Remember, your Members of Congress were elected to represent you, and you have a right to be heard on Tibet. Constituents matter greatly to Members, and your delegation in Washington will listen to what you have to say.
- You will most likely be meeting with a staffer rather than a Member of Congress (MOC). Staffers are very pressed for time; on the House side they may handle as many as 20 distinct issues for the MOC.
- Time: Be on time. Although the meeting likely was scheduled to last 30 minutes, a meeting with a staffer will rarely last that long. Expect it to last more in the range of 15-20 minutes, and be aware that the staffer could be called away at any moment. Be patient, the staffer and/or MOC may be running late.
- Be friendly and polite, even if the staffer seems rude! Make your points concisely and avoid going into long historical explanations of the Tibet struggle. Remember that the staffer/MOC wants is interested in knowing why this issue? Why now? And what would you like him/her to do about it?
- Be credible. Don’t exaggerate. You want to be seen as a good source of information. Your job is to educate and persuade. A great outcome of Lobby Day would be for you to develop a working relationship with a staffer or two, which is a critical channel for your views to reach your elected representatives.
- Pay attention to what the staff member is saying to you, and get a clear sense of where the MOC stands on Tibet. Ask directly for support for Tibet from your MOC, and for a commitment from your MOC to support policies and programs that support Tibetans.
- End the meeting on time, unless the staffer is clear she wants to talk longer, and you have time.
- Review the MOC’s bio before the meeting — is the MOC on any relevant committees like foreign affairs, approps, judiciary? Also note in particular if bio (prepared by ICT) notes any previous connection with Tibet or His Holiness the Dalai Lama, support for legislation relating to Tibet. For 2016 Lobby Day on the House side, check on www.congress.gov to see if the MOC has already cosponsored the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (H.R.1112) or the Global Magnitsky Act (H.R.624).
- Before the meeting, designate someone in the group, ideally a constituent, to be the leader for the meeting (“Leader”), and decide in advance together who will speak about which specific asks. Remember that everyone should have an opportunity to speak, perhaps not at every meeting, but there should be a balance so that everyone is actively involved! Everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.
- Designate at least one person as a note taker.
- Complete the constituent contact card in the “leave behind” packet.
STARTING THE MEETING
- The Leader of the meeting should introduce him/herself and the rest of the group should introduce themselves, too. Thank the staffer or the Member for the meeting, and jump right in.
- The first person to speak should explain who they are and why they are here (Tibet Lobby Day); this could be the Leader or someone else. At least one person in the group should ideally explain their connection to Tibet, HHDL and what Tibet and HHDL mean to them. What is the personal connection? Why does Tibet matter to YOU?
- Next, someone should do the 30-45 second “elevator” pitch of our entire message (an overview, and then you hit all the points in case the meeting ends up lasting only a few minutes): 1) cosponsor/ otherwise support H.R.1112 and H.R.624; 2) send letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the priority political prisoners (enclosed); 3) continued support for appropriations to support Tibet programs.
THE ASKS (Details) (3-5 minutes per ask)
- Go through each ask in more detail and use this as an opportunity to explain more about your connection to the Tibet issue, what’s happening on the ground in Tibet, and issues facing Tibetan refugees, and why it matters that Congress continue to support Tibet.
- Leave time for staff to ask you questions!
CLOSING THE MEETING
- If you don’t already have a contact in the district office, ask for the name of a person who they think would be useful for you to connect with at the district level, for example, to invite the Member to a Losar festival or otherwise interact on Tibet at the local level.
- Explain what’s in the leave-behind packet as you get ready to end the meeting. (Keep an eye on the body language and other cues from the staffer re time to end.)
- If you have promised to follow up with them in any way, please do so by the next day (please feel free to coordinate with ICT re follow up via the feedback form).
- Thank staffer/ Member for his/her support and time.
Send an email to the people you met with thanking them for their time and outline the key points covered during the meeting and express appreciation. Provide your contact information in your email so the congressional office will have you on file. Maintain contact. Share new developments as they emerge.
Please let ICT know how the meeting went – there is a feedback form in your folder. Please complete this as soon as possible after each meeting while your memory is still fresh. Your responses enable us to follow up with specific offices as we try to develop more Tibet champions on the Hill!
Good luck and have fun!