24 September 2002

Running for Students' Council - The Dos and Don'ts


You may be a straight A+ student, the captain of your debate team, and an all-star football player, but that's no guarantee that you'll be elected on Students' Council. (Believe me, I know.) When you run for office on your Students' Council, it doesn't matter how good you look on paper.

Your fellow students are influenced by all sorts of factors that you would never even think of. No strategy is a foolproof way of winning, but the following guide is one of the best ways to give you a shot at getting into office.

Start Early
Running for any office is serious business. It doesn't matter if you want to be the co-president, secretary, or treasurer of your Students' Council; in every case, you should make your decision well in advance of the call for elections so that you have enough time to gather the resources you need in order to succeed.

Introduce Yourself and Stand Out
The biggest part of high school is making friends, and the easiest way to do so is to get involved. Making friends is the best way to get yourself elected on Students' Council; the more people who know you, the more potential voters you have. But even if you don't get elected, you'll have made a host of new friends that may last you a lifetime.

The key word here is POPULARITY. Any of the following activities are good ways to meet people and make yourself seen:
Going to dances;
Participating in spirit days;
Emceeing assemblies; and
Organizing events and activities.

Remember, when getting in the public eye:
Participate in different activities so you don't keep running into the same group of people;
Make sure you mingle with students from other grades. It's a good way for you to gather and share experiences, as well as a good way to get your name out to people in other grades;
Don't join activities just for the sake of being popular, and never sacrifice your time or personal values to try to win more friends.

In truth, campaign platforms are a dime a dozen… everyone can come up with good ideas for events and activities. The people who win elections are the ones who can relate well to the seniors, look cool in front of the juniors, and come across as strong and confident when they present themselves.

Think First
Just before the call for elections, think carefully to see if you still want to run for office. The higher positions on Students' Council carry a great deal of responsibility. Serving in office is serious business; you shouldn't run just to pad your résumé or because your friends dare you.

Pay Attention
When you sign up for the campaign, make sure you pay close attention to the guidelines and deadlines provided by the elections officer. Even a small slip up may give your campaign a severe setback. You wouldn't want to lose ground on a technicality.

Assemble a Team
Get together a group of friends and make up a campaign team. If one of your friends is particularly creative, you may want to make them campaign manager. Together, you can decide on a general theme for your campaign, create campaign materials, plan events, and write speeches. The more people you have, the better.

Campaign Like Crazy
Posters, flyers, stickers, magnets, and buttons; these are the tools of a successful campaign. Make sure that your main message is catchy and consistent. Wander the halls of your school with your team and hand out stuff to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen to you.

In a successful campaign, less is more:
A few striking, well-placed posters are worth a dozen flyers posted helter-skelter;
Peaking too early is a big risk. Don't put up all of your posters on day one of your campaign; give it some time and let your popularity climax on the day of the speeches;
It's impossible to talk to every student in your school. Try to target the “hubs” of every social group at your school, and let them spread the word to their friends.

You can also plan some other campaign tactics to catch people's attention. Here are a few ideas:
Ride around your school on a tricycle wearing a sign that says “vote for me”;
Give out ten cent bubble gum with your name written on the wrapper;
Place a huge poster on the outside wall of your school; let it be the first thing students see as they come in the building.

Any number of stunts and activities will get your peers talking about you; all it takes is a bit of creativity.

Your elections speech can make your break your entire campaign. If you're in the lead, you have to make a speech that will let you stay on top. If you're behind, now is the perfect chance for you to catch up.
The best speeches have the following characteristics:
Reflective of your personality (don't be fake);
Filled with humor (in good taste);
Direct and to the point (avoid wordiness); and,
Contain the essential elements of your platform.

Gear your speech towards a younger audience: the junior grades tend to be more influenced by style and presentation. Most importantly, have fun and don't be nervous!

Wait Patiently
Waiting for the results of an election can be the most nerve-racking part of any campaign. After you make your speech, people's minds are usually made up. There's next to no point in planning any last minute antics for your campaign; in fact, it may make you look desperate. Just keep your cool and stand by for the results of the election.

Deal with the Aftermath
How you handle yourself after an election is almost as important how you handle yourself during the actual process. If you won, it's time for you to celebrate. Make sure to thank your entire team for their hard work, and start thinking about any appointments you have to make or duties you have to carry out.

If you didn't win, that's fine too; it just means that it's time to start thinking about what other offices you would like to hold in the Students' Council. Above all, don't quit all of your activities just because you lost. You met new friends, had fun, and built your character; whatever effort you put into preparing for and running your campaign will all be worth it in the end.

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