How to Structure an Effective Group Meeting with an Elected Official
Quick answers to the most common questions we receive from clients and readers
Because of this blog and the outreach we conduct across a wide variety of industries, we receive a steady stream of questions, mostly via one-on-one conversations, but also via emails, phone calls, and in blog/social media comments.
One of the most common questions we receive relates to advocacy and lobbying elected officials and key-decision makers in government. Surprisingly, the questions usually focus on the talking points of the meeting, and after offering quick feedback, we usually ask the person how they plan on conducting the meeting. That's when we get one of two things:
Silence on the other end of the phone/table or
An answer that basically reiterates the talking points we just went over
Below is a method that we have used to help groups, especially trade associations and membership based organizations to successfully conduct a group visit with an elected official or key decision-maker.
In short, we normally advise these groups to set roles for each person in the group with each individual falling into one of these three categories: the "MC", the "Brains", and the "Closer." For groups with more than three people, we usually give that person a Brains role and split up the speaking time allotted between the two. Here's a brief summary of each role.
The role of the MC is to introduce the group, share the purpose and agenda of the meeting, and be the overall facilitator. The MC should introduce your organization (if applicable), briefly state the purpose of the meeting, and introduce the lobbying team. I highly recommend that the MC write out and practice prior to the meeting. Click here to review my recent post on how to improve public speaking skills.
The role of the "Brains" is to share the team's story and the main talking points for the meeting. When developing your story and talking points, remember to succinctly share what you do, how long you have done it, why you do the work you do, and why it's important for the elected official or key-decision maker to know about it. In my experience leading over 100 lobbying teams and visits, people tend to overshare facts and statistics from the talking points, especially when they are unprepared or have not practiced writing out and sharing their story. At this point, I normally recommend that the person that will fill this role write out a brief summary of their story and 2-3 points max from the messaging document. This will serve as the talking points.
The role of the Closer is to make the “ask” and to get a commitment from the legislator or decision-maker to take a requested action. When closing, thank the elected official or staff person for taking the time to meet with you and for listening to your story, and ask for a commitment that will do whatever your ask is for that meeting. As you would for both the MC and Brains roles, write out your closing statement and practice it.
Any more questions? Send them to us.
What is your experience with lobbying elected officials?