Meet Your Representative
Legislators value communication with their constituents! It helps them stay in touch with their communities to truly be a representative for the people. Face-to-face visits are one of the most effective ways to develop a relationship with your legislator, however during this global pandemic constituents are encouraged to speak with congressional leaders via phone or meet over video call. Legislators are not always available to meet, however you can meet with their legislative aide. Legislative aides are important sources of information, direct paths to the legislators, and may have substantial influence in the design, drafting and passage of legislation.
Before Your Meeting
- Plan your introduction. Explain who you are and what you hope to talk about will help the legislator prepare for your visit.A one-page statement detailing your position, with supporting data, will help the legislator understand your request.
- Outline Major Discussion Points. Make an agenda of the top 3 issues you would like to discuss, starting with the most important.
- Bring in the community. Visiting in a group can show the legislator that your cause has community support. Groups of 2-4 are ideal.
- Arrive early and be prepared to wait. Expect for your meeting to last 15-30 minutes.
During the Meeting
- State the purpose of your visit. Briefly describe the issue(s). Be upfront if you are asking for something specific, such as support or opposition to particular legislation. Make sure the legislator knows if you are a constituent. The legislative aide may have already passed this information along. It often helps to tell legislators which neighborhood you live in. They likely know many other constituents nearby – maybe even your neighbor!
- Make the issue local and relevant. Discuss the issue from your local perspective – how it affects his or her district and voters. Use local statistics, stories, and fellow constituents to support your issue.Describe why the issue is important to you or to those you represent—the more personal, the more he/she will pay attention.
- Be a good listener. Let your legislator ask questions as you present your viewpoint and answer them knowledgeably and factually. You do not have to agree with his/her views, but you should show that you are willing to hear them.Ask how you can be helpful. Show interest in issues of concern to your legislator and offer your assistance when possible. If you do not know the answer to a question, be honest and offer to find out the answer.
- Stay on topic. Be careful not to let the meeting stray off course. Tactfully bring the conversation back on track if you feel like you did not finish discussing a topic.
- Thank your legislator for his or her time. Being courteous keeps the door open for future dialogue.
- Leave materials. If you have a business card, leave one with your legislator and/or the legislative aide. Leave copies of your one-page fact sheet or other written materials.
After the Meeting
- Write a thank you note. Regardless of his or her position, courtesy is important. A handwritten thank you note also gives you another chance to make your pitch. An email note is better than none, but generally a handwritten note will have more impact.
- Update your legislator on the issue throughout the year. If new materials—editorials, fact sheets, letters to the editor—appear in support of your cause, send them to the legislator.
- Follow your legislators’ statements and votes throughout the year. Your knowledge of their legislative history helps build your relationships and knowledge of legislative dynamics.
- Update the team! RPS has a team working with legislators on a daily basis. Let us know how your visit went so that we can follow up with the legislators and thank them for spending time with you!