Given the frantic pace that typically takes place on Capitol Hill, it is important to ensure that your meetings are as effective as possible. While it is only natural to desire to meet with a member of Congress, do not become disappointed if you meet with staff instead. Lawmakers rely heavily on their staff out of necessity for legislative recommendations and information.
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When meeting with staff, or a member of Congress, try to use practical – and personal – examples. Practical examples receive a lot of attention because they make it easier for members of Congress to understand the realities of life outside the Beltway. For a legislative strategy to be effective, include several examples of the consequences of the proposal.
Always ask if a decision has been made or when a decision is expected. Mention that you will check back to determine the position of the legislator. Make a point to keep current and educate the legislator and staff members as the time for a vote approaches. Work to establish several contacts in each office.
Never cancel or reschedule meetings except as a last resort. If you reschedule, this will likely result in a hampering of any goodwill you established with congressional staff. There is always a cost associated with rescheduling or canceling any meeting. Before you cancel or reschedule, ask yourself whether it is really worth that cost.
Above all, make sure you are prepared in advance for the meeting. Know what you expect from the meeting before you arrive. What is it that you want to ask? You will never receive it if you do not ask for it. If you plan to ask a policymaker to change their established position, you must be prepared to provide justification, including a description of conditions that have changed or new information that has become available on an issue. Select one issue that you want to advocate during the meeting and stick to that point. Do not muddy the waters by trying to advocate for more than one point during a single meeting. Finally, follow-up after every meeting.
Source: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 8.29 Reminders for Hill Visit Participants.
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