1. Know the legislator and his/her positions as well as possible, and know the legislator's district and its demographics.
2. Provide information about who YOU are and make sure the legislator/staff know how to contact you in the future. A professional business card with your group affiliation is ideal.
3. Come prepared. Know the meeting’s agenda and bring fact sheets and extra copies of the bill(s) that you are interested in. Each year, it is becoming increasingly more important to make your information available on websites. Staff members are typically young and they are less likely to communicate “the old fashioned way” and rely on printed materials. They work in cramped offices and are not likely to have storage space, so make sure that the material you leave behind is important and will be useful.
4. Know the "other side’s" arguments, and be ready to rebut them. Part of your preparation could be to role play ahead of time.
5. IF YOU ARE ASKED A QUESTION TO WHICH YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER, SIMPLY SAY THAT YOU DON’T KNOW AT THIS TIME AND THAT YOU WILL RESEARCH IT AND GET BACK TO THE PERSON WHO ASKED. THEN RESPOND TO THE QUESTION IN FOLLOW UP COMMUNICATION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
6. Know the system. Be aware of legislative and administrative timelines.
7. Present a unified front. In meetings, a group should have a leader, but everyone should have a part. There is nothing more damaging than a meeting in which the advocates can not agree, or even worse in which they argue in front of a legislator or staff member.
8. Understand the importance of staff. Staff members are extremely influential, especially in state offices that tend to be smaller than federal offices. Know that meeting with staff can be equally as effective as meeting with members.
9. Always come with an “ask.” Even if it is an invitation to an event, never waste a meeting with a legislator without asking for something. 10. Make your case, briefly and persuasively. Be specific about what you want the legislator to do and when, and try to get a clear response. Tell your own personal story.
11. Always stay friendly and good-natured. The messenger will be remembered as well as the message. Be sure to say “please” and “thank you.”
12. Listen very carefully. Rarely do legislators say "no" directly. Anything but "yes" is not always a "yes." But it doesn't mean "no." Words like "willing to think about," or "interested," or "will consider," may be exactly that or a nice way of saying no. Act on the words, and continue to follow up.
13. Be patient and willing to follow a bill through the entire process – warning, this could take years.
14. Establish a time when you will get an answer or follow up. And, by all means – FOLLOW UP!
15. Find ways to stay connected. Ask the staff and Member of Congress to visit your program. Ask to be on the legislator’s health advisory committee and/or to receive a regular newsletter.
16. Follow up with a thank you letter or email to the legislators and staff with whom you met. Promptly send any additional information that you promised.
17. Be polite, but feel empowered. Your taxes pay Congressional salaries, so theoretically they work for you – meaning, you have a right to talk to Members of Congress and their staff about issues that concern you and impact their constituents.