Seek a meeting with politicians only if there is something specific you want them to do. You might want their advice, their support or funding.
Check that they are the right person and are on the appropriate side of the political fence.
Timing – is the time right to launch your new idea?
- asking for too much
- seeking a meeting too late in the policy process when decisions have already been made
- presenting a problem without a solution
- not being clear about what you want the politician to do
- taking too many people into the meeting
Before the meeting
- Approach the politician by letter. Be brief—keep it to one and a half pages maximum, plus an optional appendix with details. Your letter should clearly state what you want.
- Practice how you are going to begin the meeting. A good way to begin is by describing the problem you are tackling; then follow this up with your solution. Cut to the chase—politicians do not have the time or interest to hear all the background.
- Research the politician and make your work/problem as relevant to them as you can, so that they understand why you are meeting with them. Do they have a related facility in their electorate? Are they on a committee that deals with the problem? Do they have a personal interest in the area?
- Try to link your work/problem to current issues. Read the paper and listen to the news. Make your project or issue relevant to general community concerns.
During the meeting
- Walk in confidently and begin by introducing yourself and thanking them for the meeting. After they have acknowledged you, explain in one minute why you want to see them.
- Ask them how much time they have to spend with you. It could be anything from 5 to 45 minutes. Bear in mind that the meeting may be terminated suddenly if the politician is summoned to another meeting or to vote in the House.
- Be specific about what you want out of the meeting. For example, you may want to raise their awareness in the area, engender more support or supply contacts. Ask them to do something concrete (e.g. write a letter, speak at a meeting, talk to someone on your behalf).
- Be honest and friendly.
- Give good examples—concrete ones, if possible. How much money can be saved? What are the social benefits for individuals or groups?
- Tell them a story (keep it brief though). They are more likely to remember a story.
- Provide solutions to problems rather than just problems—they hear enough problems.
- Let your research outcomes guide the direction of policy— the detail is better left to the parliamentarians.
- Keep in touch with them as much as you can. Leave them with some written information, write to them thanking them for meeting with you, invite them to visit you, and keep them updated on your progress.