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Tips on Meeting with Your Member of Congress

  • Schedule your meeting request by email or fax at least 2 weeks before your planned visit to Washington.
  • In your request, suggest the date(s) you will be in Washington or if you would like to meet in the home district office (home district requests should go directly to that office and not the Washington, DC office).
  • Specify any time restraints you might have on the suggested meeting date(s), i.e., before noon or after 1:00 pm.
  • Inform the Member's office if others will be joining you.
  • Set a limited and specific agenda.  For instance, you should write that you want to "discuss funding for next years FY NIH budget," and not that you want to "discuss issues related to biomedical research." 
  • Once the meeting is scheduled, here are key points to remember:
    • Preparation is key, have talking points to refer to at the meeting;
    • Expect to meet with staff and not the Member (Representatives are more accessible than Senators);
    • Establishing a positive relationship with staff is critical;
    • Staff often have substantive background on issues, but sometimes they don't so adjust your talking points accordingly;
    • Make certain you have a specific "ask" or request - Congressional offices want to know what they can do for you not just what the problem is;
    • Leave background information, talking points and a business card and/or bio page.
  • Here are some meeting Do's and Don'ts
    • Don't be late for meeting but expect to wait;
    • Avoid talking details about your research;
    • Avoid scientific jargon if you want to be understood;
    • Get to the point, you may only have 15 minutes so remember to make the "ask";
    • Be flexible, Congressional office space is tight and you might even have to meet in the hallway - don't take that as a slight!
    • Don't overstay your welcome, watch staff for clues to leave;
    • Remember to follow-up with a thank you email or call.

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