Our biannual Amnesty International Lobby Week is about two weeks away, so now is the time to prepare for those meetings. Preparation is much more than setting a meeting date and encouraging people to attend. It’s also about making a good impression and not coming off as crazy human rights activists. Here are three things to keep in mind when lobbying for human rights so that these issues are treated as seriously as the issues pushed by big money and big companies.
No, you don’t have to do formal business attire, and it might be best that you don’t since you don’t want to appear like a lobbyist from a big corporation or industry association. Instead, you should wear business casual or something that you would wear out to a restaurant. This way, you are still dress tastefully, but you also come across like someone from a grassroots organization. You know, like someone who isn’t paid to be there but is there on their own free will to encourage a few changes. This may not seem serious, but it does mean something when ordinary people take to time to talk to their politicians about the things they care about.
Prepare Your Talking Points
Yes, you want to think about what you want to say and to do your research, but you can take it one step further by memorizing and practicing your pitch as well. This is so that the issues appear polished and that you appear knowledgeably. You don’t want to read from a piece of paper or look like you’re worrying about getting things right or making a good impression. You can take your practice one step further by thinking about questions that might be asked, and preparing answers to those questions as well. Again, you don’t want to come across as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about, or someone who can’t stray from their prepared notes.
On this note, make sure that everyone who attends the meeting has a role. You don’t want only one or two people talking if six people are going to be there. If six people are going to be there, then give every person something to say and a reason why they are at the meeting.
Know What You Want to Accomplish
You aren’t just there to talk to your Senator, Representative, or staff member. You want this person to do something, such as vote for/against a bill, to co-sponsor a bill, or to create legislation around a certain issue. Know what you want to accomplish before you go, and before you start preparing your talking points. As you are also aware of your goals and talking points, you should also be aware of what is negotiable and what isn’t negotiable. You don’t want to push for something that can’t be changed or won’t be changed.
Give reasons why that particular Senator or Representative should do whatever it is your advocating. This could include bringing up a previous bill that s/he supported, or a vote s/he made, or a statistic relevant to his/her constituents. It’s not enough to say that something’s great or important, because every issue is great or important to everyone who lobbies. You need to make the issue of human rights relevant to who your lobbying by showing why it’s great and important to that person.
Overall, think of your lobbying meeting as a conversation where you are trying to convince someone to see your side of things. There’s no reason to be nervous just because the person is an elected official or works with an elected official. Be firm and confident in the human rights you believe in! It’s the only way the people you are lobbying are going to believe in these concepts and ideals too.