How you introduce yourself to a lawmaker or their staff will set the stage for an effective visit. Here are the basics:
- Name, town, and years you’ve lived in district
- Occupation, what you do
- You are representing the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers as an elected Fellow of the Institute
- What are you asking them to consider (for example, providing long-term, consistent funding for NIH, NSF, DARPA that keeps up with biomedical inflation)
- Why should someone care about this topic and how does it relate 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 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.
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.