Tips for meeting with Legislators
- Meetings are just communicating. Use this meeting to discuss the benefits of your position. You do this every day, with virtually everyone you come into contact with. Charm, tact, patience, reasonableness, and listening are all important skills you will need when meeting with legislators. Don't forget that at the end of the day these meetings are all about building relationships.
- Be prompt and be patient. Legislators run on very tight schedules. Show up on time for your appointment, and be patient - it is not uncommon for legislators to run late or to be interrupted during a visit by other business. Don't be discouraged if you meet with staff. Most legislators rely on their staff to learn the issues and to advise them. Expect each meeting to last 15-30 minutes.
- Know your target and keep your focus. Know the office you are meeting with, their role in the system, and how they can help. Doing this will help you keep your focus and stay on track.
- Keep it short, simple, and on track. Identify yourself and everyone in the room, thank the office for meeting with you. Assign each speaker a part of the presentation and be clear on your information and your asks. Keep an eye on the time and be sure to leave time for open discussion. Expect each meeting to last 15-30 minutes. Don't hesitate to bring and take notes, and don't' forget to make your asks!
- Keep your cool. Like any other form of communication you can be frustrated if you feel that the other person isn't listening or doesn't (or doesn't want to) understand. Always be respectful and attempt to find mutual agreement or ways to forge ahead. Ask questions to try to understand what their concerns are and what conditions would have to exist in order to get their support. In rare cases, you may find a legislator is simply unresponsive to your issues. If that's the case, thank them for their time and leave.
- Get a commitment. If the legislator immediately expresses support then ask him or her to try to do something concrete to demonstrate their support. Ask if they know of other members who might also be supportive of if they could help to convince less supportive members. Your representative can also help persuade leadership (the Speaker of the Assembly, the Senate Majority Leader), and members serving on committees to which a particular bill has been referred, especially committee chairs.
- Leave written materials. Present a one-page summary of your message points just prior to leaving. Make sure your materials have your contact information on them so the legislator can follow up.
- Follow up! Send the office a letter documenting your discussion and any commitments that the legislator made. Thank them again for their time, and be sure to keep in touch.