Have an Effective Meeting

Congratulations, you asked for a meeting and got one! Now you’ll want to put in some prep time so you can make it worthwhile. Here are some tips.

Find out who represents you.

Share a Personal Story

If something touches your life directly, bring that personal story into your meeting. Your elected officials hear all the time from professional advocacy organizations, lobbyists and others who know how to make themselves heard. Your voice matters, too.

Talk about the time your wife lost her job and your family lost its health insurance. Or how you worry about lax gun laws but also like to hunt. Maybe you’re drowning in student debt and think college wouldn’t be so expensive if the federal government got out of the student loan business. Or you’re struggling to afford housing and wish your town would make it easier to build apartments. Whatever your reality is, an authentic story can drive your point home.

Make an Agenda (and Send It in Advance)

Everyone appreciates a well-run meeting, and that goes for elected officials and their staff members, too. Create an agenda showing exactly what you want to talk about, and don’t forget to include the names of anyone from your side who will be attending. Say you’re active with the Springfield Veterans Association and you’re meeting with your Congresswoman. Your agenda could look something like this:

  1. Introductions
  2. Local veterans describe experience with the federal Veterans Administration (VA)
    • Long wait times
    • Poor care
    • Difficulty traveling to appointments
  3. Requests for Action
    • More funding so the VA can hire more doctors and nurses
    • Bigger focus on telemedicine
  4. Congresswoman’s thoughts
  5. Next steps

Decide Who’s Speaking

If you’re attending the meeting as part of a group, decide who will say what, and in what order. Add those details to a version of your agenda that’s just for you and your group. It could look like this:

  1. Introductions (Springfield Veterans Association / Congresswoman Simpson’s office)
  2. Veterans and families describe experiences with the Veterans Administration (VA)
    • Long wait times (Jamal and Javier)
    • Poor care (Angela and Nilay)
    • Difficulty traveling to appointments (Rob and Laura)
  3. Requests for Action
    • More funding so the VA can hire more doctors and nurses (Javier and Angela)
    • Bigger focus on telemedicine (Rob)
  4. Congresswoman’s thoughts
  5. Next steps (Jamal and Laura)

Send Materials Ahead of Time

Anything that supports your cause is worth bringing in writing. Did you find statistics showing that veterans are waiting longer and longer for medical appointments? Can you find evidence that school enrollment in your district has gone up but the budget has stayed flat? Is your state spending less on opioid treatment even though the problem hasn’t gone away? Make a handy one-pager and send it in advance.

If someone in your group has graphic design skills, it never hurts to create something visually appealing and memorable. If not, a regular old text document will do just fine. A few tips:

  • Keep the language short and punchy.
  • Rely on facts and numbers, not just opinions.
  • If you are advocating for or against a specific bill, include the bill number.

Follow Up

That last item on the agenda is important: next steps. Make sure to say you’ll follow up, and ask when and how to do so. Always be courteous, but don’t hesitate to keep the pressure up.

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