, be well prepared and when you go to speak let your enthusiasm show and be sure to tell your classmates that you intend to succeed in making this a memorable year for them. If you do that with sincerity you're going to be in the thick of it & all but elected already.

This may sound basic or unoriginal but it is a proven format that works time & time again at colleges across the country. Think of the winning speeches that you've heard others make and I think you'll recognize some of these elements in those speeches.

Even if you discover that you are up against some wildly popular classmate, don't give up, give it your all. Don't assume that someone else is too far out ahead or too good a speaker. He may stumble when you least expect it or come down with the flu at the last minute or you may simply make a better impression than you realize and carry the day.

Just before your speech, take a few deep breaths, stretch if you can (unless you are in full sight of everyone) and visualize yourself winning. Give yourself permission to be awesome. This really works & will spike your confidence just when you need it most.

Have fun with the process. And enjoy the moment when you succeed.

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I have several contingency plans to suggest for your entertainment:

I bachelored at UNLV and served on the senate for both of my colleges. Since your position is a little history, photography and web-mastering, I would request for someone quite historical in your college to show-up, dial in, video conference or record a video commentary to be presented during your 5 minute speech. Since I am from UNLV, I in particular would reach out to Tarkanian or Berkeley. The idea with someone famously historical is it provides you great validation with someone already recognized by the University. Make sure you reach out to several "famous" like you would in a job search. Be politely dedicated & focused on reply; don't wait days. The last thing you want to do is show up empty handed.

This will also help you career network for your future graduation. You may even impress someone enough they offer you a REAL job you can keep after graduation, instead of the frat thing. Sometimes competition is fierce in student positions if money is attached to the position. This is why as a senator, I always voted for the work to be provided voluntarily.

Also try to involve the 3 you would be working with under the position if possible. It shows sincerity & initiative for team building to talk with those who are managed to ascertain their ideas how they would improve the performance of the last officer.

Perhaps, at the end the 5 minutes of gusto go off with bravado and toss candy appropriate to the season.... Oddly this sweet treat actually works because it is about the lingering memory & a candy wrapper in their pocket as a good reminder... Possibly some ladies from the sister sorority can assist in passing out the treats outside the presentation area as people arrive. This helps if your name is on the candy. This as well can be great networking for your personal life and others should the election not go your way.

However, the idea is no expenses, just lots of effort. Good Luck! Thumbs up for continuing to get involved and find your niche.

  • Here's the thing, the three people who work under me are appointed by the actual position before my term starts. I have talked with this person and have decided to respect whomever he appoints for the three subpositions. – isakbob Jan 25 '18 at 16:22
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Sincerity is very persuasive, and it sounds like you sincerely want to serve and leave something behind for this fraternity you're a part of. I would incorporate those desires into your speech. In addition to explaining what you'd like to do as part of the position, talk about why you're running and what it would mean to you to be able to serve your brothers.

Best of luck with your speech!

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