When you are encouraged to communicate, excited about a mission, and are able to visit with your local policymakers a difference has and will continue to be made. Talking with your legislators and keeping them informed of current issues are keys to a successful visit.
The Do's and Don'ts of a Legislative Visit
- Do be on time. Be prepared. Have your leave-behind materials ready.
- Do sign the book in the office of each legislator you are visiting.
- Do introduce yourself at the beginning of the meeting and let them know if you are a constituent.
- Do use proper titles, even if you know the legislator personally.
- Do be prepared to make your case in any kind of situation. Each legislator's office is busy and crowded. You might have to conduct your visit in a hallway, lobby, or other office.
- Do plan in advance who will speak to what issues (if you're not the only person attending the meeting).
- Do learn the committee assignments of the legislators you are visiting and know their interests.
- Do tell your personal story and connection to multiple sclerosis. Relate the situation to the legislator's home state or district.
- Do ask the legislator's position on the issue and why he/she voted a particular way.
- Do admit if you don't know something. Offer to try to find the answer and send information back to the office.
- Do spend time developing a relationship with the legislator's staff.
- Do thank them for their support and remember to send a follow-up "thank you" card mentioning specifics of the issues and your conversation.
- Don't be disappointed if you visit with an aide instead of the legislator.
- Don't stray from your priority issues. Tell your personal story but stick to the point.
- Don't talk about other issues that are not related to MS.
- Don't be argumentative. Speak calmly and with commitment.
- Don't be afraid to have a different opinion than the legislator or their staff.
- Don't overstate the case. Legislators and their staff are busy so be careful not to lose their attention.
- Don't expect legislators to be specialists. Their schedules and workloads tend to make them generalists.
- Don't make promises you can't deliver.
- Don't be afraid to take a stand on the issues.
- Don't shy away from meetings with legislators and views you know are opposite of your own.
- Don't be offended if a legislator is unable to meet and requests that you meet with his/her staff.
- Don't overstay your welcome. When a legislator or aide closes his/her notebook, the meeting is over.