How you introduce yourself to a lawmaker or their staff will set the stage for an effective visit. Here are the basics:
- Provide name, town, and years you’ve lived in district
- Share occupation and value add to district
- Offer that you are representing the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering as an elected Fellow of the Institute
- Include what are you asking them to consider (for example, providing long-term, consistent funding for NIH, NSF, DARPA that keeps up with biomedical inflation)
- Highlight why someone should care about this topic (public health relevance, district or local priorities, etc.) and how it relates to your research?
Next, share your story and connect it to the local community through your affiliation to a college, university, or local business. Stay focused on the core goals of your conversation and avoid off-topic or hot button issues like the Affordable Care Act. Provide a show-and-tell object or graph(s) but avoid a slideshow presentation. Your meeting will last no longer than 30 minutes, so be concise.
Last, but not least, volunteer to be a local resource. Legislators often set up advisory panels consisting of local experts to provide them with the “local view” on major policy issues. By volunteering to serve on these advisory groups, you will be in a central position to provide input.
Staff are Powerful
Never underestimate the influence of Congressional staffers. They are often young, but they have the ear of the Member of Congress. Additionally, don’t assume they understand biomedical research or the connection between research, innovation, jobs, and health and well-being.
Keep it Simple
Lawmakers and staff schedule dozens of meetings a day. If you focus your visit on statistics, it will be quickly forgotten. Paint a picture and they will remember it. Make it personal about how research saved a specific life or provide a personal antidote. Forget the facts and numbers – speak from your heart and avoid walking them through formal slide.
Avoid Technical Language
Most staffers and members do not have a scientific or medical background. When explaining your work use language and references that are lay-friendly. A good guide is to stick to language that a high school student can understand.
Keep complicated policy discussions out of the conversation. Don’t try to figure out how to balance the budget or come up with bipartisan solutions. Stick to your message and talking points.
**Support from AIMBE
AIMBE staff will provide tailored talking points to assist with your Congressional meetings. Please be sure to share your meeting details (Policy@aimbe.org) when they are confirmed.