Preparation Makes or Breaks Your Lobby Meeting
Myrdin Thompson, RESULTS U.S. Poverty Organizer
July 15, 2013
I want to help you have a great lobby meetingat the RESULTS International Conference or during the August recess back home. How well you prepare for a congressional lobby visit will determine how successful it will be. So let me highlight a few things that will make your experience fun and worthwhile;
- Do your homework. Knowing about your members of Congress before you meet with them will make you a more effective and confident advocate. The RESULTS website has lots of information about your members of Congress, including biographical information, committee assignments, and voting records on legislation we are following. To find this information, simply click the Research Your Members of Congress link on the U.S. Poverty Actions and News page of the RESULTS website in the green box. You can also find information about your members of Congress from their website and Google searches online.
- Pick your issues. Don’t try to cover every issue under the sun. If you do, you’ll end up diluting your message. Pick no more than three issues to discuss and rank them in order of importance. If your member of Congress sits on an important committee on one of our issues, lead with that one. It’s all about leveraging your influence as best you can. The July Action sheet has the issues to focus on for your upcoming meetings and how to rank them.
- Plan your meeting. Congressional meetings, particularly face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress, are not typically very long (15–20 minutes). Sitting down to plan out your meeting agenda, the roles each person will play, and the topics you will discuss, will ensure that you and your group will make the most of your time. Our 2013 Lobby Meeting Planning Form is a great resource to help you. It give you space to divide up responsibilities, focus your message, and document on how the meeting went.
- Have “leave behind” materials. While you want to be ready to discuss all the issues on your agenda, you might not get to. Therefore, have request sheets for each issue with you to leave behind. This will make sure all your requests get submitted and you can then follow up about your requests after the meeting. You can find our Lobby Meeting Request Sheets on our U.S. Poverty Campaigns page in the green box.
- Practice, practice, practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Once you have all your research done, your meeting planned, your materials ready, please do a run through of your meeting. Role-playing the meeting will help you get familiar with what to say and make you feel more comfortable in your actual meeting. Do it as a group if possible so you can give each other feedback.
- Follow up. Follow-up is almost as important as the meeting itself. After your meeting, make sure someone sends a thank you to your member of Congress and staff. Then in a few days, follow up with the aide who handles your issue to check on the status of your request. Did they talk to the person you requested? Did they cosponsor the bill you asked them to? Follow up is about accountability — making sure they do what they say they’ll do.
- Relax. Lobbing meetings can seem intimidating and scary, especially if you’ve never done them before. But once you do them, you realize how empowering and fun they are. It’s OK to feel scared but know that when you’re done, you’ll so much better about yourself for having done it.
For more information about setting up and scheduling lobby meetings, see our Activist Toolkit on Meeting with Members of Congress and the July Action sheet. As always, RESULTS staff is available to help you prepare for your lobby meetings. If you need help with scheduling or planning your meeting, please contact Ann Beltran at [email protected].