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:
- 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.