Meeting with Elected Officials
MAM Executive Director with Missouri Governor, Mike Parson
Our legislators work for us. They want to know what we think about issues
on the local, state, and national levels. There is always the option to write a
letter or an email, but meeting face-to-face with your elected official is easier
than you think.
What is a lobby visit?
A lobby visit is a meeting where you tell your elected representative what
you think about a certain issue or bill. Whether it is a City Council Member or
your Congressional Representative, as one of their constituents you can ask
them to take action on an issue or legislation. You can find the office of your
local and national elected officials in your area. Some Members of Congress
have more than one office in their congressional district, and permanent staff
members are usually available for you to meet with.
Requesting Your Meeting
Make your request in writing and follow up with a call to the Appointment Secretary/Scheduler. Suggest specific times and dates for your meeting. Let them know what issue or legislation you wish to discuss. Make sure they know that you are a constituent.
Prepare for Your Meeting
Contact the Missouri Association of Manufacturers (MAM) to help you decide on your talking points, and get information that you can leave with your elected official. Decide who will attend the meeting. Bringing more than four or five people can be hard to manage. Agree on talking points. Your goal is to make a strong case for your position, so don't disagree in the meeting. If a point is causing tension in the group, leave it out. Plan out your meeting keeping in mind that time is limited. Decide who will start the conversation, and which points each person will make. Decide what you want to achieve. Do you want your elected official to vote for or against a bill? Do you want them to support your issue or oppose a restrictive ordinance? Ask them to do something specific.
During the Meeting
Be prompt and patient. Elected officials run on very tight schedules. Keep it short and focused. You will have twenty minutes or less with a staff person, and as little as ten minutes if you meet with your elected official. Stick to your talking points. Know your elected official's record on similar issues or legislation. Begin by thanking them for voting in support of your issues, and for taking the time to meet with you. Leave only a few pages of information that contain your main points. Include your contact information. Provide concise personal and local examples of the impact of the legislation or issue. This is the most important thing you can do in a lobby visit.
You don't need all of the information on an issue. If you don't know the answer to a question, it is fine to tell the elected official that you will get that information. This gives you the chance to contact them again about the issue. Set deadlines for a response. You sometimes won't get a definitive answer at the meeting. Ask when you should check back in to find out what your elected official intends to do about your request. If you need to get information to them, set a date for when this will happen.
After the Meeting
Right after the meeting, compare notes with everyone in your group to confirm what the elected official committed to do and what follow-up information you committed to send. One of you should promptly send a thank you letter for meeting with you. Follow up immediately with any requested materials and information. If the elected official or staff member doesn't meet the deadline for action you agreed to during the meeting, ask him or her to set another deadline. Be persistent, polite, and flexible.
Let MAM know what you learned during your meeting by emailing: Info@MAMStrong.org
Meeting with your elected officials is the best way to demonstrate that there is a constituency for civil liberties in your district. It's easy to make a difference.