Meeting your legislators in person is an effective way to talk to them about what matters to you.
In South Dakota, we’re lucky to have a citizen legislature, meaning our elected officials lobby for a short period in Pierre and then live and work the remainder of the calendar year in the communities they represent. That means many legislators are willing to sit down with constituents to talk about issues throughout the year.
Tips for meeting with your legislator:
1. Schedule your meeting: Email, mail, or call your legislator to request a meeting. When you do this, be sure to tell them what you want to talk about. If you’re their constituent, tell them. If you’re bringing another constituent or someone else to the meeting, let them know. Don’t ambush them with unexpected guests.
2. Be flexible and patient: Give your legislator time to respond to your request for a meeting. Understand the best time to build your relationship with a legislator is before or after session – legislators are very busy January through March, so keep that in mind!
3. Prepare: Once you have a meeting scheduled, it’s time to prepare.
- Educate yourself. Is the legislator a co-sponsor of a measure you support? Have they supported issues important to you in the past? Do you have connections in common with the legislator? Can you personalize your relationship (do your kids go to school together, for example?)
- Decide on your goals and what you hope to get out of this meeting. Introducing yourself? Getting the legislator to understand your point of view on a certain topic? Getting their support or opposition to a particular bill?
- Plan the flow of the meeting. If more than one person is attending, make sure you know who is speaking about what, who takes notes, and what everyone’s roles are.
4. Follow up: After the meeting, don’t forget to send a thank you note to leave a lasting impression and strengthen the relationship you’ve established.
In-Person Meeting Tips:
- Be prompt
- Be polite – yes, they’re your legislator but they’re also regular people. Thank them for their time!
- Be honest.
- Facts are great, but personal stories and connections are better.
- Make your ask.
- Bring a “leave behind” such as a one-page sheet highlighting your issue and main points.
- After the meeting, send a thank you.