Dos and Don'ts for Meeting with Elected Officials

Whether you seek to advocate for a particular issue or express opposition to pending legislation, the best way to make your voice heard is to take your case directly to lawmakers — our senators and representatives.

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Karen Moore

Founder and CEO

These elected officials actually count on hearing from and personally interacting with their constituents, since it ensures they stay in touch with their community’s needs, which helps inform the policies they support or pursue. For representatives and senators alike, one-on-one meetings with constituents is a basic component of their jobs.

Elected officials are very busy, so once you’ve scheduled a meeting, prepare for it to last between 15 and 45 minutes. To take full advantage of your time, be both punctual and prepared. This means researching your issue inside and out, getting your facts and statistics in order, preparing counterpoints to potential objections, and articulating your points clearly, logically and concisely. How will (or does) an issue affects you and people in similar circumstances? What measures would you like your elected official to take? Supporting materials are always helpful, so bring your message home with fact sheets, handouts, letters, charts, graphs, etc.

Here are a few additional tips to help ensure you have a meaningful meeting and leave a memorable impression: 

Do...

  • Request a meeting. Some elected officials have drop-in hours, but requesting an in-person meeting is best. These requests can be made via mail, fax, phone or electronic form.
  • Introduce yourself. Warmly indicate who you are, where you’re from, what your role is, a brief description of the organization you represent (if applicable), and a succinct explanation of the reason for your visit.
  • Use the elected official’s title (such as “Senator” or “Representative” )  followed by their last name when addressing them.  This demonstrates respect for the office they hold.
  • Relate personal anecdotes or stories from like-minded individuals. Framing an issue in this manner not only demonstrates your passion, but it also helps to humanize the issue and its ramifications, whether good or bad.
  • Take good notes. Be prepared to jot down any questions or concerns the elected official may have, which makes responding to them later far easier.
  • Thank them. Thank them for their time, for listening to your concerns, and for their service.
  • Leave your card with both the elected official and his or her staff. Having your contact information on hand is crucial to maintaining a dialog, so be sure you leave your card behind.
  • At the Federal level, check the “Directory of Representatives” and the “Directory of Senators” for additional allies. These sources are great for identifying other elected officials worth approaching or educating about your issue.

Don't...

  • Answer any questions to which you don’t know the answer. If you’re uncertain of the correct response, simply say something like “That’s a great question. Let me do some research and I’ll follow up with the correct answer shortly.”
  • Speak ill of other people, organizations or opposing beliefs. It’s one thing to disagree with a person or with certain policies, but to belittle or criticize them is downright disrespectful.
  • Remain rigid in your position. Everyone has their own opinion, so remember that you’re there to help inform the official of your opinion, not to change or attack their personal beliefs.
  • Feel slighted if you’re asked to reschedule. With busy schedules, their days are prone to last-minute changes, so they’ll appreciate your flexibility.

When you get down to brass tacks, elected officials work for and are paid by taxpaying voters, and they are acutely aware that they’re ultimately beholden to those who elected them. For this reason, most elected officials actually appreciate you making an effort to meet with them, and will listen to what you have to say.

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