How to Set up a Meeting with Members of Congress
Step 1: Select Members for a Meeting
- You can find your Representative based on your zip code.
- You can find your U.S. Senators based on your state.
Step 2: Request a Meeting
Contact the Member’s office to set up a meeting with a Member of Congress. The following websites provide information about how to contact Members’ offices in Washington, D.C. and in their home state districts.
Be sure to indicate that you are a constituent if you live in an area that the member represents. Also mention the topic you want to discuss.
If your Senator(s) or Representative is unavailable, request a meeting with a member of their staff. Staffers communicate regularly with their Members and often have a deeper understanding of the specific issues under consideration in Congress, so meeting with staff is worthwhile.
Town Halls: In addition to meeting with Members and their staff, you can check your Members’ websites to see if they have any upcoming town halls or office hours you can attend. These events provide open opportunities for constituents to ask questions of and provide feedback to Members.
Step 3: Prepare For the Meeting
Before the meeting, think about the key issues you want to discuss with your Members. Review resources or factsheets to bring yourself up to speed on key issues. Compile your facts ahead of time so you have the information you need fresh in your mind for the meeting.
It is wise to prepare 3-5 key points you want to make so you are ready with clear and articulate statements when your meeting begins. Also ensure you have any materials on hand if you want to leave behind factsheets or other resources with your members.
Step 4: Meet with your Member and/or Staff
Follow these tips when meeting with your Senators, Representative, or their staff:
Tell your personal story: Sharing why you or the people you represent are personally affected by an issue is a powerful way to advocate and educate members. Stories provide emotional resonance and breathe life into issues in ways that other tactics cannot. They also help demystify complex topics by illustrating how health care problems affect real people. Members want to hear from constituents about how Congress is impacting their lives.
- Share key points about the issue: When you meet with your member, share 3-5 top points about the issue. These points should reflect your greatest concerns and provide information that will resonate with your Member based on his or her priorities and goals. Including data to back up your arguments, especially state-specific or local data, will help make your points more compelling.
- Keep the conversation state- or district-specific: Members want to know how the state or district they represent will specifically be affected by issues. Share any information you have on how the issue you are concerned about will impact specific population groups, industries, and businesses in your state or community, as well as how the state or local economy will be impacted.
Step 5: Close the Meeting with a Key “Ask”
An effective meeting with a Member of Congress provides the Member with a clear “Ask”. For example, the request may be to vote “yes” or “no” on a piece of legislation or to introduce legislation on a specific topic. Or, the request may seek the Member’s assistance in other ways, such as urging federal agencies to take certain actions within their power.
Offer any assistance you can provide your member as he or she works to implement your request.
Step 6: Follow-up after the Meeting
Send an email after the meeting to thank the Member and/or staff for meeting with you. If you discussed resources or information during the meeting that you indicated you would send, do so as soon as possible after the meeting.
Over the coming weeks, you can follow-up regarding progress on the requests you made of the Member and/or staff, staying mindful that members are very busy and field many requests. When you follow up provide any information that you have that may be helpful to addressing your request, and offer the Member and staff your assistance gathering information.
General Tips for Meeting with Members of Congress
- There’s no reason to be nervous when meeting with Members of Congress. They are very interested in hearing directly from their constituents and the people who represent their constituents. You do not have to worry about sounding perfect when you speak. Speak naturally and remember that you are an expert on the problems and needs that you and the people you represent experience.
- Always be considerate of your Member’s time constraints and their staff’s time. Arrive on time for your meeting. If Members or staff indicates that they only have a set amount of time for a meeting, ensure you end within that time frame.