Meeting a Member of Congress

Meeting with a member of Congress or their staff is the best way to demonstrate that there is a constituency for Parkinson’s disease related issues in your district or state.  Whether you are meeting with your member of Congress in the district or on Capitol Hill, it is an opportunity to educate your public officials about your personal concerns and issues.

Thinking about making a visit to a Member of Congress?  The following tips will help you get the most out of your time and theirs.

Before the meeting:

Schedule.  To set up a meeting, contact the scheduler and explain your purpose and who you represent.  If your legislator is not available, meeting with a staff person is just as useful.  Keep in mind, it is important to educate staff members on your position because they will communicate your message and have a significant role in shaping the member’s policies.

Prepare.  Plan what you want to say and stick to the issue.  Before you visit, learn as much as you can about the issues and the elected official with whom you will meet.  Whenever possible, bring “leave-behind” materials and information supporting your issue or position.  Make sure it includes your business card or contact information.  To learn more about PAN’s current issues, please click here.   

During the meeting:

Be on time and be understanding.  Members of Congress and their staff often have very tight schedules, so it is common for the member to be late, to have interruptions during meetings, or to have scheduled meetings change.

Stay focused.  During the visit, be specific about bills you would like the legislator to vote in favor of or against.  You will likely have about 20 minutes or less with a staff person, and as little as 10 minutes with your elected official.  Have your key “asks” or requests organized so that you can present it within five minutes if needed.  Preparation is important.

Tell your personal story.  You are unique!  In telling your story you are conveying your message in the best possible way to your Representative or Senator.

Know how the issue affects Parkinson’s.  Why does the Parkinson’s community care about this issue?  What specific effect will the bill have on the Parkinson’s community and why.

Be honest.  If you do not know the answer to something, let the person know that you are unsure and follow up with the information after the meeting. 

Always say thank you. 
If the office you are meeting with is supporting any of the legislative initiatives you are there to discuss, remember to thank the legislator or staff. 

After the meeting:

Express gratitude.  It is always a good idea to fax or e-mail a thank you to the Member of Congress and staff thanking them for the meeting, for co-sponsoring the legislation you asked him or her to be involved in, or for voting a particular way.  Repeated contact develops a relationship and demonstrates your concern for an issue.  

E-mail PAN. Tell us about your meeting!  The more information we have about your advocacy efforts, the better able we are to do our jobs.  E-mail PAN, info@parkinsonsaction.org.