Meeting with Elected Officials

Lawmakers are elected to represent you

Having a face-to-face meeting is a VERY effective way to build a relationship with your elected official.  Remember that legislators are elected to represent constituents like you.  Most lawmakers welcome the opportunity to meet with the people they represent and constituent lobbying is a proven way to effectively influence public policy. 

When calling, clearly state your concern and ask if your legislator would be willing to meet with you personally.  Ask to meet in your district rather than at the statehouse.  This will likely be more convenient for both your legislator and for you.  Be courteous and respectful when requesting a meeting, but do not be intimidated.  And remember that in most cases the legislator that you contact will be interested in what you have to say. 

For information on how to request a meeting with your legislator please see the OEC factsheet titled “Calling Elected Officials.”

Preparing for Your Meeting

Once you have scheduled a meeting with your legislator, take the time to do some research!  You will be more comfortable and come across as credible and persuasive during the meeting.  Here are some questions to research before your meeting:

What is the legislator’s background (i.e. birthplace, religion, previous career, education)?

What issues are most important to the legislator (based on his/her background and current activities or on recent media stories)?

On what committee(s) does the legislator serve?

How might the legislator’s position on this issue differ from your own and why?

Based on this information, which arguments can you use to best convince the legislator to support your position on the issue about which you are meeting?

The roles

If you are meeting with your legislator as a team of citizen lobbyists, decide before your meeting which role each participant will play. 

The Leader.The leader is the person who should schedule and confirm the meeting.  The leader should set the tone of the meeting by making introductions and asking most of the questions during the meeting.

The Tracker.The tracker is responsible for making sure that the conversation stays on topic.  If the leader or legislator go off on a tangent, the tracker should try to move the conversation back to the primary topic.

The Observer. The observer should say little during the meeting aside from introducing him or herself at the beginning of the meeting.  For the rest of the meeting, he/she should write down what the legislator says and any other details that may be relevant.  The observer should also write up a written report for the Ohio Environmental Council.

The meeting

Arrive on time.Be on time and patient for the meeting. The legislator will likely be very busy and may be late or may be interrupted during your meeting. You will probably meet with your legislator for a maximum of about 20 minutes.  Try to be flexible about interruptions and to keep the meeting flowing as best as possible. Also be prepared to summarize your main points in 1-5 minutes in case you find out that the legislator will need to leave sooner than expected.

Connect with the legislator.Based on your knowledge of the legislator, share a piece of information that will help him/her connect with you personally when you introduce yourself (i.e. mention a common hobby, interest, or acquaintance). Be friendly and polite throughout the meeting and dress appropriately.

Tell the truth.The best way to build a long-term relationship with your legislator is to establish yourself as a credible source of information about your issue.  Be sure to provide accurate information during your meeting and if you are asked a question and do not know the answer, be honest about the fact and promise to get back to him/her after you have found the answer (and be sure that you do).

Anticipate opposition. Consider what arguments the legislator might have already heard from your opponents and be prepared to refute the opposition. 

Leave something behind.Provide the legislator with written information that supports your arguments (i.e. a list of myths and facts about the issue or articles from your local newspaper). 

Request action. Ask the legislator to take a specific action on your issue (i.e. will you vote for/against or cosponsor this bill?) and be sure that he/she replies to your request before the end of the meeting.

Resources

These websites can help you prepare for your meeting by providing information about your elected representatives: