Arrange the meetingRing or write to your MP’s electorate office explaining that you’d like to meet with your local member. The MP may not be available for up to three weeks or more, so be patient. If you ring, you’ll most likely speak to a staff member who will ask you where you are from, the issue you want to raise and how many people will attend.
Prepare for the meeting
Given that MP’s are very busy, it’s a good idea to email them a “meeting brief” prior to the meeting containing:
- Details of the meeting attendees
- The points you want to cover, including supporting evidence/statistics etc.
- The requests being made.
- Assign roles for your attendees: who will take notes? Who will lead the discussion?
- Work out the materials you’ll take to the meeting to leave with the MP. This should include media articles, statistics and reports.
- Determine what you want from your MP: Do you want them to raise the issue with the Minister responsible for the issue? Do you want them to attend an event? Do you want them to raise the issue in parliament?
- Make sure that all attendees have a good understanding of the issue and are able to express themselves clearly.
- Dress appropriately and look respectable. First impressions count!
- Don’t be late! Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early.
- Identify what the MP is likely to oppose and why? Think of possible responses to objections, myths or facts, common problematic responses, or curly questions.
- How can they be won over? Think about their key concerns and what do you know about them.
- What do you want from them? What is the best and worst outcome, and what outcome can you live with?
- Why is the issue important to you/your group/organisation?
- Be prepared with case studies, statistics and other support material that might influence them.
- Choose three major points/themes/issues that you want to discuss in the meeting. How will you fit these points into the time available?
You’ll want to build trust and rapport with your MP. If you come across as reasonable, knowledgeable and passionate you will have a better chance at swaying your MP. Remember, you want to motivate them to do something about your issue!
Don’t lecture your MP
You want to engage them with the issues, not push them away. Ask meaningful and open ended questions about personal views on the matter. Listen to their reasons for supporting or opposing your issue. You want to have a dynamic conversation with them, so a fully rehearsed, static script won’t serve you well.
Find common ground
Having the conversation at their level may make it easier for them to come around to your way of thinking. It’s better to assure them that your position is more consistent with their beliefs, than to ask them to revise their beliefs completely.
Don’t get side-tracked
If the discussion moves outside of the agenda, acknowledge this with interest, and suggest that another meeting might be needed to discuss further.
Don’t know an answer?
If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and offer to provide the information later.
Relax and enjoy the meeting
Think of it just like any other conversation you have about important issues. Your MP is more likely to respect you for coming in and having a relaxed, low-key conversation about an issue you care about rather than something dry, rehearsed, or over-the-top.
Leave enough time to make requests
This is probably the main point of the meeting. Don’t leave it to the last minute to make your requests of the MP.
Conclude the meeting
Wrap up the discussion by confirming what you and the MP have committed to do. Be sure to thank the Parliamentarian for their time and support.
After the meeting
After the meeting, discuss the outcome and plan for the next get-together.
Send a thank you letter to the MP. Include the meeting outcomes and commitments. Provide any further information you promised to send. If you are unable to keep your commitment, contact the MP to make an alternative arrangement. If the MP committed to further action and you have not received a response within a reasonable amount of time, follow up with their office.
Information in this section has been adapted from the following sources:
- Results International Australia, 2014, Tips for Meeting with a Politician, Results International Australia. Available from: results.org.au
- Murray E, n.d., Ten Top Tips for Engaging with Politicians, Australian National University.
- Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic), n.d., Lobby law: Lobbying kit fir Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) Member Centre, Carton South, Victoria.