Tips for Meeting Your Senator

  1. Be brief; truthful; clear; accurate; persuasive; and courteous.
  2. Know something about the legislator’s background. Be aware if he/she is in a position to have greater influence over a bill. For example: Is he/she a sponsor of the bill you are addressing or a member of the committee hearing a proposal in which you are interested?
  3. Even if you have an appointment, the legislator may not be available. In this case, speak with an aide. Legislative staff can be valuable allies. Treat them with respect.
  4. You will have limited time. Be prepared to state your case in five minutes or less. Present two or three major points. Don’t let the legislator eat up your time with small talk or avoidance of the issue.
  5. Give special recognition to legislators who have been supportive or your position/issues.
  6. Be clear about what you want the legislator to do, i.e. oppose or support a bill. When the visit ends, you want to have a firm answer or strong sense of his/her position (oppose, support, undecided).
  7. Be a good listener; give the legislator a chance to state his/her point of view. This helps to determine what might help sway him/her to your position. Be attentive to body language.
  8. You are not expected to be an expert. If you don’t know something, say so. Tell the legislator you will get the answer. Send the information with your follow-up letter.
  9. If you realize you made an erroneous statement, don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes. Simply follow up with an apology and correct the information.
  10. Do not argue, threaten or be rude. You lose your effectiveness and credibility, and harm the efforts of those who follow you to lobby on the same issue.
  11. Even if dissatisfied with the visit, leave on a friendly note and with a firm handshake. Thank the legislator for his/her time.
  12. It is advisable to record a summary of your visit for future reference. Complete the summary as soon as possible to ensure greater accuracy.
  13. Send a follow-up letter. Restate your position and what you want. Enclose information the legislator may have requested; you didn’t get an opportunity to present; and/or information you think he/she needs based on your conversation.
  14. Maintain contact. Over time, your senator may come to see you as a valuable resource on particular issues.
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