When you are involved in a legislative event, it can be helpful to understand a few key tips that can help things to go much more smoothly. First, introductions to policymakers should be brief. Lobbyists often make the mistake of speaking too long in introductions while attempting to do a suitable job. An effective introduction should provide essential information such as the district or state represented, committee assignments and one or two accomplishments which the representative is particularly proud of. You should also include anything specific regarding the issue that is being discussed.
photo credit: isafmedia
It is also important to confirm the logistics and time limits well in advance with the member’s staff. At the same time, confirm essential information such as the length of the speech and whether reporters will be present.
Whenever there is more than one congressional member participating in an event, there is the potential for the event to become complicated. This is why it is particularly important for such events to be carefully orchestrated ahead of time.
As a general rule of thumb, senators are typically recognized before House members and members of the House leadership are usually recognized before other members. With that said, members of Congress can be sensitive about their order of appearance, therefore it is best to allow them to work out the speaking order themselves if matters become complicated.
Always observe congressional ethics rules regarding gifts, sponsored activities and meals, and make sure you are current on those rules.
If you are going to use a congressional facility, be aware of the rules. For instance, some congressional hearing rooms prohibit taping signs to walls. Signage may be limited. Make a point to arrive early and have multiple staff contacts in case there are logistical problems.
Be prepared to fill time if the featured speaker should be delayed or needs to leave abruptly or even cancels before the event. Hopefully you will not need to fill much time, but if the need arises it is better to be prepared.
Finally, mind your words. Make sure you know who is in the room and assume the press is present even if you are not aware of it.
To learn more about advocacy on Capitol Hill, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day workshop Strategies for Working with Congress.
Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 10.50 Tips for Coordinating Legislative Events.
For more information about advocacy in Washington, see
Tags: Advocacy on Capitol Hill, congressional ethics, congressional ethics rules, Deanna Gelak, Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, ethics rules, legislative briefing, lobbying and advocacy, Pocket Guide to Advocacy on Capitol Hill, protocol, site visit, Strategies for Working with Congress
When it comes to identifying and cultivating contacts and influential individuals who can assist you with your issue, it is never too early to begin. Start working with key decision makers on your issue as early as possible. Make it a priority to identify leaders that other congressional members will look toward regarding the development of their own position on the issue.
photo credit: bkabak
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to neglect top leaders and other influential members as these are the people who can quickly influence other members. If you do not take action quickly enough and reach them first, key leaders can easily become solidified against your position on that issue if your opponents persuade them first.
One of the first steps you must take is to identify and then connect with anyone who might be a champion for your cause. Identify key committee and personal staff early on. And you need to work both the Senate and the House. It can be quite easy to neglect one chamber of Congress when all of the action is taking place in the other chamber, but that is a mistake. Make certain you work and monitor both chambers at the same time.
Do not make the mistake of waiting until the bill has made its way out of committee to begin contacting influential members and leadership. While it can be a challenge to gain the attention of influential members and leaders on an issue before it is out of committee, you must make the effort. Begin grassroots activity early on to help ensure all members are familiar with your issue and have some knowledge about it. This is particularly important if it is possible your issue might quickly move to the floor.
At the same time, continue cultivating your contacts. On Capitol Hill, memories are relatively short-lived. You must continually work on maintaining contacts and your own usefulness as a reliable and credible resource. It takes skill to provide information that is valuable while avoiding the trap of becoming annoying, a skill worth developing.
For more information about communicating with congressional leaders, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.
Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 8.12 Lobby Tips and Section 8.13 Continually Cultivate Contacts
For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:
- Live courses in Washington, DC:
- Custom on-site training:
- Capitol Learning Audio Courses:
Tags: Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Visits, Capitol Hill Workshop, Coalition, Coalitions, Congressional Leaders, Congressional leadership, Deanna Gelak, Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, grassroots, lobbying and advocacy, political Environment, Strategies for Working with Congress, Visiting Capitol Hill
As a lobbyist or advocate you likely spend a good portion of your time visiting calling upon Capitol Hill. The tips below will help ensure that you achieve the best outcomes and avoid slipping into bad habits.
photo credit: Steven Verlander Photography
First, make an effort to keep current and educated regarding the position of members. It is a good idea to establish points of contact with the office so that you can check back from time to time to determine the position of a legislator.
Never cancel or re-schedule a meeting except as a last resort. Recognize that any time you reschedule a meeting you could very well face the withdrawal of goodwill with congressional staff. If there is an unavoidable emergency that would cause you to run late, make a point to phone the office and let them know. In the event you truly cannot make the meeting, phone ahead and advise them. Remember that it is bad enough to cancel a meeting; simply not showing up can be catastrophic.
Always be on time for congressional meetings but do not be surprised or impatient if you are kept waiting, which is commonly the case. Avoid entering the office too early. Rooms on Capitol Hill are often cramped and there is usually a lack of good places to wait for meetings.
Before attending a meeting, make sure you have an idea of what you expect from the meeting. What is it that you want to ask for and what is it that you hope to receive? Choose one issue and stick to it rather than trying to address multiple points at once. Always ask how you can help, and be willing to act as a resource.
Listen carefully and never make any assumptions. Ask thoughtful and well thought-out questions. At the conclusion of the meeting, be sure to say thank you and then follow-up later with promised information or materials and a thank you.
Following these guidelines can go a long way toward helping you to achieve the desired outcome to a meeting. For more information about communicating with congressional offices, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.
Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 8.29 Reminders for Hill Visit Participants
For more information about effective advocacy in Washington, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net
Tags: Capitol Hill, Capitol Hill Workshop, Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill, Strategies for Working with Congress