You Scored a Meeting with a Legislator! Now What?
Meeting and mingling with legislators can be intimidating, but luckily your government affairs experts at the Grand Rapids Chamber have decades of experience working with legislators. If you’re worried about beginning a conversation with an elected official, below are 6 tips to make sure it is successful.
- If you have expert knowledge, share it with the legislator. It will be welcomed. No legislator can be an expert on everything, and an important rule of thumb is to never underestimate their intelligence and never overestimate their knowledge. If you have read the bill carefully and/or understand the issues involved as a result of personal knowledge or research, you may be of great assistance to an elected official.
- Identify yourself and your position. When you introduce yourself, save time by making it clear who you are and what organization, if any, you are working with. If you are cooperating with other groups from the official’s district, mention it. Clearly state your position on the issue and ask them where they stand.
- Be constructive. If a bill seeks to deal with an issue you admit exists, but you believe the bill is the wrong approach, explain what you believe is the right approach.
- Do not “overkill.” An elaborate sales job or long, emotional speech will likely not go over well in the limited time you have to share your perspective with an elected official. They do, however, want your well-prepared facts and views, presented in a straightforward manner. Stick to the issues that you came to discuss; don’t wander into other issues.
- Don’t demand a commitment before the facts are in. Give your legislator a fair chance to examine all sides of an issue. The legislative process is very complex, and bills or issues change. Bills rarely become law in the same form as introduced. It is possible that the bill you supported originally is so changed in the process that you would oppose its final form.
- Disagree but don’t be disagreeable. It’s easy to get frustrated when discussing different viewpoints. Let legislators explain their views, without interrupting. They often have input from many resources to which you may not have access.