If you want to win a political election, you’ve got to get your message out to voters. Today, there are many high-tech ways of doing so. Even so, going door-to-door and meeting people in person is still one of the most effective ways to communicate your campaign’s message.
People want to connect and have conversations with other humans—and only election canvassing provides the avenue to do so. Here are five tips and tricks that will help you make your election canvassing more effective.
1. Have a Conversation
Studies have shown that 93% of all communication is nonverbal. Facial reactions such as a lift of an eyebrow or a wince of a cheek can tell you a lot about how well your message is being received. People may be able to lie to you through their words, but as the saying goes, “A face never lies.” This is why having face-to-face conversations is so critical in election canvassing.
The other key word there, of course, is “conversation.” When you’re canvassing, you don’t want to come off as a preacher. No one wants to be told how to think, especially by a stranger who’s knocking on their door.
Plenty of people welcome an educated discussion about politics and issues that are important to them. So, when you’re canvassing, approach it as if you’re having a conversation with a friend or family member. Your goal isn’t to tell them why you’re right; it’s to convince them that your point—or in this case, your campaign—is worth supporting. A pleasant conversation between you and other people is a great way to make voters think long and hard about your candidate when you leave their front door.
2. Listen for Feedback
As you are having these conversations, be sure to pay attention to the feedback you’re getting. This feedback will be invaluable to both you as a canvasser and to the campaign you’re supporting. Effective canvassing can be a learning process.
People may react to how and when you knock on their door, how you’re dressed, your tone of voice, your responses to their questions and/or retorts, and to the overall message you’re giving. If your message or presentation isn’t resonating, you can try different ways to approach people when they answer their door. For instance, you can try using different language to explain your points or try being friendlier, if you sense people are hesitant to talk.
If you sense that you’re getting pushback on the general messaging and not on your approach, talk to others in your campaign about what people are saying. Maybe the overall message itself needs to be altered slightly to resonate better. As a canvasser, you have the opportunity and obligation to take critical feedback back to your team to improve your campaign’s approach.
3. Connect with People
When you’re having conversations and listening for feedback, you should also pay attention to what is most important to the people you’re talking to. If you are discussing higher taxes and realize this is of great importance to the homeowner, then continue to talk about that point. Conversely, if they start talking about another issue that’s important to them, you can shift your focus to that issue. Realize that what’s important to you may not be important to every person you talk to.
That’s why it’s very important that you’re prepared before you start canvassing. Know your campaign’s talking points inside and out, so you can be ready for every possible topic that could come up. This will allow you to have an educated, in-depth conversation about whatever topic the person reveals is most important to them. Not only will this show you’re well-prepared, it might convince them that to lean your way when they head to the ballots.
4. Be Prepared to Be Rejected—And Don’t Take Offense
Election canvassing is a lot like sales or the game of baseball. You are going to fail a lot, and that’s OK. Not everyone is going to agree with your message. Not everyone is going to even be open to having a conversation with you—even if they do agree with your campaign.
As a canvasser, you should be prepared to be rejected. This doesn’t mean that these people don’t like you or that you’re doing something wrong. It could just mean that you caught them at a bad time for them or that they’re just not open to discussing political issues.
If you’re turned away or met with resistance, just stay calm, be kind, and thank them for their time. People may not remember your name when you walk away, but they might remember the campaign and candidate.
5. Follow Up
Your election canvassing trip shouldn’t be your only interaction. Make note of the people you were able to make contact with, and follow-up with them in the future. This could include targeted mailers and reminders of voter registration deadlines—if they aren’t yet registered to vote—or a reinforcement of your campaign’s message.
Follow-ups could also include another in-person visit to certain people’s homes depending on how your first interaction went. This last-minute canvassing effort could be crucial in getting more supporters to register to vote or for getting people who were on the fence to make the final jump to your side.
Just like your initial interaction, your follow-up interactions should be polite, respectful and to the point. Keep precise notes on people’s names, what they looked like, and what was important to them the first time you spoke. This will show them how much you truly care about their interests and what’s important to them. Ultimately, this can be the difference between gaining another vote for your campaign and losing one.
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