The following recommendations were compiled by a group of DEA student members after visiting a federal politician. He/she shared some advice on making the most out of future political visits.
– It is vital to do your homework on the issue before writing the letter and presenting the case. In particular, familiarise yourself with the political history of the issue, as this is likely to be of interest to the politician, and may suggest possible solutions to you.
– In your letter asking for an appointment, state succinctly in one page or less the issue to be discussed and the essential details. More than one page is unlikely to be read. If you have supporting documents, do not include them with your letter. Instead, state what they are and offer to make them available on request. State how much time you would like for your appointment, making sure you can present your case effectively in that amount of time. Half to one hour is reasonable, (but three hours is not!)
– You must make yourself aware of the level of government involved in your issue. Quite often members are visited about problems that fall within the aegis of the state or local government and the federal member can do nothing about them: consequently the visit may be a waste of time.
– At the meeting make your case briefly and cogently drawing out the relevant facts, and suggesting possible solutions. Explain why you think it is of interest to the politician and how they might sell it to their constituents. If your proposal will cost money, state approximately how much and suggest possible sources or savings to implement it (e.g. identify an existing program that you think it could be included within).
– Avoid emotional presentations! Instead, tell the politician exactly what the problem is, how it is relevant to them, and your proposed solution. Logical arguments are more powerful than emotional ones.
– You may wish to visit the member to give a briefing (DEA has done this in the past to brief on the health aspects of climate change). This is permissible, but make it clear that this is a briefing, avoid condescension and make your intentions clear in the initial letter.
– Young people are always welcome and indeed are the preferred visitors, for the politician wants to hear their views and recognises them as voters for life.