Many of us feel distanced from our legislators. We don’t see them at the supermarket; we know highly paid lobbyists have access to their calendar. In fact, legislators LOVE meeting their constituents. Getting and preparing for a meeting with your legislator is quite similar to - and even easier than – getting and preparing for a job interview.
Preparing for a meeting with your legislator is simple. As the one calling the meeting, you get to set your agenda.
Similar to a job interview, doing your homework is key to your success. With legislator meetings, you have the bonus of bringing your team of experts with you (wouldn't that be nice for an interview!). Being succinct and clear improves your influence.
2. Set it up
Request your meeting in writing; follow with a phone call. Note your issue (including bill number) and clearly state you are a constituent. Call the day before to confirm your meeting and:
Making a good impression with staff helps your success. Some organizations give employees equal say in hiring decisions. Similarly, most legislators rely on their staff to prioritize their time. Make a good impression for higher priority. In general, legislators love to meet constituents, making getting a meeting with them easier than getting most job interviews.
Greet Staff Respectfully. Set a positive tone with everyone you greet on your visit to ensure your impression is positive.
Introduce yourself to your legislator using your full name and where you are from. Address your legislator by their appropriate title (ask their staff or use this Emily Post list of honorifics). Thank them for their time and for meeting with you.
Create Connection and Be Succinct. You will likely have 10-20 minutes to:
Listen. While you are there to be heard, you will better promote your cause if you also listen well. Ask for your legislator’s thoughts and experience on the topic (think “discussion” rather than “lecture”). Unlike interviewers, legislators will likely share people, places, and experiences with you. Building a positive relationship while succinctly focusing on your key message and asking good questions in an interview helps you land a job. These same skills improve your ability to advocate for your cause.
4. Nail the close
Before leaving, thank those who met with you for their time and the meeting. Leave materials that are easy to comprehend at a glance. Promise to follow up where you can, such as sharing an article or resource. Ensure you have accurate contact information and perhaps permission for a group photo or social media post.
Closing with next steps in mind grows your success with your legislator just as in a job interview. When thanking them, mention what you especially enjoyed learning and how you might follow up on something discussed. These strategies help with interviews, meetings with legislators, and all other interactions.
5. Follow up
Build on your meeting by following up well. That evening, send a thank you email and follow with a handwritten thank you note. For social media posts:
A thank you that includes promised information, contacts, or resources builds on your positive impression for both interviewers and legislators. When you leave the meeting, you leave an impression that will start to fade. An email within 24 hours creates a ping to that memory that keeps it fresh. The handwritten thank you note provides another ping several days later, keeping you and your cause fresh in their mind. Effective follow up grows connection and keeps your meeting fresh in their memory, maximizing your impact with interviews and legislators alike.
Most legislators love to meet with constituents. Taking steps to make interviews successful directly translate to maximizing your impact with legislators. The added bonuses are that you can bring a team and post on social media. Following these steps will build positive relationship with and increase your influence over your legislators.
Photo credit: Ramaz Bluashvili