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Advocacy 101- How to Conduct a Successful Meeting on Capitol Hill

What to Know about Advocacy

Meeting with your House Representative and Members of Congress and their staff is a great opportunity to share with them your experience with mesothelioma, whether that be as a patient, family member, caregiver, physician, researcher or concerned advocate. Your message is unique and yet, we have all joined together to end the use of asbestos in the U.S. and provide life-saving federal funding for mesothelioma medical research and treatment programs.

Whether this is your first or your fiftieth time on Capitol Hill, we hope you will find the advocacy day effective and empowering. The Meso Foundation hopes to build upon the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma's Advocacy Day, and we want you to continue being one of the star advocates who will help carry our public policy messages and requests to federal lawmakers.

Although going to Capitol Hill to lobby may not be part of your weekly routine, we're providing you some tips that we hope will answer your questions and calm your fears. Here are a few helpful hints to ensure your meetings are successful.

TELL YOUR STORY: The most persuasive appeal to Members of Congress will be your personal story. Patients and family members - be ready to tell your story of how you or your loved ones were exposed, your struggle against mesothelioma, and the effect it has on your lives. Clinicians - you can talk about the patients you have treated, and the need for better treatments. Researchers - you can talk about the promise of research generally, and what you and your institution could do if the federal government made a real commitment to mesothelioma research funding. Make it personal, and make it real.

ANTICIPATE YOUNG FACES: Don't be surprised if you find yourself meeting with a young Congressional staffer. Despite their age, most legislative staff are hard-working and conscientious. Keep in mind they are the gatekeepers to the lawmakers and actually have substantial influence. Treat them with respect.

PLAN A 15 MINUTE MEETING: It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but you will probably have about 15 minutes to conduct your meeting. Plan what you are going to say. If other advocates will be part of the meeting (you will be seated with them in the morning orientation) be sure to connect with them ahead of time so you can use your meeting time effectively.

BE FLEXIBLE: Most offices on Capitol Hill are fairly small. Be prepared to hold a meeting most anywhere. You might be sitting on a leather arm chair in the Member's private office or crammed on a couch in the busy reception area. You might even be meeting in a noisy hall or common area. Happily accept the conditions or circumstances and try to make the most of your time with a captive audience.

ALLOW EVERYONE TO BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: In your Senate meetings especially, you likely will be joined by other advocates. This could mean that several people are all trying to be part of the discussion. Be courteous and allow everyone to take part in the conversation.

IT'S NOT A TEST: You may feel compelled to memorize all of the points you want to make in the meeting. Please don't put that kind of stress on yourself. It is hard to remember a lot of facts and figures. Feel free to bring and refer to your notes and the talking points provided by the Meso Foundation.

BE ON TIME: Whether you are meeting with a U.S. Senator or a Congressional staff person, their days are filled with meetings, hearings and press conferences. Don't keep them waiting. Allow plenty of time to get to your appointment. Keep in mind that you will have to go through security upon entering a House or Senate building. Use the tunnels between buildings when you can to avoid having to re-go through security. Allow extra time for morning meetings when security check points tend to attract the most people. If you find you are still unable to make your scheduled time, try calling ahead to the office to inform them that you are running a few minutes late.

MAKE THE REQUEST: We will be asking for help or support from each and every Senator and Representative, and it is important that you actually make the specific ask. At the orientation, we will review with you the current status of the Ban Asbestos bill and our other legislative requests. If you forget our specific ask, be sure to leave behind the pre-drafted letter provided for you in your Advocacy Day folder.

TELL THEM YOU WILL FOLLOW UP: As your meeting concludes, ask the staff person or Member of Congress for their business card, and give them your letter that we will provide in your folder. Tell them that you intend to follow up to make sure they are supporting our public policy requests.

SEND A FOLLOW-UP THANK YOU NOTE: Miss. Manners may not think email is an appropriate way to thank someone, but we do! Email is the most expeditious way to communicate with people on Capitol Hill. The Foundation will be providing you a thank you note template to use after your meeting. It is a great way to touch base and remind Hill staffers that you are a tenacious advocate.

PROVIDE THE FOUNDATION WITH FOLLOW UP: The Foundation will provide feed-back forms. We are asking that you complete one form for every meeting you attend. It will give us a chance to learn more about your meetings and see if further follow-up is necessary.

FEEL EMPOWERED: More than anything, we hope you will feel a sense of empowerment knowing that you really are making a difference to end the devastating tragedy of mesothelioma.

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