Tips on in-person meetings
by Institute for Policy Studies
One of the most powerful ways to have your voice heard is to schedule a personal meeting with your senator or representative. If you can travel to Washington for a meeting, call your legislator ‘s Capitol Hill office and ask to schedule a time. Since all senators and representatives also have local offices in their home states, you could also schedule a meeting closer to home so you don’t have to travel to Washington. When you call to request a meeting, explain what issue you want to discuss. Remember that legislators are busy people and it may be hard to get an appointment. Sometimes you will have the opportunity to meet with a congressional aide rather than your legislator.
Before the meeting
1. If possible, ask friends or neighbors who share your concerns to attend the meeting with you.
2. Thoroughly research the topic you will be discussing, including opposing views. Write down a list of your concerns and explain the action you would like your legislator to take.
3. Research your legislator. You should know the committees on which he or she serves, her positions on various issues, and her recent voting record.
4. Practice. If you’re going in a small group, give each person an assignment, so that everyone knows the points they are responsible for making.
During the meeting
1. Thank your legislator for taking the time to speak with you. Be sure to acknowledge any past action – such as a vote or a public statement – that you support.
2. Bring extra copies of any information to which you will refer. Bring several copies so that there are enough for your legislator as well as congressional aides. Always clearly cite any sources you used to prepare the materials.
3. Be sure you’re very clear about the actions you want your legislator to take. Try to get specific commitments or a date when you should check back about progress on the issue. Write everything down.
4. No matter what the response, don’t lose your cool.
After the meeting
1. Send thank-you notes to the legislator and congressional aides.
2. Check progress by keeping track of your legislator’s voting record. The website Congressional Audit (http://www.congressionalaudit.org) offers a convenient way to get weekly email updates about your elected officials.
If your legislator follows through on your request, write another thank-you letter. If your legislator does not follow through on something he or she committed to during your meeting, contact the appropriate congressional aide and express your disappointment.
Remember that representatives in the House run for re-election every two years, and senators every six years. If you are disappointed with your legislator, you can show your disapproval by supporting another candidate at election time.