Plan an In-District Meeting
At various points during the year, members of Congress venture home to the communities that put them in office. It’s a time for elected officials to meet with their constituents and hear from people who feel the impact of decisions made in Washington. In fact, face-to-face meetings are one of the best ways to remind lawmakers that it's their job to serve the public.
Planning the Meeting
How do I request a meeting with my member of Congress?
To request a meeting, you should first get the contact information for the office’s scheduler. Call the legislator’s home district office (not the D.C. office) and ask for the scheduler's name and email address. Email a written request to the scheduler. The meeting request should include the issue you plan to discuss, a range of times you can meet and your contact information.
Check out our written request template to get started.
(Don't want to schedule a meeting? You can stop by lawmakers’ offices without making an appointment. Here's a helpful guide to get you started.)
How long will the office take to get back to me? What should I do if they don't respond to my request?
Elected officials have busy schedules and their office staff will be sure to remind you of this. It may take a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks before you get a response to your request. If you don't hear back within a couple of days, forward the initial request to the scheduler and include a follow-up message.
If an additional two or three days pass without a response, give the office a call. Ask for the scheduler by name — you'll likely be prompted to leave a message. Continue emailing and calling until the scheduler responds. (Note: Call only during office hours.)
The member of Congress isn't available but the scheduler has offered a meeting with a staffer. Should I accept?
Yes, you should accept this offer — a meeting with a staffer is the next best thing! Ask to meet with a member of the legislative staff. Legislative staffers are most likely to influence your member of Congress. You may even inquire about the possibility of meeting a staff member who works on media/technology issues.
How many participants do I need to create a successful meeting?
The best meetings involve between four and eight attendees. If you have more than eight participants, not everyone will have a chance to speak.
The office wants a complete list of attendees prior to scheduling the meeting, but I don't have that information yet. How should I respond?
Tell the scheduler you would be happy to provide a full list of attendees once you have confirmed a meeting date and time.
The office has denied my request for a meeting, but I still want to speak with my policymakers. Can I just show up?
Absolutely. Policymakers are public officials — it’s their job to represent you. See if your district office has open office hours designated for constituent services. You can give the scheduler a heads-up after your meeting request is denied and relay the date and time you plan to visit the office.
When you arrive at the office, ask to speak with any available staff members and leave behind materials — fact sheets, a summary of your position and your contact info — for them to pass on to your member of Congress. Remember to behave in a professional, respectful and courteous manner during your visit.
How should I come up with a list of talking points?
Stories are our most powerful tools for change. Elected officials love constituents' stories and will often relay them to Congress.
You should also ask your member of Congress for one thing and one thing only. It can be difficult to pinpoint just one ask, especially if you’re coordinating with other constituents, but it’s essential to keeping the meeting focused. Designate one member of your group to make the ask. Your talking points should all support this ask.
So what is an ask anyway?
An ask is the request you are making of your member of Congress. Whether you want support for a particular piece of legislation or want to express your opinion on an issue, you should have only one ask when you meet with your member of Congress. Your ask should be clear and concise and should request a concrete action or position.
What should I know about my member of Congress prior to our meeting?
You should know your legislator's voting record on the issue you plan to address. It's also helpful to have a good sense of your Congress member's legislative priorities.
What issues does your representative consistently fight for or against? How did your representative get into politics? What outside interests does this person have? Build on anything that will help you relate to your member of Congress.
During the Meeting
What should I bring to the meeting?
- Proof of identification (you may need to show an ID at the door)
- Notes on what you plan to say
- Something to take notes with during the meeting
- A digital camera or phone (to document the meeting)
- Materials to leave behind (fact sheets, business cards, etc.)
How long do these kinds of meetings typically last?
Meetings with a legislator can be as short as 10–15 minutes, though meetings with legislative staffers may last longer.
I've never met with a member of Congress before. What is the process like?
Every meeting is different, but here are some guidelines to follow:
- Enter the office, introduce yourselves and shake hands with any staff members you meet.
- Begin the conversation by reminding your member of Congress why you are there.
- Every member of your group should take a couple of minutes to introduce themselves and share their stories.
- The note taker you’ve assigned should take notes the entire time.
- One person should make the ask.
- At the meeting’s conclusion, thank your member of Congress and promise to follow up.
- Ask for a photo with staff members and participants to document the meeting.
- Leave behind information on the issue you've discussed and exchange business cards.
What if the member of Congress tries to redirect the conversation? How can I ensure I have the opportunity to convey my talking points?
It's entirely possible that your member of Congress will be interested in discussing something other than the issue you hope to address. If this is the case, courteously bring the conversation back to your ask. You are there for a reason — remind your representative of this.
What if my member of Congress asks me a question I can't answer?
You might not know how to answer every question, and that's ok. Be honest. And, offer to find the answer and report back. Write down the question so you don't forget about it. Refer your member to organizations that do have the answers, such as Free Press and our allies.
How soon after the visit should I thank the office?
Immediately send a thank-you note (via email and snail mail) to the office. In the ensuing weeks and months, follow your representative's actions on the issue you spoke about. If he/she votes favorably in the future, continue to send thank-you notes. It's important to express our support when our members of Congress get things right.
If my member of Congress needs to consider my request before committing to any action, how long should I wait for a decision?
Wait a few weeks before following up with a staff member. The staffer should be able to keep you in the loop and update you on any decisions or actions.
I met with a staff member and want to ensure my message is passed along to my member of Congress. How can I be sure that the information gets to my legislator? Is there any way to follow up about this?
Definitely! It’s the staffer’s job to keep his or her boss informed about what constituents are thinking. Follow up with the staff member that you met with if you haven’t heard back within a few weeks, but don’t call or email every single day. While the issue you discussed is of critical importance, staffers are dealing with a lot of significant issues. It’s important to strike a balance.
Sending follow-up requests every other week until you hear back is perfectly appropriate. If the matter is pressing (e.g., a vote is scheduled in a few days), call the office and ask to speak with someone about the issue.Meet with other constituents at a mutually agreed-on site 15 minutes prior to the meeting time to review your talking points, assign someone to take notes and go over any last-minute preparations.