As a lobbyist or advocate you likely spend a good portion of your time visiting calling upon Capitol Hill. The tips below will help ensure that you achieve the best outcomes and avoid slipping into bad habits.
photo credit: Steven Verlander Photography
First, make an effort to keep current and educated regarding the position of members. It is a good idea to establish points of contact with the office so that you can check back from time to time to determine the position of a legislator.
Never cancel or re-schedule a meeting except as a last resort. Recognize that any time you reschedule a meeting you could very well face the withdrawal of goodwill with congressional staff. If there is an unavoidable emergency that would cause you to run late, make a point to phone the office and let them know. In the event you truly cannot make the meeting, phone ahead and advise them. Remember that it is bad enough to cancel a meeting; simply not showing up can be catastrophic.
Always be on time for congressional meetings but do not be surprised or impatient if you are kept waiting, which is commonly the case. Avoid entering the office too early. Rooms on Capitol Hill are often cramped and there is usually a lack of good places to wait for meetings.
Before attending a meeting, make sure you have an idea of what you expect from the meeting. What is it that you want to ask for and what is it that you hope to receive? Choose one issue and stick to it rather than trying to address multiple points at once. Always ask how you can help, and be willing to act as a resource.
Listen carefully and never make any assumptions. Ask thoughtful and well thought-out questions. At the conclusion of the meeting, be sure to say thank you and then follow-up later with promised information or materials and a thank you.
Following these guidelines can go a long way toward helping you to achieve the desired outcome to a meeting. For more information about communicating with congressional offices, consider our 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.
Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 8.29 Reminders for Hill Visit Participants
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Congressional Dynamics and the Legislative Process
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Understanding Congressional Budgeting and Appropriations
- Advanced Legislative Procedure
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