Effective Meetings with Legislators
Scheduling/Planning a Meeting
At least three weeks prior to visiting Capitol Hill, contact your policymaker's office to request an appointment. It is important that you include in your request your full name, home mailing address, contact information, information on any others participating in the meeting, date/timeframe and issue(s) to be discussed. It may take several communications before you receive a response. Once you've scheduled your meeting, report it to ASHA by e-mailing [email protected].
Prepare for Your Meetings
Learn everything you can about your Senators and Representative by visiting ASHA's Take Action site and viewing the Elected Officials in your district. Locate your Senators and your Representative. You can also learn about their respective backgrounds and legislative interests. Familiarize yourself with the issue materials and select 2–3 that you are most passionate and comfortable talking about. Develop at least one personal story about each issue you plan to discuss.
What to Expect from a Meeting
Just as no two days are the same; no two meetings are the same on Capitol Hill! It's important to review the Different Meeting Scenarios document to familiarize yourself with the type of meeting you might encounter. Above all, it is important to be prepared for a fluid meeting, where anything can happen. When you arrive at your meeting and check in with the receptionist, you'll likely wait in their office lobby until your meeting contact greets you. He or she may conduct the discussion right there, escort you into the member's office, or possibly usher you to an area in the outside hallway if no meeting rooms are available. Don't let the location throw you off your mission! Meetings can last 5–30 minutes, which is a reflection of office workload and legislative activities (it's not personal!). Have a plan for how you can convey your message in any timeframe.
While we respect members of Congress and their staff, they are experts in policymaking, not your job! In your quest to educate, always presume that the person with whom your meeting is unfamiliar with your profession, operations, and concerns. Be aware that acronyms and terms that may seem common in your everyday work setting will most likely be foreign to your meeting contact. Lastly, never judge staff experience, Capitol Hill has many young staffers who are highly educated and extremely influential in their boss's decision making.
Flow of the Meeting
- Briefly exchange pleasantries
- Identify yourself, your connection to the district/state, your professional training, certification, and work setting.
- Concisely share the issues at hand, why they're important to you, and their impact on the member's district/state.
- If you're asked a question you do not know the answer to, it is perfectly acceptable to say that you'll get the information and follow up at a later time.
- Formally "ask" the member of Congress and their staff to support your policy position.
- Mention that you will send them any requested details, leave your contact information, and thank them for their time.