In a previous post, I offered some tips for new superintendents and principals. In this follow-up, I would like to offer an idea that will help every school or district leader: develop a “stump speech”.
A stump speech is a speech that is given again and again, usually by candidates for political office. It is a speech that can be given in as few as five minutes or stretched to 20 minutes and includes the main points of a candidate’s message. Best of all, a stump speech can be used by a candidate at a moment’s notice whenever he or she has the opportunity to speak.
School and district leaders would do well to have their own stump speeches on hand. For them, these stump speeches may include the following points:
First, why you are so thrilled to be the leader of your school or district. Make a point here of acknowledging staff and parents.
Second, what makes your school or district unique and why it does an especially good job of educating students.
Third, provide some evidence to reinforce your second point. This can be an increase in ACT scores, winning school award, or other evidence of success that would reinforce how great your school or district is.
Finally, it’s always a good idea, after outlining evidence of success, to explain how the district or school is working to improve even more.
Practice your stump speech and look for opportunities to give it. The speech can be improved over time and updated as needed. Pay special attention to the kinds of questions you receive in response to your speech. If you continue to receive the same question again and again, “bake in” the answer to the question in your speech.
Remember, a great stump speech hits your points but, just as importantly, is amended over time to be as simple and engaging as possible.