Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Present Yourself at a Precinct Caucus

How to Present Yourself at a Precinct Caucus

Rebecca from Cambridge, MN Precinct 1 asks:

Richard or whoever may know: exactly what should we put on our fliers? A photo? A little bio? Then what we politically believe in bulleted or something? I presume short and sweet is best. At some point do we stand up and present this to the assembly? What are they "looking for"? Thanks!

Ok, so now you're a politician.

I'm going to suggest that every communication that you deliver, written or oral, be in the form of a well-engineered script. Before you jump to a conclusion about what you may believe a script is, please listen to this candidate training call on 3. Scripting; The Ultimate Technique. (2011-03-08).

The Biograghy

At a caucus, you'll be face-to-face with the other people attending, so they'll see you when get your two-minutes or so to present yourself to the group. However, think of the flyer as something that people can take away from the meeting. So, a photo that prints well on paper is a good idea. The flyer also keeps your name in front of people, so put your contact information (that which you're willing to share) on it as well. Putting contact information on the piece actually gives it more perceived value, like a business card, so it's more likely that people will hold onto it for a period of time. With that in mind, the flyer does not have to be a full page piece; half-page, or quarter page pieces can work just as well.

I wouldn't recommend any kind of lengthy bio. You don't want it to be formal. Think of the bio as a very short story about yourself. If you can do it in a couple of sentences, it will have more impact.

For example,

I'm a very concerned parent. I go to work every day, like many of you, but I feel I need to do something more to protect what I've worked for my entire life.

Now, that's very generic, but it's designed to connect with people in an empathetic way. You're like them. People can relate to people who are like them.

I'm an electrician and I go to work every day solving people's problems. I'm very concerned for the future of Brandon and Julia, my two young grandchildren. I just feel I need to do something more to make their prospects better, not worse, than mine were.

This verson is much better because it personalizes the story to you.

Remember, there are hundreds of ways you could express yourself. The point of the bio is to connect with people.

The Why

I recommend that you also have another sentence that communicates why you're running for this position -- and it's not world peace.

Ideally, this will be another story that illustrates your breaking point.

The other day, I was in the grocery store and paid $4.25 for a loaf of bread. It just hit me, we live in the bread basket of the world and the cost of the basics of life are going through the roof. Why? Because our public servants have lost touch with reality and the purpose of government.

Everyone has a breaking point, the straw that broke the camel's back, that causes them to overcome inertia and take action. That's what you want to communicate. That resonates with people.

The Talking Points

As for the political part, I don't suggest you deal with issues in a written piece. Pick no more than three points; three is the magic number.

In a previous message, Rebecca stated her issues, so I'm going to use those for illustration purposes.

Our message will be small government, individual liberty, free markets, federalism, walking softly but carrying a big stick militarily, securing our border, staying out of international squabbles and no more nation building.

Try to avoid cliches. For example, don't say you're for small government. Make your point by illustration. Going through this exercise will also make you think. What does small government actually mean? What does it look like? If possible, try to use local illustrations.

  • Do you want government telling you what kind of light bulbs to use or what kind of food you should eat? Well, neither do I.
  • Do you want government deciding how people in Afghanistan and other countries should behave? Well, neither do I.
  • Do you want government taking money from you and giving it to drug companies, like Merck, or agenda-driven organizations, like Planned Parenthood? Well, neither do I.

Here, I've used three illustrations with specifics in a rhetorical way. Remember that you're not running for an office that can directly affect these things. You're going to be in a position to evaluate potential candidates based on the principles that you're illustrating.

There are also other ways to do this more specifically, like statements of principles.

  • Individuals are perfectly capable of deciding what to eat and what products meet their needs.
  • Our government has no business interfering with the way people in other countries choose to govern themselves.
  • Individuals can do a much better job than government at deciding which charities are worthy.

The Speech

As for your speech, create a script for it and practice it. This may be your first time, use notes, but don't read it. If you can say it with a few words, don't use more words. And you don't need to use all of your allotted time. In fact, it's a demonstration of confidence and focus to say what you have to say in a much shorter time and then sit down.

Remember that most people want what you want. They want to live their own lives, not run the lives of others. The only legitimate purpose of government, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure the rights of the individual. And the one all-encompassing right of an individual might be best expressed as the right to be left alone.

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