Today we’ll take a brief look at how to have effective meetings with legislators and their staff. First, note that there are basically two types of meetings you can have with elected or appointed officials, relationship-building meetings and policy meetings.
Relationship building meetings are an important first step prior to meeting on a policy matter. These can consist of taking the legislator or his or her staff on a tour of your facility, hosting them for a town hall, or having them write an article for your organization’s newsletter.
Policy meetings are used to discuss public policy issues such as bills, regulations, issues, or to seek an official act. Some common asks made in policy meetings are to introduce or coauthor a bill, to vote for or against a measure, or to talk with another legislator about a bill or regulation.
So, what are some do’s and don’ts for having effective meetings with legislators and their staff? Here are my tips for what to do prior to, during, and after meetings to ensure that the meetings are effective.
Prior to Meeting
- Schedule the meeting with the legislator – generally 2-3 weeks in advance
- Research the legislator you are meeting with
- Determine what your ask will be
- Forget to confirm the meeting a few days in advance.
- Dress inappropriately. This is a business meeting.
- Go in without practicing what you and others in your group, if there are other joining you, are going to say
During the Meeting
- Be polite.
- Be flexible. If you need meet in the hallway instead of an office, or with a staff member instead of the legislator, happily go along with the changes.
- Personalize your message and explain why the issue you are talking about matters to you.
- Be late.
- Discuss any political campaigning or political contributions in legislative offices or with legislative staff.
- Make vague or generalized requests of the legislator or their staff.
After the Meeting
- Send a thank you note for taking the time to meet
- Follow up
- Be a resource
- Overstay your welcome. If there are ongoing issues, it’s appropriate to check back in every few months.
- Be impatient.
- Forget to acknowledge any positions the legislator has taken in the past, such as if they committed to voting yes or no on a particular measure.
A full transcript of today’s podcast can be found here.