Lobbying for Votes

Lobbying is perhaps one of the toughest concepts for competitors to master. Nevertheless, every speaker must learn how to lobby for votes. This requires knowing when and how to push the line. Speaking well is not enough to win; regardless if this helps to make the board. But making the board does not promise going to Nationals--votes do. From the beginning of the tournament until the very end, speakers will be lobbying for votes. Sometimes inadvertently while competing in a round. With practice and the following hints, speakers will learn how to intentionally lobby without the competition even recognizing it.

The first time a speaker starts lobbying for votes is when they first get into the round. Before the parliamentarian even arrives a speaker should be lobbying. No, this does not imply actually asking for votes. What is meant is that a competitor should start making friends from the very beginning. Also, although there is no choice in regards to seating, the best place to be is somewhere in the middle. Being placed in the middle means there are eight potential friends around. Even if seated on one of the sides friends still can be had. Though, resources are admittedly lowered. Before progressing further, be clear that “friend” really means acquaintance. Congress is still a competition. Not that Congress should be cut-throat and devoid of friendly competition, but everyone is still a Congressional adversary. Still, use all down time (especially at the beginning) to build a connection with those in the surrounding location. It can be as simple as asking what school they are from or what year of high school they are in. Let those nearby get comfortable talking. And start lobbying for votes.

Continue building trust with surrounding competitors after making the initial introduction. Throughout the tournament stay in communication with these peers. Ask them what bills they are speaking on. If one learns another is speaking on a bill one wants to speak on, always defer. This will definitely work to one’s favor. (If it is noticed that another speaker has a great speech they are excited about, one is no longer a neutral party. A individual can deliberately defer to gain points of favor. A speaker either makes the other’s day or annoys them by not giving them the floor to speak.) If someone personally has precedence over someone who really wants to speak, give them the chance to speak; it will guarantee a vote if on the board.

Another key way to lobby for votes is when asking questions. If someone gave a good speech, ask questions that make them feel even better about themselves. In other words, agree with them, but give them a chance to reiterate that they were right. This makes any competitor feel confident. They will not forget who did that when it comes time to vote. On the other hand, avoid asking questions that attack anyone. They will not only feel threatened, but this will cost their vote and the votes of everyone who witnessed this assault. Do not be alienated for an avoidable reason like confronting someone on a point that is of little consequence. Further, build someone up if it is known they had a hard time with their speech and were not feeling confident. Ask a question that strengthens their argument. Once again, this will earn a vote if advancing to the board.

The fourth and most obvious way to lobby for votes is by speaking really well. Because a speaker cannot talk to everyone during the tournament, speaking well provides the chance to become known. When the competition begins everyone is looking to see who will be a standout speaker. Very few will actually do this, but the ones who do will earn themselves votes for showing their skill. Step up and do the best speaking possible with every opportunity. Plus, speaking well helps to make the board--the first hurtle to be met to even need votes.

The last form of lobbying is lobbying itself. When approaching the close of a tournament, the judge and parliamentarian choose who will make the board. Although no one knows for sure at this point, it is normally pretty clear who is going to make it. It will be those who spoke enough times and those who did a flawless job in the process. But while out in the hall talk to fellow competitors. Ask them point-blank if they will promise a vote provided the board is made. What is there to lose? If they will not provide a vote it did not hurt, or cost anything, to enquire. There are plenty of students who know they will not make the board, and a simple request might be enough to earn a vote.

This is how to compete in Congress as a veteran. The best Congress speakers realize that every moment is a chance to secure a win. Whether speaking or building connections, all actions will determine votes received if on the board. In order to go to Nationals a speaker has to finish in the top two. Every vote counts, so lobby, lobby, lobby!