A personal meeting with your Member of Congress can be very useful. Members and staff meet with constituents every day. Visiting a Member provides a personal touch, an opportunity for questions, and immediate feedback. Consider inviting the Member to your laboratory, office, or special function. Some guidelines for an effective meeting are:
Schedule your meeting at least three to four weeks in advance by calling the Member's appointments scheduler. The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121.
In making your appointment, state who will be attending and the purpose of the visit. Be prepared to offer alternative dates. Consider meeting the Member in his or her local office, where there are fewer distractions and a more relaxed atmosphere.
Many of the guidelines for writing to a Member of Congress are applicable to appointments. Prepare your presentation as follows:
- Be informed about relevant legislation.
- Provide a brief, nontechnical explanation of the issue, avoiding jargon and abbreviations.
- Choose a spokesperson (preferably a constituent) and a common strategy if coming in a group. Members' offices can be small, so limit the size of your group.
- Bring a visual aid if appropriate. A few well-selected items may be useful, but resist the temptation to leave a stack of material.
- Plan on about a 15-minute appointment. Arrive early and depart on time, thanking the Member for his or her consideration. Leave your business card.
- Anticipate schedule changes, since committee or floor votes may detain a Member. A staff assistant will then handle the appointment. These dedicated assistants are often the most knowledgeable about legislation and can be very influential.
- Follow up the appointment with a thank you letter briefly reiterating the purpose of your visit. Invite the Member to call on you for assistance.
For information on your Member of Congress and legislation: