Visit Your Legislator at Their Local District Office
A Step-by-Step Guide to Meeting with Legislators
Step 1 – Identify your state legislators: Find your legislator - just enter your address information. You can click on their name for more information, including district office and Harrisburg contact info and committee assignments.
Step 2 – Schedule a meeting: call your legislator’s district office and ask to set up a meeting. You will want to ask to meet with them at their district office, unless the Harrisburg office would be more convenient for any reason The staff person or scheduler will ask you what you’d like to discuss; just give them a clear, succinct answer such as “education cuts”, “school vouchers” or anything else you wish to talk about.
Step 3 – Prepare for your meeting: the key to a successful legislative meeting is to demonstrate why this issue is important to you. You can use the materials that we are providing, and others, to have a few good facts or statistics ready, but personal stories/experience is always the best approach when you are speaking as a constituent. The most important component is to have a clear “ask” (something specific you’d like them to do); a good example would be: “reject the proposed education cuts and examine additional revenue options, such as taxing Marcellus Shale, smokeless tobacco and ending special tax breaks and corporate loopholes”.
Step 4 – Attend the meeting: legislators are very busy, so make sure to arrive on time or a little early to be respectful. There is a chance you will end up speaking with staff; if so, just proceed as you normally would because the staff person will report back to the legislator. Here are some helpful tips for the meeting itself:
- Be informed: make sure you are pretty comfortable with the issue in general
- Be prepared: think of a personal story you can tell to make your point and bring 1 or 2 supporting facts
- Be friendly: don’t get heated, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
- Be open: be sure to listen, not just speak
- Give examples: again, personal stories and experience are very persuasive
- Don’t argue: just approach this as presenting a case, not necessarily winning an argument
- Don’t apologize: you can hold your ground while still being polite; do not back down, remember you are speaking for your kids and your school
- Don’t get sidetracked: stay with the topic at hand and stay on message
- Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know: you don’t have to be an expert, legislators are not experts on everything either
- Find common ground: talk about overarching values if you don’t agree on specific actions; if nothing else, you can at least agree that legislator should care about the concerns of their constituents.
- Don’t give up: follow up and stay in touch
Step 5 – Follow up: sometime during the first few days after the meeting, send a letter thanking them for their time, briefly recap what was discussed and reiterate any follow up items (ex. send along any additional info you may have wanted to provide but did not have at the time; remind them of/thank them for any important commitments or statements they made).
Click here for a pdf version.
Click here for a worksheet to help you organize your visit and track your effort.