Your Guide to Writing a Great Stump Speech

by Joe Garecht

Everybody loves a great stump speech… You know, one that makes the crowds go wild, generates tons of local press coverage, and leaves your opponent gasping for air.  Everybody loves a great stump speech, but few candidates are capable of writing and delivering a true winner.  This is your guide to developing a meaningful, passionate, memorable stump speech.

What is a “Stump Speech?”

First things first… what exactly do we mean by “stump speech?”  Simply put, a stump speech is a set of prepared remarks that a candidate uses over and over again during his or her campaign (or, “on the stump”).  These remarks are used over and over again because they (a) are well crafted and refer back to the message of the campaign, and (b) are able to be delivered by the candidate from memory (that’s right: memorized).

In fact, you shouldn’t have just one, but several versions of your stump speech.  Here’s some advice we wrote in Local Victory’s How to Win ANY Election:

Every campaign should have not one, but several stump speeches prepared: a 30 second “commercial” that the candidate can give when meeting a prospective voter, a 5 minute “quickie” that the candidate can give when asked to deliver remarks at a meeting or event that is not the campaign’s, and a 10-12 minute classic “stump speech” to give at rallies and other gatherings.

The stump speech should be crafted, edited, and written out before hand.  It should be practiced over and over again so that the candidate can deliver it without notes, and he or she should know it so well that they can modify it for the specific event, dropping a line here, adding an issue of importance there.

How to Write a Stump Speech that Works

Great stump speeches take time, thought and practice. Here are five ways to make sure that your stump speech works:

1.   Focus on Your Message

Everything in your campaign needs to be focused on your campaign message.  (If you need help with your messaging, read Message: The King of All Political Tactics).  It’s no different with your speeches… make sure they are squarely focused on your campaign message, and the issues that support your message.

If you think your campaign message is about crime and safety, yet your off the cuff remarks spend 90% of their time delving into the economy, you can bet the voters are going to think your campaign is about the economy, not crime.

2.  Be Logical

People find it hard to follow speeches that don’t follow a logical progression.  If you’re talking about your background and why you are a good fit for the job, don’t veer off on a tangent about the line-item veto before getting back to your bio.  If you say you have a three point program, give all three points, without having any of those points use “sub-points.”  Remember, you may have heard this speech a hundred times, but it has to make sense to someone hearing it for the first time.

3.  Beware of Comedy and Satire

Be very, very careful when using comedy and satire in your stump speech.  Yes, a couple of funny lines here and there can bring some levity to your talk and make the crowd more receptive to your message… but a long comedic monologue will leave them wondering if you are really a serious candidate.

Likewise, beware of comedy or satire that can be misconstrued.  Don’t use mocking tones, and don’t “pretend” to be your opponent by satirically spouting off her positions.  The audience may not get it.

4.  Be Passionate!

Ronald Reagan.  Barack Obama.  Bill Clinton.  Teddy Roosevelt.  Love their policies or hate them, each regularly gave speeches that were memorable because they were passionate.  Bring the passion you feel for the issues you are advancing to your stump speech.  If you’re not excited, why should voters be?

5.  Err on the Short Side

Your stump speech shouldn’t be too short… if it is, people will wonder why they bothered coming out to your campaign rally.  That being said, your speech definitely should not be too long.  There’s only one thing worse than a candidate that steps up to the microphone and gives a 60 second speech… a candidate that stands up at a dinner and talks for an hour.  If you have to choose whether to talk too long or too short, pick too short… your audience has a short attention span.  Just make sure your speech is remarkable, no matter the length.

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