How to Meet Your Members of Congress Face-to-Face

The Most Effective Form of Advocacy

Small group of people holding an informal meeting
Meeting With Your Members of Congress. Getty Images Pool Photo

While more difficult than sending them a letter, visiting your Members of Congress, or their staff, face-to-face is the most effective way to actually influence them.

According to the 2011 Congressional Management Foundation’s report Perceptions of Citizen Advocacy on Capitol Hill, personal visits by constituents to the Washington or district or state offices of members of Congress have “some” or “a lot” of influence on undecided legislators, more than any other strategy for communicating with them. A 2013 CMF survey found that 95% of the Representatives surveyed rated “staying in touch with constituents” as the most critical aspect of being effective legislators.

Identify Your Members of Congress

It is always best to meet with the Senators and Representatives who represent your state or local congressional district.

Individuals and groups can arrange personal meetings with Senators and Representatives either in their Washington offices or in their local offices at various times during the year. To find out when your Senator or Representative will be in their local office, you can: call their local office, check their website (House) (Senate), get on their mailing list. Whether you arrange to meet with your elected officials in Washington or their local offices, here are some rules to follow:

Make an Appointment

This is just common sense and courtesy. All Congressional offices in Washington require a written appointment request. Some Members do offer "walk-in" meeting times in their local offices, but an appointment request is still highly recommended. Appointment requests can be mailed, but faxing them will get a faster response. Members' contact information, phone and fax numbers can be found on their websites 

The appointment request should be short and simple. Consider using the following template:

  • [Your Address] [Date]The Honorable [full name] U.S. Senate (or U.S. House of Representatives) Washington, DC 20510 (20515 for House)
    Dear Senator (or Representative) [last name]:
    I am writing to request an appointment with you on [date]. I am a member of the [your group, if any] in [your city], and I'm concerned about [issue].
    I realize that your schedule is difficult to project at this point, but it would be ideal if we could meet between [time] and [time].
    I believe [issue] is important because [1-2 sentences].
    My home address is [address]. I can also be reached by phone at [phone number] or email at [email address]. I will contact your office during the week of [1-2 weeks before the visit] to confirm the details of the appointment.
    Thank you for considering my request to meet with you.

Prepare for the Meeting

  • Plan to discuss no more than two issues. Meetings are scheduled to last from 15- to 45-minutes.
  • Learn everything you can about your issue.
  • Learn everything you can about points in opposition to your standpoint and be ready to argue against them.
  • Identify and be ready to discuss any key data points that support your argument.
  • If you have any supporting handouts, charts or graphics, bring them with you. Consider taking extra copies in case staff members request them.

At the Meeting

  • Arrive about 10 minutes before the appointment time. At least, be on time. Dress neatly and conservatively. Be courteous and respectful. Relax.
  • Do not be upset if you end up meeting with the legislator's staff. They are often more knowledgeable of individual issues than the legislators themselves, and they WILL inform the legislator of your views and requests.
  • Introduce yourself to the legislator or their staff members: tell them who you are and where you live. Warm them up: Try to start by complimenting something the legislator has done recently; their vote on an issue, a bill they sponsored, etc. After a minute or two of such "small talk," state your standpoint on the issue(s) you came to discuss. No matter how passionately you feel about the issue, do not "rant-and-rave." Nothing diminishes your credibility more than an "in your face" demeanor. Tip: The lawmakers know you pay their salary.
  • Be ready to answer questions and discuss your points in detail.
  • In the conversation, focus exclusively on how the issues you are addressing affect your state or local congressional district. Explain how your issues will impact specific population groups, businesses, or the economy of your state or community.
  • If the legislator disagrees with you, stand up for yourself, debate the issues, but do not become over-argumentative. Keep trying to emphasize the positives of your standpoint. Always try to end the conversation on a positive note.
  • Close the meeting with a clear “Ask.” Members of Congress respond best to clear, specific requests. For example, you might ask that they vote for or against a piece of legislation or introduce legislation to address your issues. 

Persistence Pays

Getting a face-to-face meeting with a member of Congress is not easy. Each member of the House represents hundreds of thousands of people. In the case of most senators, it’s millions. The demands on their time are never-ending. However, there are some things that constituents can do to increase their chances of getting time to sit down and talk with them. Persistence can be rewarded.

Making an initial request for a face-to-face meeting is not hard. Call the representative’s or senator’s office and ask for their scheduler. Once connected, tell the scheduler who you are, where you’re from, and that you would like to set up a face-to-face meeting. The scheduler will need to know what issues are to be discussed and how many people plan to attend the meeting. Groups tend to be more effective than individuals. Be flexible with your time—suggest a range of dates and times so they can fit you in their schedule. 

While calling the scheduler is the easiest and fastest way to get a meeting, it’s not guaranteed to succeed. More often now than ever, congressional offices prefer meeting requests to be submitted in writing. Many members of Congress will have forms on their website that can be filled out to request a meeting. In addition, requests can often be e-mailed directly to the scheduler.

If at first, you don’t succeed… Members of Congress get hundreds if not thousands of meeting requests each month. A few days after you’ve made your request, call the office, ask for the scheduler, and ask if your request was received. If it was, can you book that meeting? If the request was lost, resend it. If the scheduler is not sure if you can get a face-to-face meeting, schedule a time to call back to check again. The key is persistence. Many times in political participation, the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.

General Meeting Tips

  • Don’t be nervous. Speak naturally and confidently.
  • Arrive on time and be considerate of your member’s time constraints and their staff’s time.
  • Always be courteous and concise in presenting your points and request.

After the Meeting

Always send a follow-up letter or fax thanking your legislator or staff members. Also include any additional information you may have offered to provide in support of your issue. The follow-up message is important, because it confirms your commitment to your cause and helps build a valuable relationship between you and your representative.

Town Halls

In addition to individual meetings with their constituents, members of Congress hold local public “town hall” meetings at various times during the year. At these town halls, constituents can ask questions and give feedback to their members. Locations, dates, and times of town hall meetings can be found on the members’ websites.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Longley, Robert. "How to Meet Your Members of Congress Face-to-Face." ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2022, Longley, Robert. (2022, July 5). How to Meet Your Members of Congress Face-to-Face. Retrieved from Longley, Robert. "How to Meet Your Members of Congress Face-to-Face." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 1, 2023).