– My Notes & take from the Mass Sierra Club Activist Training: Clean Energy 101 & Learn to Lobby.
Setting up a meeting with your legislator is not as hard as you think. And it is a powerful way to make your voice be heard.
The following guiding principles are focused on States and cities (or towns) legislators, but a lot of them also applies to getting -and preparing- for a meeting with any level of reps really: Town, City, State, Federal… Adjust accordingly.
1 – Find who your legislators are. This training was focused on state legislators, for which case you can find that info here.
2 – Decide who you want to meet with. It might be your State representative. For Municipal Aggregation, it is your local city or town legislator.
3 – Find their office contact info, and whether they hold office hours. Legislators often hold office hours. This is a time that is offered to constituents to talk with them about issues. This type of info is usually found on their website.
4 – Call their office and set up a meeting. Ask them if they hold in-person office. You don’t want to meet with an aide. Don’t be shy, there is no reason why they would not want to meet you in person or that you are not worth their time: they are working for us -their constituents, and considering the low voting rate in general, if you’re taking the time to get into a meeting with them, you are definitely a voter. If the legislator attends the office hours, you can plan the rest of your meeting around that. If the legislator does not offer office hours, you’ll want to set up your own meeting.
When you call, introduce yourself as a constituent, and inform that you will want an “in-district” meeting, between the legislator, yourself and a few other constituents from their community.
- The aide will then ask the meeting’s intended topic. Keep the purpose concise/focused (e.g. “we want to discuss with the legislator about her view on the state’ Renewable Portfolio Standard”).
- Ask if they have a preferred meeting location. If not, then propose to find a convenient meeting place (town hall, library, school, chamber of commerce are usual options). Make sure the meeting place can accommodate the number of attendees.
5 – Confirm the meeting. Book and confirm the date, time & location of the meeting, with all constituent attendees and with the legislator’s office.
6 – Prepare the meeting. Come prepared. Do your homework. Get your story straight. Have the entire meeting presentation worked and timed. Remain concise, clear, to the point. Have ready material to hand out.
Do your homework – Know your audience. What kind of background do they have on the issue. Are they expert, novice. Realize that some harmful laws can voted be in because the majority of the representative simply did not understand the issue and the bill.
Work on your story. Telling a good campaign story, is critical. Keep it simple. Articulate it around the 4 main items:
- Call to action
Storytelling best practices: Know your audience; Plot your story (cause & effect); Show vs. tell (use verbal imagery); Less is more (make it memorable, vivid, not extensive).
Sample meeting outline:
- Entrance (1 minute)
- Intros, agenda, time check (3-6 minutes)
- Thanks & potential timely ask (2-5 minutes)
- Organizational overview (4-6 minutes)
- Campaign/Issue(s) (6-10 minutes per issue) – Don’t overload…
- Wrap-up (3-5 minutes)
7 – Invite others. Given that you have a big enough space, invite others from your community (e.g., neighbors, friends, relatives, members of your interest groups) to join the meeting – explaining why and what the meeting is about.
8 – Print out Material. Don’t come with an essay (they won’t read it), but with a short handout (e.g. fact sheet, pamphlet) that explains succinctly the main points that make the case for what you’re informing about or asking.
9 – Connect with your group beforehand. Once you have an idea of who’s joining, meet with the your group prior to the meeting. Send your group any material that you deem appropriate. In short know your group, ask it if it feels knowledgeable enough, confirm that they plan to attend. Reiterate the agenda. Better dry run the meeting with them and ask for feedback. Remember that it is fine to not be an expert, the group is here to support the speaker(s) and showing support in resolving the issue at hand.
10 – Have the meeting. Relax. Take notes – or have someone doing it if you’re the main speaker. Remember that the meeting should include asking (after the presentation most likely) where your legislator stands on the issue (supportive, opposed, neutral and/or seeking information). Offer to follow up with further information.
11 – Take a picture. Take a picture with the legislator, and share it on social media.
12 – Thank & follow-up. Along with any document that you promised them, send a follow-up email thanking them for their time and efforts. Keep the conversation going: Think about follow-up actions and a next meeting.
13 – Let the community knows how it went. Share the minutes of the meeting with your community (social media, chat rooms, etc. Invite for comments and feedback. Engage the community, it strengthens and motivates it.
Thanks for your time. I more than welcome questions, corrections, additions. And remember that these are my notes, so this means that if there is something that you do not like about them, the only person accountable here is me (and not the Sierra Club). In which case just tell me and we’ll work it out together.