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04/07/2016

Legislative Advocacy 101: Meeting in Person with your Elected Official

Maximizing your face-to-face effectiveness

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Legislative Advocacy 101 returns this week. Meeting face-to-face with your elected official is one of the best ways to share your message and influence decisions. Here are some great tips to make your next appointment a success.

You have every right to meet with your elected official, and you should make good use of it. Face-to-face meetings are the most influential thing you can do to educate elected officials. According to Congressional Management Foundation research, 97 percent of congressional representatives said that an in-person conversation will have at least some influence on their decisions.

Unlike letter writing and social media advocacy, meetings have the intention to persuade. You are given a set amount of time to sit down and talk with your elected officials. In that time frame, you want them to understand your issue and why they should support your point of view. Develop a plan before you go so you have the most persuasive appeal possible.

Here are a few tips that will give you the most influence and keep your appeal persuasive.

Plan Ahead

  • Make sure your elected official knows you are a constituent. Like with all advocacy efforts, elected officials want to hear from their constituents most of all.
  • Schedule your meeting two to four weeks in advance. Under two weeks, and your elected official is probably already booked. More than four, and they don’t like the high possibility of rescheduling. 
  • Keep calling! It may take more than one phone call to set up an appointment.
  • Be early, but not too early. Five minutes early is ideal, but no more than 15.

Be Prepared

  • Before calling, have your talking points handy. It’s not unusual for a staff person to ask you a few questions so it’s nice to have the information by your side.
  • Remember to tell the scheduler your name, whom you want to meet with, when you want to meet and why you want to meet.
  • Bring notes to your meeting. These will keep you on track with what you really want to say and allow you to better hit all of your key points.
  • Do your research. Have facts and data ready and available. Supporting research can greatly enhance your credibility and the persuasiveness of your meeting.

Be Flexible

  • Elected officials are often very busy. You may end up meeting with a staff person. These people have a large amount of influence with your elected official, and may be the key to getting a future meeting scheduled. Treat them with respect! Present as if you were presenting to the elected official.
  • If you are meeting with a staff person, and your elected official arrives after the meeting has started, keep going. Do not restart. Just be prepared to answer questions throughout.
  • If your elected official is running late, you may be asked to wait. Smile, and be patient.

Be Brief

  • Keep your pitch short. Five to 10 minutes is the recommended length for your pitch.
  • Stay on topic. It’s tempting to talk about all the issues you may care about, but don’t. Stay focused on one issue at a time.
  • Keep politics out of it. Stick to the issue at hand. Be professional and respectful of your elected official, even if you don’t always agree with them. Present the facts as you know them, without providing commentary on their political career.
  • Keep the group small. Don’t overwhelm with a large group of people. Have only one main spokesperson.

Be Thorough

  • Leave a one- to two-page synopsis of your argument. Include facts and research information.
  • Follow up with the staff person.
  • Get their business cards, keep in touch. Send a thank you email and include a few (one or two) websites with additional facts and information.
  • Keep in touch. Send correspondence. Make sure that your elected official remembers who you are and what you had to say
  • And, as always, send a thank you note!

For more from our Legislative Advocacy 101 series, visit the following:

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Engaging Lawmakers on Social Media

 

Writing Letters to Elected Officials