Stump Speech Ground Rules


How to write a stump speech

Every speech, no matter how long or short, has a reason for being given. Tell the audience that at the top of your speech. It should like a “map” for the audience. They’re going to go on a journey with you, and, by the end of your speech, they should feel satisfied where they went.


  • The Question: who are you and why are you speaking to us?

                The best way to answer this is with a verb, such as “I’m running for (x) office because    I’m angry that (x problem) still exists in this district and I’m going to change that when I’m elected!” OR, “Why don’t we have (x)? Why don’t we have (y)? Well, I’m running for this     office because I won’t put up with this (situation) one minute longer!”


  • How does (x) affect us?

                Give examples of how a person in your district is affected because these issues are not                solved. Remember that any person is far more interested in themselves than you, unless   you can say something to benefit THEM! Get their heads nodding in agreement because    they know you understand their life.

                Use anecdotal experience that shows how people you know in the district are coping with          this problem and how their daily lives will change if you’re elected. Tell a story from           your       own life that illustrates how your life is affected by this problem, too.


  • Contrast with your opponent

                Since you’re running for good reason, we must make the assumption that your opponent           hasn’t helped the people of the district to solve the problems. Tell your audience that. It doesn’t mean you’re running a “negative campaign.” It simply addresses what has been   lacking in the district’s representation.


  • Creative solutions.

                Can you find one way to solve a problem you’re talking about? Use the most creative way           you can think of…because what you’re looking for from your audience is a feeling that              you’re on the ball. You can handle the difficult situations and they can take comfort and             hope from knowing your thinking process. Make them think, “Oh, I never thought of that!”


  • The Therefore Factor: Ask for what you want!

                Is it a vote? Is it money? Is it volunteers? Be specific. People like to know where               their      money is going. If you include them in what it takes to make a great campaign run                smoothly (even to the extent of how much postage costs!) it can help eliminate the                 suspicions that a donor’s money is going down a perpetually empty hole.

                Conclude by summing up the theme that you have running through your speech,            repeating it, and thanking the audience for listening.


Tips for writing


  • Write in phrases that are easy to understand by regular folk.
  • Ask questions of the audience to keep them involved.
  • No policy-wonk talk.
  • Write paragraphs on one subject that can be excerpted for a specific audience, and drop them for another.
  • Make sure your staff, your volunteers, your phone bankers, your precinct walkers are all on the same message.
  • Practice your speech until you know it by heart. If your staff isn’t sick of hearing it, you’re not saying it enough.
  • The best you can hope for is that members of the audience will be able to leave you, and repeat ONE small phrase about why they like you to someone else who hasn’t made up their mind about the election.




  • Constant interruptions in sound, i.e., “Um, uh, like, y'know,” are all habits that can annoy an audience. Solution: write out your speech and practice it until you’re comfortable saying your words and nothing extra.
  • Talking too fast.Solution: remember that an audience understands very little the faster you talk. You may want to “get it all in” but they absorb very little of it that way. Consciously slow down. Tape yourself to hear it. And use dynamics (highs/lows/loud/soft) to emphasize important words and phrases. They will be remembered far more that way.
  • Talking too slowly.Solution: simple. Speed up. If you talk like a robot, you’ll put an audience to sleep. Dynamic changes in your voice, as well as asking questions of an audience, can vary your presentation in an interesting way.
  • Talking too softly. Solution: use your abdominal breathing exercises to give your lungs a workout when you talk. Projection of your voice is all important when you speak. An audience resents those they can’t hear….and no one wants a resentful audience.
  • Nervous, gasping breaths.Frightened, are you? Join the crowd. Most people are frightened of public speaking. Solution: First, practice your abdominal breathing. Second: remember the breathing will calm you down and give you more breath with which to speak longer sentences. Third: if your speech is written out, you have more confidence in what you’re saying! WRITE YOUR WORDS DOWN!
  • Mumbling:do people keep telling you they don’t quite understand you? It’s your enunciation. Solution: Here’s a quick, simple trick – Listen to a disk jockey on the radio, and copy exactly what he/she is saying right after they say it! Pretty soon, you’ll begin to see you articulate your words better.
  • Shrillness.Solution: Once again, deep breathing! This will lower your voice. However, here’s a quick exercise designed to lower your tone: sit down in a chair with a book on the floor beneath you. Bend over to read the book, breathing from your abdomen as you do it. Pay attention to how much lower your voice will sound, (audio tape it!) and practice that tone a lot!                                     
  • Speaking in a monotone.Solution:  Dynamics, passion, belief in your material and your cause will change a monotone to an exciting tone.



In general, worrying about your gestures is worse than doing anything about them. Be human, be yourself, and remember these few tips:


  • Pointing fingers at an audience to make a point may trigger hostility. It can make people feel like you’re picking on them. Use this gesture sparingly, if you must and only when you feel intensely passionate.


  • Locking your hands in front or in back of you cuts off your ability to communicate your energy, and it makes you look stiff. If you can’t figure out what to do with your hands, just remember not to wave them in your face, or someone else’s. Don’t worry about putting your hands in your pockets; one hand in a pocket and the other hand free is a very casual, confident gesture.


  • Waving your hands wildly makes people think you want THEM to finish your sentences. Put them down and perhaps put ONE in your pocket and practice gesturing only on the most important parts of your speech. Otherwise, let your hands be loose and casual at your sides, or rest lightly on the podium.


  • Crossing your arms in front of you signals caution. It’s a putting-off gesture. Use it with caution.


  • Self-touching gestures indicate a tension in your body. (Think of Johnny Carson and how many times he touched his tie or his face. Nervous gestures connote a nervous leader and leaders are NOT nervous.)


  • Lastly, I know it almost goes without saying, but PLEASE don’t cover your mouth while you’re speaking.