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Meeting Elected Officials

Tips for meeting with your elected officials.

Your elected officials want to meet with you. It's true – you are a constituent and they were elected to represent you, so they value your opinions. A face-to-face meeting with your legislator is one of the most effective ways to lobby for a hiking issue.

What to say

Talking to the reps
Your representatives want to hear what you have to say. Photo by WTA staff.
You will most commonly meet with your legislators to persuade them to vote your way on a specific piece of legislation, but you may also meet with them to educate them about an issue before it gets to the point of being a specific bill. Then, once you know your legislator, set up occasional meetings in between issues to strengthen your new relationship.

How to say it (and be successful!)

When scheduling the appointment, contact the official’s support staff.
For example, a member of Congress will have an Appointment Secretary or Scheduler.  Contact them and tell them what issues you want to talk about and make sure to tell them if you are a constituent.

Don’t be discouraged or offended if your meeting is with the elected official’s staff.
Many officials, especially members of Congress, have staff that meet with constituents on specific issues.  Meeting with a staff person is valuable and doesn’t mean that you are not taken seriously.  Officials rely on staff to give them information.

Be prepared.
Research the voting record and views of the official with whom you are meeting.  If possible start your meeting off on a positive note by thanking your legislator for a recent vote. The Washington Trails Association staff can help you.

Consider and outline your main points ahead of time.
If possible, tailor your presentation to the official’s constituency, views, background and interests. Figure out how to put you main points into a dialogue or conversation. You want to have a discussion, not a lecture or report.

Dress professionally.
A business suit or professional work attire is appropriate.

Lobby Day 2012
Our voices combined are a persuasive voice for our representatives. Photo by WTA staff.

If you go as a group, pick a spokesperson.
Pick one person in your group who is a constituent to serve as the spokesperson.

Attempt to make a personal connection with the legislator or staffer.
Indicate if you have any business, family or social affiliations in common.  This is actually fairly common particularly at the state level and will often work in your favor to make your meeting, and yourself more memorable.

Stay focused on one issue and always ask for a specific action on the part of the official.
For instance, ask them to vote for or cosponsor a bill you support.  Try to get a commitment from them.

Always be gracious and truthful.
Even if the official or staff person is rude or uninformed, remain courteous.  Never say anything false to make a point.

Follow up

Send thank-you letters to all of the people involved in your meeting.  In the letter, restate your position, remind the official of what you asked for, send them any additional information you promised, and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

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