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Before Your Meeting
1. Keep your timing in check. Meetings generally last from 15 to 45 minutes. Make a list of topics you want to discuss. Prioritize what is most important, and what can be talked about at another date.
2. Research your member of Congress, even if you are only meeting their staff. Know their stances on issues that relate to your concerns.
3. Plan out your meeting and have a clear ask. What are your goals of the meeting? Think of questions and talking points beforehand. Know what you want to ask of the member of Congress.
4. Know your issue. Find materials designed for policymakers at www.nafsa.org/policy. While you don’t need to know everything, you’ll have a more productive meeting if you also understand the points that oppose your view, in case you need to offer rebuttals.
5. Bring numbers and stories to make your case. Members of Congress are more likely to prioritize an issue if they understand how constituents are being affected. Along with quantitative data (ex: www.nafsa.org/economicvalue), bring personal stories about how an issue is affecting you or someone you know.
6. Know where you are going. If you are meeting in an area with which you are unfamiliar (i.e. Capitol Hill), review transportation and directions in advance so that you arrive on time.
7. Confirm your appointment a day or two before the meeting. If you are meeting on Capitol Hill, know that schedules frequently change at the last minute due to the unpredictable policy environment. Make sure the staffer with whom you are meeting has contact information for you (cell phone and/or email), and be flexible and ready for changes.
During Your Meeting
1. Arrive early and thank the staffer or legislator for taking the time to meet with you and listen to your concerns.
2. Introduce yourself and find common ground. Did the staffer study abroad? If so, where? What part of the state is the staffer from? Did they graduate from your institution? These kinds of connections help establish your relationship.
3. Exchange business cards or contact information. This way you can keep in touch to maintain your relationship, which is crucial to being successful in advocacy.
4. Be clear and concise in your talking points. Explain the purpose of your meeting, and then transition to the issue. Because meetings can be cut short, stay on topic, and keep an eye on the clock.
5. Share compelling stories. Stories are about real people, constituents, and voters in your district and state. They make your meeting memorable and create real connections with the staffers you meet. The best stories stir up emotion, have a clear meaning, and are brief and easy to remember.
6. Stay professional. Even if the staffers or members of Congress share opposing views, it’s important to be respectful and focus on educating them with your data, stories, or other materials. You can also ask questions to better understand their points of view.
7. Remember it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” If you get asked a question to which you don’t know the answer, it’s ok to say so. Take detailed notes and let the staffer know you will try to find the answer. Feel free to contact NAFSA’s Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
8. End your meeting with an ask. What is your goal for the meeting? Do you want the member of Congress to cosponsor a specific piece of legislation, speak publicly about an issue, vote a certain way on a bill, or something else? By ending your meeting with a specific ask, you can gauge their level of support and develop appropriate next steps for your advocacy work.
After Your Meeting
1. Send a thank-you letter or email to the staffers you met.
2. Follow up. If the staff requested more materials and information, follow up in a timely manner. If you don’t know the answer to a question, reach out to the NAFSA Public Policy team at email@example.com.
3. Share your success and strategize next steps. Share your feedback from your meeting with the NAFSA Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll help you strategize on what to do next to advance our policy agenda of creating a more globally engaged and welcoming United States.
4. Be persistent. Keep persisting if the member of Congress or staffers have not met a deadline for an action to which you agreed during your meeting. Send quick emails or make phone calls as polite reminders. Ask questions about timelines or potential obstacles to better understand the policy environment and how you can help.
5. Keep in touch. Remember, advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. As you see news articles or other materials that help make your case, share them in short, informative emails to the staff. This will help build your relationship and establish you as a trusted resource for the member of Congress.
Sample Thank You E-mail
Dear [STAFF MEMBER’S NAME],
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me on [ADD DATE]. It was a pleasure to talk with you about issues that are crucial to the future of this country.
As mentioned during our meeting, I am committed to advocating for passage of commonsense immigration reform. It is crucial that legislation expands the ability of the United States to attract the world’s most talented students and scholars to our colleges and universities, strengthens our economy, and reclaims the values that make this nation a land of opportunity, equality, and freedom for all.
You can find more about these priorities at www.nafsa.org/immigration. I am happy to serve as a resource to you on international students and immigration reform. If you need more stories or data about our state, please let me know. Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to staying in touch with you on this issue.
[YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION]