Thursday, June 25, 2009

How to: Have a Successful Meeting in Your Elected Official's Office

Map of 111th Congressional Districts courtesy of

Members of Congress need to hear from you - their constituent - about issues important to your community, such as research. Take advantage of the annual Independence Day congressional recess (June 29 - July 3) and make an appointment to meet with your elected official in their district office.

In fact, now couldn't be a better time to reach out to your officials about the hot topic of the summer - health reform. When they get back after all the fireworks and fun, they'll be diving into at least a month of discussion and debate about how to improve the health of Americans.

So how do you have a successful meeting in your member of Congress' office? We asked Research!America board chair and former member of Congress John Edward Porter to share his principles for a successful meeting in your representative or senator's office.

1. Be prompt and patient.
  • Be on time and prepared to wait if needed.
2. Start with a thank you.
  • Thank the member for their service to you as their constituent and for taking the time to meet with you.
3. Have a specific and singular request. Examples include:
  • Support specific legislation.
  • Ask your member to sponsor or endorse a “DearColleague” letter.
  • Invite members and their staff to come see where you work.
4. Be brief.
  • Plan what you want to say and provide essential background information.
5. Speak with passion and personalize the message.
  • Tell a story and make it relevant to the member.
6. Follow-up.
  • Make sure to send a thank you note that reinforces your request and includes any materials that might be useful to the member/staffer based on your meeting.
You may have noticed that this post isn't titled How to: Have a Successful Meeting with Your Elected Official. That's because you won't always get to meet with the member themselves. When given the opportunity to meet with a congressional staffer, TAKE IT! Treat the staffer as you would treat your member of Congress, and remember that staffers handle most of the day-to-day in an office and have a tremendous amount of influence. Be kind and make yourself available to them as a resource and you're sure to develop a good relationship.

Check out all of Porter's Principles for more on how to make an appointment, have a successful meeting and sample advocacy messages to use during your meeting.

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