Occasionally, your elected officials return home from their normal duties at the Capitol to meet with constituents, this is commonly known as recess. For Congressional Representatives that recess time is August and for elected officials at the state level it can vary. So as we are nearing the end of August, I thought it would be timely to share some tips for meeting with your elected officials while they are home in case you have an urge to do so.
First, you need to schedule a meeting with the legislator’s office. Legislators only spend a finite amount of time in district so scheduling a meeting beforehand increases the likelihood of meeting with your legislator in person. While it is preferred to meet with elected officials in person, don’t worry if you end up meeting with a staff person. Staffers play a critical role in the legislative process and are often the main influencers on legislators. To set a meeting time, please call, email or use their website to do so.
Next, you will want to prepare for the meeting. Legislators and their staffers don’t expect you to be a policy expert and the meetings will likely be no more than 15 minutes long, so you don’t need to study like your preparing for a big test. But you will want to be prepared with the essentials. Learn the main talking points, be prepared for questions, and most importantly share your story on why an issue is important to you! Legislators and their staffers meet with professional lobbyists every day and they relish the opportunity to meet real constituents. Stats, figures and talking points are great, but stories are why volunteers like you are the key to influencing legislators!
Next, is the meeting. Meeting with legislators and their staff is a formal occasion, so it is recommended you dress for the occasion. Remember legislative meetings last at most 15-20 minutes so your meetings need to be focused and concise. Follow this outline as a sample for your meeting flow:
- Introduce yourself, where you live (including your street address), and why you want to meet with the legislator.
- Quickly transition into the key talking points and tell your personal story.
- Then ask the legislator if they will support the issue and ask them for a reason why either way. They most likely will be noncommittal so it’s important to dig for the real answers, if possible.
- If you have more than one issue in mind, then you move to the next issue and repeat the process above.
- At the end of the meeting don’t forget to thank the lawmaker/legislative staff member for their time, take a picture and post on social media, and promise to follow-up on any unanswered questions. If a lawmaker or staffer asks a question that you do not know the answer to, simply reply, “That’s a great question I don’t know the answer but I’ll find out and get back to you. ”
If you are interested in meeting with your elected officials, we would be more than happy to help set up a meeting! If you have any questions, please email me.
Pictured are students from the Yacapai Anti-Tobacco Coalition of Youth (YATCY) group meeting with Representative Boyer.