When you meet with your member of Congress or a member of their staff, you have a wonderful opportunity to share important information, explain why you care about your cause, and form relationships. Here’s some information covering what it’s like to meet a member of Congress and how to make the most of your time with them.
How the logistics work
Before the meeting, you can prepare by reviewing your talking points and knowing the areas you want to cover. Dress nicely and wear your Shot@Life gear. Make sure you have a few copies of easily readable leave-behind flyers that include the key information you want to share. Transporting them in your Shot@Life bag is a good idea. The bag is also a nice prop to hold in photos!
When you first get to the office, you’ll likely sign in as well as check in with a person at the front desk. They’ll ask you to wait until the member of Congress or staffer is ready. Congressional offices tend to be small, and seating is limited, but you typically won’t have to wait long.
Be flexible. Sometimes members run late or even come straight from voting on the floor. Meeting locations vary. You could be congregating in a conference room around a large table, sitting in the member’s office, or gathering in a more unusual location. Once a staffer suggested meeting with our group in a quiet hallway due to a loud protest nearby. She wanted to be able to clearly hear the information we had to share. Which leads to the next point …
They want to hear from you
Your voice matters. The members of Congress who represent you want to hear what’s important to you. Having a meeting with your member of Congress is exciting. It can also be a little intimidating. It’s okay to be nervous but know that the nerves will likely subside very quickly.
Each person with whom you meet, whether a member of Congress or a staffer, will have a slightly different approach to meeting; some are happy to listen, while others ask more questions. Follow their lead. Remember that they’re normal people looking to have a conversation.
They want to know why you care
Your member of Congress and their staffers know that if you care enough about funding for global childhood vaccines to personally meet with them, there must be a reason. They want to know what it is. Be ready to explain your connection to the cause, whether you’re in the healthcare field, have family and/or friends who are immunocompromised, are a parent or teacher, or just generally believe that vaccine funding is a wise investment of your tax dollars.
The time flies
A meeting with your member of Congress goes surprisingly fast. Congressional offices operate on a tight timeframe, and you need to be prepared to make the most of the time you have. Have a plan and know what you want to say. If you’re with a group, identify ahead of time who will cover which points. Practice before your meeting. (Preparation helps the nerves subside, too.) It’s okay to use notes; you don’t have to have everything memorized, but also try not to read everything from a sheet of paper. Remember, it’s a conversation. Be sure to include in your specific “ask” the action you’d like your member of Congress to take.
You don’t have to hit every single point and share all your stories. In fact, there isn’t time to do so. You’ll thankfully have flyers with facts and the details of Shot@Life’s funding requests to leave with members and their staffers.
Ending the meeting
There are a few steps to take when concluding a meeting.
- Offer to answer questions and mention that you’ll follow up with any info you don’t have at your fingertips. (Make sure you know the best way to do so.)
- Ask how you can be of help to the member of Congress on this topic and offer to serve as a resource for them moving forward.
- Thank them for their time.
- Ask for a picture. Typically, your member of Congress or the staffer with whom you are meeting is happy to take a photo with your group. If for some reason that doesn’t happen, take a quick photo or selfie in front of the signage at the entrance to their office. Share it along with your thanks for the meeting on social media and be sure to tag your member of Congress and Shot@Life.
Meeting with your member of Congress can be a rewarding experience – enjoy it!