Why not! You have every right to meet with your elected official as the next guy or gal and having an effective face-to-face might give the elected representative more background about a particular issue. This is a great way to humanize an issue and why he or she should be on your side.
Essentially, meeting an elected official is like preparing for any other meeting. The American Veterinary Medical Association website has some excellent meeting ideas for you to follow.
- Schedule the meeting
- When calling the elected official, first ask for the appointment scheduler. This might be the person who answers the phone.
- For local officials contact information, check out the city or county’s website for details.
- For state senators and representatives, Check out OpenStates.org for your statehouse contact information.
- For your U.S. Senator or Representative, you are required to write a formal appointment request. You will need to give them the names and social security numbers of all who plan to attend plus a brief purpose for the meeting. Faxing them gets the best response. Remember you can meet your national representatives in their home office or in Washington, D.C.
- Have several options open for dates and times—be flexible.
- Tell the scheduler or staff assistant how many people will attend and a short summary of the meeting’s purpose.
- Meetings like these are generally scheduled for 15 to 30 minutes. Be prepared though for last minute changes and be as flexible as possible.
- Before the meeting
- After date and time are finalized, send a confirmation letter with materials that the elected representative might need before the meeting.
- Do your homework and know exactly what you want to discuss.
- Prepare a one-page brief to hand out at the meeting and also any graphs and charts that could be useful as well. Not too many though. Keep it simple.
- Practice your pitch and answering any anticipated questions.
- During the meeting
- Be prepared for last minute changes in the meeting date/time/venue. Try to be as flexible as possible. If you don’t get to meet with your elected representative due to a schedule change, try to meet with the appropriate staffer instead. Don’t waste your chance and whatever you do, don’t get mad.
- In the beginning, introduce yourself and those with you. Reinforce common ground and shared interests.
- Be clear, concise, and specific
- Encourage specific action such as:
- co-sponsor a bill
- vote for or against a measure
- support or oppose amendments or substitutions
- generate support among other legislators.
- Bring your prepared handout that briefly summarizes your comments.
- Even if the elected official disagrees with our position, be polite and courteous.
- Use facts and not hyperbole.
- Humanize the issue so the elected official can see how this affects one person, one family.
- At the end of the meeting, offer to serve as a resource on the issue.
- If questions come up that cannot be answered then, provide the answer promptly afterwards.
- Not unreasonable to ask the elected official at the end of your visit whether you can count on his or her support.
- After the meeting
- Send a thank you letter for his or her time.
- Reiterate the main points of the meeting
- Thank him or her for any support promised.
- If he or she is opposed to your issue positon, then once again encourage support.
About.News also has some great tips for meeting your national representative.
Advocating for motorists’ rights takes effort and a time commitment but one person or a small group of people can make a difference. Most important thing is to just start!
Be safe and have fun driving!