Visiting your members of Congress, whether on Capitol Hill or in your district or state, can seem like a daunting experience. Following these tips can ease your anxiety and make the visit productive and worthwhile.
Senators and representatives (as well as the staffers that work for them) serve you. A primary component of their job is to meet with constituents. You are not imposing on their time and you should not feel you have to rush through the meeting. However, it is important to remember that they have packed schedules, so being clear and concise is advisable. You should project enthusiasm and confidence when talking with your member of Congress and his or her staff. Also remember to be courteous during your visit, even in the rare situation when they may not be as courteous to you as they should be.
Schedule your meeting
Depending on the size of your district, your representative may have more than one district office. Senators have multiple offices across their states. To schedule an appointment, contact the office that is most convenient to you.
When you contact the receptionist or scheduler, be prepared with the following:
- At least two dates and times for your meeting. Congress usually recesses for the month of August. This recess period or district/state work periods are the perfect times to schedule your meetings.
- You address/where you live – they will want to confirm that you are their constituent.
- Who will be attending the meeting with you?
- What you would like to discuss?
Helpful tips for visiting a Congressional office
- Familiarize yourself with our legislative priorities and decide what your “ask” is. Why did you schedule the meeting? Have materials to leave behind to remind the member or staffer what your meeting was about.
- Download materials that can be taken with you to your meeting.
- Practice your story so you can tell it in under five minutes.
- If you have pictures of loved ones or friends affected by PKD, bring them along to show.
- Remember that time is limited, and you want to leave enough time for questions.
- Please note that if you are in a group of more than three or four people, you will want to designate one or two in your group to speak on everyone’s behalf. This will make the best use of your time.
Relax and show enthusiasm
- In some offices, your meeting may take place in the reception area or even outside the office in a hallway. Do not be offended if this happens. This is normal and is not at all disrespectful or an indication of a lack of interest.
- Offices, especially on Capitol Hill, have limited space. The waiting areas are often small and cramped, and staff may be holding several meetings with constituents at the same time. Stay focused and calm, the member or staffer you are talking to is used to this and will not be distracted by the noise.
- When you first arrive at the office, introduce yourself to the front-office staffer and tell him or her that you have an appointment scheduled with [name of representative/senator/staff member].
- When you are greeted by the person you can meeting with, make sure everyone in your group introduces themselves by name and indicates where they live.
Talk about PKD
- Do not assume that the elected official or staffer knows anything about PKD. Open the meeting by asking, “How much do you know about PKD?” The likely response is, “not much,” at which point you should spend a few minutes talking about the disease and its impact on you as a patient, family member, etc.
- Materials are available for you to share providing further information on PKD provided by the PKD Foundation.
Tell your story
- PKD has personally affected you, your family and your friends. Let your representative or senator know how PKD impacts your life. Do you worry about genetic discrimination directed at you or your children? Has the cost of dialysis or a transplant caused a financial burden on your family? Are you concerned about the ability to find a doctor who knows about PKD and can treat you?
- Many voices are stronger than one. There is a handout available about the Voices of PKD, or you may also direct them to the Voices of PKD webpage.
Don’t forget your “ask”
- The “ask” is a very important part of your visit. You will be asking for your member of Congress to support legislative issues that are important to the PKD community.
- Be sure to leave a packet of materials outlining the information you’ve discussed in your meeting.
Thank you and follow-up
- Be sure to get a business card of all those with whom you meet.
- To ensure that your requests are given serious consideration, follow up either by phone or email.
- Thank them for their time and re-state your “ask.”
After your meeting
- Take the time to write down how the meeting went – what did you discuss, how did the member or staffer respond, what questions did they ask, did you promise to follow up with any specific information, etc.
- Let us know how your meeting went! Contact the PKD Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Send a thank you email to the staff person that you met.
- Follow up via social media.
- Follow up a week or two after (or other appropriate amount of time) and find out if your elected official needs any additional information regarding the legislation you discussed.