What to do?

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I competed in student congress all four of my years and even after it was all said and done, I was never quite sure exactly what students were trying to accomplish. I would sit in a room and the guy next to me would have prepared a pro and con speech for every single bill (a little ridiculous if you ask me.) Then there was the guy on the other side of me who had no prep and decided to come last minute...or the competitors who came just to stack the room with their teammates. In the midst of all this hoopla, I began to see trends; especially as I became an upperclassman. I began to realize that their was a formula to success in student congress and whether you are from a small school or a large one, these steps will help you to not only make the board each tournament, but to come home with superior or outstanding speaker - the two positions needed to qualify to nationals.

1)network, network, network, and network. This is imperative to success in student congress. It doesnt matter what school you are from, networking must be accomplished in order to win. How would I do this? The first thing I would do is start talking to the competitors who were sitting next to me. Gain the interest of apathetic competitors and you will soon learn that voting will be in your favor. You will earn votes quickly and easily if you are nice to competitors. In a way, you are learning how to lobby by doing this.

2)Focus on You. When competing, one mistake students make is focusing on the other students. In Congress, you have to realize that no matter what questions other students ask you, the only person who has a major impact on you during the session is the judge. The judge determines whether or not you make the board. That is all that matters during the round because if you dont make the board, your networking will be all for not.

3)Speech forming. When you enter a Congress tournament, you already know that you only have 3 minutes to speak and that includes any questions that may arise. Word of advice: dont write congress speeches ahead of time. Be familiar with the topics and any facts that you might present. You dont need a written speech for something like this. Make your stand and base your argument on two or three points. That doesnt require any writing.

4)Show respect to all competitors. Whether you are being asked a question or asking a question yourself, keep your cool no matter what is presented or how frustrated you get with another competitor. This will not only benefit you with the judge, but it will help you create friends for voting time.

By doing the above four steps, you have a blueprint for congress success. But keep in mind, this is merely a blueprint. Every tournament is going to have different people and bills and judges and those are variables that can change the entire dynamic of a room. Focus on networking and presenting logical arguments and you will find yourself on the board at every tournament.

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