One of the most important skills a political candidate can have is networking, and that was the order of the day at Louisiana State University’s Elect Her—Campus Women Win training this fall. The attendees spent the day practicing networking of all sorts, from online social networking (the #ElectHer hashtag was buzzing before folks even arrived on campus!) to connecting in person with inspiring speakers, LSU employees, and each other.
One of the highlights of the training was the “What’s Your Issue?” exercise, in which the attendees got to sit and think about what they would want to change if they were elected to office. The women learned they are not alone in what they care about—many students talked about improving sex education in schools, workplace discrimination, and certain areas of campus that don’t always feel safe. This exercise was followed by a wonderful panel of current student government officials who explained the nuts and bolts of running at LSU’s Student Government Association. The panelists talked about how rewarding it is to be able to actually make change on campus through their roles, and some of that change started happening right there during the panel! Since many of the officers were in the room during the “What’s Your Issue?” exercise, they were able to start a dialog about some of the campus issues the attendees brought up and made plans to follow up on them.
After lunch, the attendees were able to hear from some wonderful speakers from the Baton Rouge community. First was Louisiana State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, who shared lots of lessons learned about her career in politics. One of the things she suggested was for students to get involved in the political process right away, even if they are not yet ready to run. As a way to get started, she echoed the “What’s Your Issue?” exercise, telling the students to start by thinking about what is one issue that bothers them, and then think about what they can do around that one issue. What’s one way students can do something on their issue? Testify at a hearing about it! Senator Peterson said that very few people take advantage of the opportunity to participate in hearings on community issues, and when a new face shows up, she gets noticed!
The end of the day was all about the campaign message. Denise Bottcher, the Associate State Director of Communications at AARP Louisiana, shared some wonderful tips on crafting a good message. She said to make sure you message always conveys three things: your values, your experience, and your policy (or the issues you care about). The attendees then took this advice and started creating their own messages using an elevator speech. Once that was over, there was no time to rest, because the women immediately had to go out on to campus and test out their elevator speeches in a campaign simulation! The winner, Sloane Dellafrosse, went out and talked to tons of people about her passion for women’s rights in order to get their votes.