June 23, 2016
On more than one occasion, I have been asked the secret behind a good Capitol Hill meeting. We may think politics is some foreign land with a unique language, but in many instances visiting the office of an elected official for a meeting is no different than a meeting in your own office.
If there is a passion and an interest, do not get bogged down worrying about every political detail, committee meeting, or vote. The important things are remembering the reason for the meeting, researching the message to be heard, and being a articulate messenger.
With that said, here are five tips to keep in mind when preparing for a meeting on the Hill.
— One, for most Hill meetings, discussing two or three issues is about the max. This changes when a group is doing its annual fly-in when members cover a host of issues. However, the average person coming in to advocate should stick with only a couple of issues per meeting.
— Two, the more district-specific information provided, the better. At the end of the day, an official is held accountable by the people of his district who vote, so relevant information is always helpful.
— Three, when referring to a specific bill, know the bill name AND the bill number. Thousands of bills, some of which are very similar, are introduced in Congress each year. Do not make busy staff spend time researching all the bills and be left trying to guess which one is preferred.
— Four, know who supports and opposes the issue, and why. This will help build the case. A little research ahead of time will go a long way in strengthening the argument.
— And five, use reasonable deadlines to get a quicker response. If there is no deadline attached to something, it will likely continually end up at the bottom of the pile as more pressing matters are handled. It is important to be realistic here – a bill may not get a House vote within one month, however, asking an office to confirm whether it’s interested in signing a letter within two weeks, is fair.
The next several columns will further discuss and expand on some of these topics and add more items to the list to help ensure a better Hill meeting.