Have an idea. Is there something that you want to change? Is there something that you think is an injustice, unfair or unethical? Do you think the Students' Union should take a particular side in a discussion or political debate?
Start to consider what’s at the heart of your idea. In Hollywood, people sell ideas with a one line pitch. They call it a log line. Try to find your log line. This shouldn’t be too simple; it needs to have a bit of detail and get to the heart of a problem e.g. What exactly about the bar menu needs changing? Look for the problem and don’t fixate on your idea for the solution.
After this stage, you should have a single sentence explanation of what it is you feel needs to be done. This is the most important step. Was your first idea too big, too nebulous? It might be more than one idea. Each step may require a different solution or, more importantly, you may have realised that they’re separate issues and so require submitting more than one idea to Senate.
At this stage, you should also have a handle on the most interesting part of your idea. To return to Hollywood, the film Alien was sold on the tagline “In Space, no one can hear you scream”. This tells you everything you need to know about the film - it’s in space and it’s scary, but it's also deliberately designed to make you think. After Stage 2, you’ll have the version of your idea you can chat to people about after lectures or down the pub. It’s a way to gauge their interest without embarking on a 20 page diatribe. People will understand your point, you won’t turn people off from your idea and everyone will be able to remember exactly what it is you want to achieve.
Think a little bigger. At this point you know what it is that you want to change, but you’ve thrown out your preconceptions about the solution. Start to think about solutions again and don’t just settle for one! Come up with some other ideas and try and weigh up what will actually have the best end result. Is a quick-fix needed or something more long-term? Ask a friend what they think about your one sentence idea, they should be able to critically assess your recommendations and you don’t have to worry that they’ll change the focus or miss the point. By the end of Stage 3 you should have a robust idea to solve the problem you've identified; you’ve definitely thought it through. You can present this more in depth idea to anyone who’s interested after your short pitch and you’ve got the core of what you’ll present at Senate.
You’re almost done. This is the final stage. Now that you have a strong idea and a clear sense of how to present a solution to the problem you need to think about what else people need to know. Does your argument rest on a particular set of statistics? Do people need to know more about how a particular structure works? Are you sure you can explain why it’s important? Is there any confusing jargon or acronyms that you’ll have to explain? Make sure you’ve got all of this information thought through. You don’t need to know everything backwards, but you do need to be prepared. The better prepared you are for Senate; the more likely it is that your idea will pass. Nobody expects you to memorise sheets after sheets of facts or statistics, so make some notes and bring them with you. You don’t need a dossier, you don’t need every single National Student Survey from the past 20 years, but you should definitely bring the extra information you’ll need to make your case.