Preparation for a Congressional visit should begin long before you walk through the office door. Decisions must be made on what you present, who plays what part in the presentation, and your goals. It doesn’t hurt to have a fallback plan, too.
Remember to turn off cell phones and pagers before the meeting.
Bring as few metal objects as possible to Capitol Hill with you and remove all metal objects from your pockets before passing through the metal detectors at the entrances to the House and Senate office buildings.
Bring ID with you. You will need it to access the Capitol Building.
Know Your Members of Congress
Do some research on them. A good place to start is their Web sites.
Have they supported your project or cause in the past?
If yes, expressions of gratitude are appreciated.
Focus on Specific Issues
Congress is a large institution and power is spread widely. Your Congressional Members will have their greatest impact in certain areas, usually matching the jurisdictions of their committee and subcommittee assignments.
Tell your personal story.
At the Meeting
Never mention political contributions at a meeting with a Member of Congress or staff person. It is also illegal to deliver a political contribution inside a House or Senate office building.
Arrive on time
Keep your meeting brief and to the point. Other groups are probably stacked up behind you, and the people you are seeing will appreciate your efficiency.
You may not be able to meet directly with the Member, but don’t be disappointed. Members are extremely busy and have many competing demands on them. The staffers assigned to the issues you will be discussing should know them well. The Member will rely on staff to convey your thoughts.
Remember to thank the Member for any past help he or she may have given you.
When you explain your position to the Member or staff, remember that personal stories and anecdotes are much more powerful than impersonal statistics. Tell them in simple terms why you care about this issue.
If you don’t know something, offer to find out and report back to the Member later. This will give you reason to express your views again.
Don’t step over the line that separates forthright discussion from argument. You can disagree without being disagreeable.
It never hurts to reiterate your positions at the end of the meeting
To reinforce your meeting, leave behind any suggested wording for letters or legislation, along with any fact sheets or summaries. Make these as concise and powerful as possible. You can’t imagine the amount of paper a typical Congressional office has to process.
After your Meeting
After your meeting, you or someone in your group should immediately write up notes about what was discussed, the reception your ideas received, and any other observations you may have made. Later, a personal thank-you note never hurts.