NEA members play an important role in building support for federal legislation. Face-to-face meetings with senators, representatives, and their staffs are especially valuable, and can be held back home or in Washington, DC. Virtual meetings have become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are another way to connect with lawmakers.
Your stories and experiences are the most powerful tool we have. Sharing them can galvanize, warn, and persuade in a way facts, numbers, and statistics do not. Here are some tips on how to proceed.
First, Request a Meeting
Contact members of Congress
- Addresses, phone numbers, and other basic information are available online.
- Go to senate.gov and click on the tab labeled “senators” or house.gov and click on the tab labeled “representatives.”
Schedule the meeting
- Plan to meet with members of Congress or their staff in person or virtually, as some offices may still prefer the virtual option.
- If the office is accepting in-person meetings, ask whether the number of participants is limited.
- Let the office know what issues you plan to raise and who will attend.
- Don’t be put off if the meeting is with staffers—members rely on them and take their advice.
Remember: no permanent friends and no permanent enemies
- Don’t take traditional friends for granted.
- Never write off a legislator just because of party affiliation.
- Don’t make enemies of legislators—you may need them as friends in the future.
Prepare for the Meeting
Practice what you plan to say
- You may find materials posted on nea.org helpful, particularly during the planning stage.
- Decide who will participate: Include people with compelling stories. Have a pre-meeting to determine who will speak and what role each person will play.
- Remind everyone: The day before the meeting, send an email reminder to all participants, including staff for the member of Congress.
- Meeting leader: Makes introductions, runs the meeting, keeps track of time and agenda
- Story teller: Shares a compelling story related to the issue you are lobbying
- Delivery person: Presents leave-behinds
- Pitch person: Makes the “ask”
- Meeting recorder: Takes notes on what happened and what you promised to do—very important when follow-up time comes
- Introductions: 3 minutes
- Explain your goals: 5 minutes
- First educator story tells story: 3 minutes
- Second educator tells story: 3 minutes
- Reference NEA leave-behinds: 3 minutes
- Make the “ask”: 5 minutes
- Review next steps: 3 minutes
- Thank you: 1 minute
During the Meeting
Introduce your team
- Meetings can be virtual, using a platform like Zoom, or face-to-face.
- If you’re meeting virtually, pay attention to dress, lighting, your surroundings, and how it all looks onscreen. Mute yourself when not speaking.
Make your pitch
- Use personal stories to emphasize why the issue matters and connect through values.
- A good story, even a short one, is about something that happened to someone. It needs to be true, and it needs to have a beginning, middle, and ending.
- Numbers can get in the way. Make sure they’re compelling.
- Don’t use jargon.
- Don’t try to cover every angle with one story.
Be clear about the “ask”
- Your request needs to be specific, tangible, and verifiable.
- Put issues before politics. Bipartisan works; demands don’t.
- Be open to questions.
- Don’t worry if you can’t answer a question or are unsure of the answer. Admit it and say, “I’ll look into that and get back to you.”
- Have patience and keep your sense of humor!
Email a thank-you after the meeting
- In addition to expressing your thanks, repeat the “ask.”
- Answer any questions raised during the meeting you were unable to address at the time.
- Be sure to provide any materials you promised to provide.