Personal visits with influential policymakers are an effective method of grassroots advocacy. These visits often lay the groundwork for future communication with the official and his/her staff. If you are meeting with a federal Member of Congress, a face-to-face meeting can be held in Washington, D.C. or in your Member’s district office.
This short how-to video walks you step-by-step through a meeting at your legislator’s office.
Whether you are meeting with a federal, state or local official, here are some tips to make your meeting more effective:
- Make your appointment in advance.
Call your public official’s office and request a meeting (at least a few weeks in advance, if possible). Identify who you are, who you represent and who will attend; state the time required (15 minutes is typical) and the subject you want to discuss. The day before the appointment, call to confirm. To find the contact information for Members of Congress, please visit ACTE’s Legislative Action Center. To find contact information on a state or local level, contact your ACTE state association.
- Do your homework.
Be prepared to answer questions or provide information about your program and know what points you want to make before the meeting. Also, learn about the policymaker and his/her priority issues. Try to have statistics and facts about your local program, and know how the official’s support has helped in the past or could help in the future. A lot of information can be found using the internet. If you need assistance, contact the ACTE Public Policy staff at 1410 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, 800-826-9972, or e-mail Jarrod Nagurka, ACTE Legislative and Public Affairs Manager, at email@example.com.
- Be on time, flexible and brief.
When it is time to meet with a public official, be punctual and patient. It is not uncommon for an official to be late or to have a meeting interrupted due to their crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. If the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with staff. Bring concise written information (the shorter the better–e.g., a fact sheet) regarding your program and its importance.
- Select a spokesperson.
If there are two or more people going to the appointment, identify a spokesperson to lead the discussion and ask other members of the group to speak as the discussion moves along.
- Make local connections.
After introductions and handshakes, start the meeting with a comment about mutual interests (friends, activity in the state, a recent vote) to tie you or your program to the policymaker, though keep this brief.
- State the purpose of your visit.
Tell the official who you represent, what you want to talk about and why you are talking with him or her. If you are advocating for a specific bill, be sure to refer to it by number, explain its status and indicate what action you would like the official to take. Be direct, but polite.
- Use your expertise and share success stories.
You are there to share your expertise on the issue you’re discussing. Be prepared to share brief anecdotes and success stories to make your point. Be sure to identify how your community and the policymaker’s constituents will be affected.
- Discuss how your program serves the community.
Discuss your program or organization and its importance to the community. Discuss the importance of CTE programs to the people in your community, local businesses and the economy. Cite specific examples of your program’s success in meeting the particular needs of your area and emphasize why maintaining an investment in CTE is so important. It is a good idea to have with you 1-2 pages of information to leave behind as a future reference.
- Listen carefully and answer questions truthfully.
Allow the official to share his or her insights or positions with you. Though you may not agree, this gives you the chance to respond based on your knowledge and experience. Do not argue, but listen carefully and identify issues of concern or differences of opinion. Answer all questions to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question, say you do not know and promise to find the answer and get back to them.
- Summarize major points.
Wrap up the meeting by summarizing the major points of discussion and leave behind a fact sheet with your name, address and phone number.
- Leave promptly.
At the end of your allotted time, thank the policymaker and the staff for their time and leave promptly.
- Follow up.
Send a brief thank you letter and any follow up information you may have promised to the policymaker and the staff who were instrumental in assisting you, and keep up the relationship with the office over time. Periodically send information that may be of interest to the office. Invite them to visit your program. Thank the officials who honor commitments or who vote in support of your position. Also remember that developing and maintaining good relationships with staff may be the most effective means to making your concerns heard.
- Fill Out a Congressional Visit Report Form
Let ACTE know the results from your visits and other contacts with federal policymakers. If you visit, receive return correspondence or communicate with your Members of Congress in other ways, please complete a Hill report form and return it to ACTE via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 1410 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314. This gives ACTE staff in Washington additional insight into the positions of Members of Congress and helps us identify strong supporters and those that need additional attention or information.