10 tips

10 Tips for a Successful Meeting With Your Legislators

  1. Make an appointment.

    Send a fax or e-mail to the scheduler requesting a meeting, including the date and time of day you would like to meet with the member. Offer to meet with staff if the member of Congress is not available (i.e., health legislative assistant). Include the name of the legislation or issue you would like to discuss. Provide a phone number and/or e-mail address where the scheduler can reach you and follow up with a phone call in one week if you have not heard back from the office. Remember, members of Congress are more likely to meet with a voting constituent than someone from outside their district. Download a sample script.
     
  2. Plan your visit carefully.

    Be clear about what you want to achieve. If you are going as a group, plan who will speak first. Choose one person to speak about your issue. After initial discussion, each attendee should briefly provide input and support the main speaker. You may want to have one person take notes through the meeting to ensure a quality follow-up is made. Additionally, if certain people can speak about different issues more effectively, think that through before you meet. Further, don’t arrive too early, offices are small and having several people waiting for a meeting may cause the office to take a dim view of your group.
     
  3. Come prepared.

    Know the issue and who your member is. Has he/she supported us on this issue in the past? Does he/she serve in a leadership role? What is his/her voting history? Is the member on a committee important to our issues? Also be familiar with your opponents' arguments against your position as you may be asked questions about them.
     
  4. Be specific and brief.

    Describe the issue briefly and get to the point within the first 10 minutes. Give personal examples of the issue to explain why the issue is so important to you. You will likely have only 15 minutes for your meeting. Have a specific request (i.e., “Will you co-sponsor this bill,” or “Will you send a letter on this for us?”). Let the Congress member know of any other actions you are taking.
     
  5. Be a good listener.

    Determine if the Congress member supports you. Write down and follow up on any requests the congressperson makes. Never argue with a congressperson or staff. Be respectful and courteous.
     
  6. Answering questions.

    Be prepared to answer tough questions. If you don't know the answer, promise to follow up with the answer at a later date. You will have ACA-prepared background information and materials to provide the congressperson or staff with supporting your position.
     
  7. Ask for help and advice.

    Aside from having a specific request, also ask if anyone else should be contacted about the issue and what else can be done to further your chances.
     
  8. Be positive and polite.

    Emphasize the positive aspects of your issues and refrain from criticizing other members of Congress and their staff. Also, always end the meeting by thanking the congressperson for their support (if appropriate) and for their time. Ask staff for business cards so you can correct name spellings and addresses for follow-up letters.
     
  9. Write a follow-up letter.

    After visiting with Congress or staff member, immediately send a 'thank you' letter to acknowledge the time taken to meet with you. Include any follow-up answers you promised during your visit. Give staff a fair share of the credit and thanks for the meeting.
     
  10. Provide feedback to your professional lobbyists.

    This is important as one of the qualities that distinguish strong advocacy efforts from weak ones is close coordination between grassroots advocates and professional advocates. After meeting with a legislator or staff person, it is essential that you provide feedback on the outcome of the meeting. Debriefings may be submitted online, at which point ACA's advocacy team can follow-up on any action items resulting from your meetings.