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Thinking about visiting a public official? Here are a few tips that  will help you be a successful lobbyist. First and foremost, you  don't have to be an expert to lobby your representatives. Your  viewpoint is important and worth expressing. Never forget that  democracy depends on citizens expressing their views.
  1. Always be polite! Never be argumentative, call names or threaten.

  2. Make an appointment. Don't be disappointed if your appointment is  set up with a staff person. Legislators are busy and staff members  pass the information they receive on to their bosses. Often, by  developing a rapport with a staff member, you open an important line  of communication to that office. If your meeting is to be with the  legislator himself/herself, it will usually be specified.

  3. Be on time. Identify yourself and the organization you represent.  If you are a registered voter in the legislator's district, say so.

  4. Present a clear message. If you are with a number of fellow  lobbyists, choose one person to speak for your group. Get your point  across in the fewest possible words. Say exactly what you want the  policy maker to do--using your own words or the language prepared by  your advocacy organization. If your issue involves legislation, cite  the specific bill's name or number.

  5. Use hard facts to support your arguments. Leave supporting  documents whenever possible.

  6. Be prepared for questions, even challenges. If a question throws  you off balance because you don't know the answer, don't be afraid  to admit it. Say you will research the matter and report back to  them.

  7. Be a good listener. Give the legislator or staff member a chance  to express his/her point of view.

  8. Give special recognition to legislators who are known to be on  your side. Ask them for advice and help in reaching other  legislators and suggestions for ways to communicate the issue to  their colleagues.

  9. If a legislator or staff member expresses opposition to your  viewpoint, try to leave on a friendly note so you will have access  to them in the future.

  10. Be gracious. If your meeting was with a legislator, thank  him/her for taking the time to listen to your point of view. If your  meeting was with a staff member, thank him/her for communicating  your viewpoint to their boss and ask for a written reply if you want  one.

  11. Never talk about legislators, staff members, political parties,  or other individuals involved with your issue when you are in  hallways or elevators before or after meetings. There are lots of  operatives. They will know who you represent, but you won't know who  they represent or what side they are on.

  12. Follow up your visit with a thank-you letter. Restate your case  briefly and provide any information you may have promised during  your meeting. This gives you a second chance to make your point.

Always remember that the basic principle of effective lobbying is  grassroots pressure. While it is important to see your legislators,  lobbying is often ineffective without the help of large numbers of  letters and telephone calls or faxes from people who live in the  representive's district. Elected officials do pay attention to the  opinions of those who elect them--letters really count!