Meet your State Legislator
Are you ready for a key visit?
Elected officials pay attention to their constituents. They want to know what matters to you and how they can better serve the voters in their districts. Here are some key tips and suggestions for face-to-face meetings and events.
How to Schedule and Prepare for a Meeting
- Contact your legislator’s office by phone or email to request a meeting at their district office. You can find their contact information here. In all likelihood, you will meet with a legislative aide. Treat them with the same respect that you would show your legislator. Aides serve as trusted advisors on your issue for legislators.
- Let the scheduler know that you would like to talk about higher education and inform her or him if anyone else will join you. If you have someone with you, appoint a primary spokesperson to give the key pitch.
- Find out basic information about your legislator in advance of your meeting. Understanding his or her background, interests, and committee roles can help you frame your message more effectively. Example: If your legislator is interested in veteran’s issues, you can point to key military leaders with liberal arts and sciences backgrounds. Example: If your legislator is interested in new technology, bring along this article about why tech leaders like to hire arts and sciences grads.
- Prepare a five-minute version of your talking points in case your legislator needs to leave unexpectedly because of overscheduling or votes on the floor. If given more time, know local facts and tell a personal story or two.
- Call the day before the meeting to confirm your appointment. Allow extra time the day of your meeting to find your legislator’s office and to clear security. It’s important to be on time.
How to Conduct the Meeting
- Introduce yourself briefly and thank your legislator for speaking with you. Example: Representative [Last Name], I’m [Name] from [Town, City.] Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me today about higher education. As a strong supporter of the arts and sciences, I look forward to learning more about your priorities for post-secondary education.
- Explain your position and its impact on others. Focus on one general issue (Example: state funding for higher education in the upcoming session) or a particular bill. Describe why this issue or bill matters to you and the potential impact on your community or the public good. End your pitch by asking your legislator to show leadership on higher education.
- Make sure to listen as well. Give your legislator and his or her staff time to ask questions or state their position. If they disagree with you, politely address any questions or concerns. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be honest and promise to follow-up afterward. Above all else, don’t burn any bridges.
- Conclude your visit with a thank you and a promise to follow-up if applicable. If you can, leave one of our infographics behind as a reminder.
How to Follow Up your Meeting
- Send a handwritten thank you note immediately after your meeting that briefly repeats what you asked of the legislator.
- Follow up as soon as possible with any additional information that you promised at the meeting. After two weeks, check back with the legislator or aide if he or she promised you a response.
How to Make the Most of Public Events
- Consider attending a public meeting or town hall event. It’s an effective way to inform your legislators about issues that matter to you.
- Arrive early when possible to introduce yourself as a constituent to a member of your legislator’s staff.
- Present your pitch or question as early as possible. Keep your statement short, simple, and brief. Example: Focus in one point from our six keys that you think will resonate with your legislator. Identify a fact or two from our resources [link to resources page] and connect it briefly to you personally. End your pitch by asking how your legislator will follow-up to make the arts and sciences a greater priority.
Phi Beta Kappa is happy to assist you if you would like help putting together talking points.