Tips for Scheduling a Meeting with Congress Print

Making Personal Contact With Your Members of Congress

Web sites to find more info: (info about various elected officials) (click on "Member offices") (click on "List Senators Alphabetically") (links to all kinds of info about Congress, including bills)

Scheduling a meeting with your Member of Congress (or their staff)

1. Call the office where you would like to meet: This contact information can be found at any of the web sites listed above. It can also usually be found in your local phone book. When you call, ask for the name of the scheduler and the person who handles foreign policy issues and tell them you would like to schedule a meeting.

2. Send your request in writing: For a meeting with the Member of Congress, the office will usually ask you to send a request in writing. Be very specific about what you want (a personal meeting) and what you would like to meet about (closing the SOA/ WHINSEC!) Include any information the office requires, and make sure that there is correct contact information listed for at least one person in your group. Send the request to the scheduler and the foreign policy aide.

3. Follow up on your request-be persistent: Call the office if noone has contacted you in a week. If it seems like it will be difficult to get a meeting with your Member of Congress at this time, you could ask to meet with someone who works on foreign policy issues. Try to be accommodating and understanding of the Congressional schedule which keeps Reps and Senators in Washington, DC for many days throughout the year.

Get ready for the meeting with your Member of Congress (or their staff)

1. Prepare for the meeting: You do not need to be an expert, but you should be familiar with the basics of the issue you will be discussing. Be familiar with the talking points to close the SOA. However, if you don't know something, it is perfectly ok to say, "I don?t know, but I can look into it." It helps to become familiar with the Member's latest position or actions on the issue. Call the SOAW office for notes on any previous meetings. Bring educational materials to leave and any other information which may be helpful to convey your message.

2. Establish a principal spokesperson for the group: A main speaker for the group should be established ahead of time. One person from the group should also take notes for future reference.

3. Be polite, courteous, and on time: Showing up early is polite and it will give you a chance to think about the presentation of your talking points. Remain courteous throughout the meeting; even if you disagree on an issue, this may help make the Member more willing to reconsider her/his position or react favorably to future requests. Be a good listener. Remember to dress appropriately, and keep your agenda to the time allotted.

4. Be personable: When the Member or aide enters the room, each participant in your group should introduce themselves. Talk about your involvement in the community and any group you may represent. Establish a personal connection with the Representative, Senator, or aide in the meeting. Don't just talk at them. Ask them to share their goals and what they care about. Share your own views and concerns. Thank them if you know of positive actions they have taken or simply thank them for meeting with you.

5. State the purpose of your visit clearly: Remember to stick to the topic and talking points. Know what to say and make your requests clear. However, in addition to specific requests, don't be afraid to ask the Member what else they could do on your issue. If you feel they are trying to steer you off track by talking about too many other issues, politely return to your main idea, "While this too is an important issue, I would really like to spend more time talking about closing the SOA/WHINSEC.")

6. Follow up: Make sure you know the name of the aide to follow-up with. Ask for their card so that you can spell their name correctly and have their email address. Write the Member/aide a thank you note to express your appreciation and briefly restate the issues discussed and the way you would like to see them respond to the issue (i.e. asking for an executive order to close the SOA/WHINSEC). Thank the Member and offer yourselves as a resource in the future; always keep them up to date on the issue. Provide, or say when you will, any information that was requested during your meeting or will help emphasis your key points.

Taking the Next Steps

1. Get others involved: Part of following up is also reporting back to your community and getting in touch with others who have organized similar meetings with Members of Congress. Strategize with others near you about which talking points work, and organize campaigns together. Call for a district or state-wide call-in day to demonstrate the support in the community: on the first Friday of every month, call the local office you visited and urge others to do the same. Or on the first Tuesday of every month, call the DC office with the same talking points. Diversify your tactics and get more people involved each time, but stick to the same message: Close the SOA/WHINSEC!

2. Get in touch with SOA Watch: Another way to continue your work is to get in touch with SOA Watch. The office has even more materials and tips to help you take the next steps in lobbying. Ask for a lobby packet, and specifically ask for any hand-outs that might help you respond to specific questions raised by your Members of Congress.

3. Come to Washington, DC: Members of Congress and their staff are really impressed when people make the trip to DC to personally meet them where the votes take place. If you are going to be in DC, call ahead to the SOA Watch office and your Members of Congress to arrange meetings. We would be grateful to be able to come with you to the meeting, as that helps us make contact with the office, as well. Remember- it's all about building a relationship, and getting to know them on a first-name basis helps with that.

4. Follow-up in the district: If your initial meeting was in Washington, DC, then follow-up with a meeting or action in the Congressional district. This also gives an opportunity for more people to get involved then just those who were able to travel all the way to DC.