June 2010 U.S. Poverty Laser Talk
Set Up a Face-to-Face Meeting with Your Member of Congress
For our speaking training this month, instead of using our normal EPIC Laser Talk format, we want to show just how easy it is to set up a face-to-face meeting with a member of Congress, per our June Action. Many times, we think that requesting a meeting is difficult, but in actuality this is the easiest part. To demonstrate, here is a sample conversation between a RESULTS volunteer and a congressional scheduler to set up a local face-to-face meeting.
[PHONE RINGS] Office receptionist: Good morning, Senator Franken’s office.
RESULTS volunteer: Yes, may I speak with the scheduler please?
Receptionist: One moment, may I ask whose calling?
Volunteer: This is P. Rogers Nelson. I’m a constituent from Minneapolis.
Receptionist: OK, hold on please. . . .
Scheduler. This is Mary Smith, the scheduler. May I help you?
Volunteer: Yes, Mary. My name is P. Rogers Nelson. I am a constituent of Senator Franken’s from Minneapolis. I am also a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots advocacy organization working to end poverty. Sen. Franken is a key ally in helping those living in poverty and our local RESULTS group here in Minneapolis would like to schedule some time to meet with Sen. Franken here in Minnesota to discuss domestic poverty issues.
Scheduler: What issues are you looking to discuss?
Volunteer: We would like to talk with him about tax policy that helps low-income workers and their families. Specifically, we want to discuss legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. If we have time, we might also discuss funding for Head Start and child care assistance and Congress’ work on child nutrition legislation.
Scheduler: How many people will be attending this meeting?
Volunteer: I need to confirm once we have a date set but I anticipate there will be at least 6 of us.
Scheduler: Thanks, Mr. Nelson. Senator Franken very much cares about hearing from constituents and tries to meet with them as much as possible. But I have to tell you that his times back home are very busy.
Volunteer: I certainly understand that, Mary, and we want to be very respectful of his time. However, these issues are expected to come up in the next month or so, and he will be a key voice in standing up for working families. Therefore, it is very important we speak with him as soon as possible. That said, we can be flexible when and where we meet with him.
Scheduler: I want to be helpful, but he is booked solid for the July 4 recess, which is the next time he’ll be back.
Volunteer: Let me ask you this. Is he going to be doing any other events or meetings during the recess? Perhaps he could give us 15–20 minutes before or after one of those events. We are happy to meet with him wherever he will be.
Scheduler: You know... that might work. He does have an event on July 3 in Lakeville at 9:30 am. He is speaking at the Medical Center there about health care reform. Could your group be there at 8:45 am to meet with him before the event? He probably cannot meet more than 20 minutes but that’s the best I can do before August.
Volunteer: 8:45 am on July 3 in Lakeville is perfect, Mary. Thank you so much.
Scheduler: You’re welcome. Let me get your phone number and e-mail address and I will follow up with you exactly where you will meet in the Medical Center.
Volunteer: Thank you again. Also, will he have any aides with him at our meeting? I ask because I am happy to contact them to give them a little more background on RESULTS and what we plan to discuss. That way, we can use our meeting time more effectively.
Scheduler: Thanks, Mr. Nelson. I am not sure at this time who will be there but let me find out and get back to you. If you don’t hear back from me by late next week, send me an e-mail to remind me and I’ll get that info for you.
Volunteer: Great. Thank you again, Mary. We really appreciate your help and the Senator’s time. We look forward to meeting with him on July 3.
Note that each office is different. Some offices allow you to schedule meetings over the phone, while others want something in writing. If they want something in writing, ask if they prefer e-mail or a faxed letter. You can find a sample letter on the International Conference page of our website. However, once you send your written request end, don’t stop there. If you have not heard anything within a few days, call the scheduler to follow up. To find our who your representative’s or senators’ scheduler is, see our Elected Officials page (look under the staff tab of your specific member of Congress).
Be sure to check out our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress for additional tips on scheduling and planning your meeting and our June Action for talking points on our current issues. Once you get a meeting set up, please let the appropriate RESULTS staff know so we can help your group prepare. Also, please confirm your meeting with the scheduler a few days beforehand to make sure nothing has changed. Good Luck!
What Is a Laser Talk?
A laser talk serves as a useful starting point for your advocacy work, whether as a talking points during a town hall meeting or as a primer for face-to-face meetings with candidates and elected officials. Follow up with more information and evidence supporting your points. And of course, adapt a laser talk to reflect your own experiences and why you care about the issue! For more on how to create your own laser talk, see the RESULTS Activist Toolkit: Create and Deliver Your EPIC Laser Talk.