Meeting with your representatives and other elected officials is an important part of what our volunteers do because these visits can be very impactful on a personal level. Hearing constituents’ stories and experiences let them know what you care about and why you care. Here are some tips on how to make an impactful visit for the Boundary Waters:
How to make the initial contact.
Once you’ve decided who you would like to meet with, write a letter to their office requesting a meeting. Addresses can be found on the official’s website. Remember: it’s their job to know what the constituents care about, so they will have time to meet with you. Don’t be shy about it! Most likely, you’ll receive a response from a staff member who will meet with you and pass your information along to the elected official.
Prepare what you’d like to say.
Inform yourself on all sides of the issue so you know what you’re talking about! Craft an argument using data, personal stories and a specific ask. Make a plan, and bring some note cards if you think you might freeze up.
Use science and data to back up your claims.
Your argument should be supported by the evidence. You may want to bring some informational materials for the staffer to pass along, but keep it brief - stick to only one or two items. Too much information, and it’s likely the official will end up reading none of it. Check with a Save the Boundary Waters staff member for ideas on what to bring with you.
Side note: while it’s important to know what you’re talking about, it’s okay not to know everything. If someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, be honest! Making something up will NOT give you credibility.
Really leverage those personal stories.
Your stories and experiences have a great emotional impact. Utilize them to get your message across. Really think about why the BWCA is so important to you and why you want to keep it safe.
Have a specific ask.
Make sure you tell your official exactly what you want them to do. Otherwise, it’s much easier for them to brush you off and do nothing. Again, talk to STBW staff if you need advice on what to ask them to do.
Dress like a team.
Attire can vary depending on what office you’re visiting, but the most important thing if you’re going with a group is that you look like a team. If you decide to go business casual, you should ALL go in business casual attire. If you decide to wear a STBW t-shirt, make sure you all wear that same shirt.
Show up on time, act professionally and make a good impression.
Since you’ll likely be meeting with a staffer rather than the official, you’ll be relying on them to pass the message along, and the best way to do that is by making a good impression. Being rude or disrespectful will decrease the chances of your message being taken seriously. That means you should be on time, only take up the allotted time you’ve been given, and most importantly, be kind.