0

Meet with legislators

Overview

While the COVID-19 pandemic has made in-person visits more difficult, connecting and meeting with your local, state, or federal representatives is now more important than ever. 

Although most members will be unable to conduct face-to-face meeting, you still can connect virtually with your elected officials to discuss issues important to the real estate management industry.

Legislators are more likely to support positions that their constituents feel strongly about, which is why it is important for members to engage with their legislators any way they can whether it is virtually, phone, email, text, etc.  

The IREM Government Affairs team recently conducted a webinar about how to conduct effective virtual meetings. Be sure to check out our recorded webinar: Conducting successful meetings with your elected officials

The webinar provides valuable information on how to: identify your elected officials; schedule a meeting; conduct a successful meeting; and some do’s and don’ts when you are conducting your meeting.  Although the most common way to meet with a legislator is to conduct a meeting at their district office, because of COVID-19, face-to-face meetings have mostly been cancelled.

However, a recent survey by the Congressional Management Foundation found that 23% of Congressional members have conducted an IN-PERSON tour of a facility. Inviting them on a tour of your property is a great way for them to understand your business and the challenges you are facing. Other alternative approaches to meet with your representatives include:

  • Inviting the legislator to your virtual Chapter event
  • Attending one of the legislator’s town halls or other scheduled events
    • To find out when a legislator is conducting a town hall or other event, you can either call their office or they may have a list of monthly events on their website

Any questions? Please contact us at iremlegislation@irem.org

How to schedule a meeting

Here are a few tips to help you identify & contact your elected officials:

Who am I meeting with?
Our initiative is focused on engaging with your elected officials. By using our Legislator Lookup, you will be able to identify your federal, state, and even local representatives. All you have to do is input your name, email, address (home) and zip code.

Find your Legislator

Check the calendar
Before contacting your legislator’s office, be sure to check the session calendars to make sure they will be able to meet with you during your appointment.

Contact the legislator's office
Introduce yourself as a constituent, let them know you would like to meet with the legislator, and ask for the scheduler’s email address.

Send the scheduler a formal meeting request. You can use our sample letter or draft your own letter. If a meeting with a staffer is offered, we highly recommend accepting it. Staffers are the “eyes and ears” of their bosses and establishing rapport with them is extremely impactful.

Let the scheduler know you would like to introduce the legislator to IREM, our industry, and the issues important to the real estate management industry, like COVID relief, 1031’s and the National Flood Insurance Program. Providing more information in advance will help ensure you meet with the most appropriate staff and they will be able to better prepare, so be sure to include the leave behind materials in your request.

Follow up
Elected officials get thousands of requests each year, so call the office a week after submitting the request to confirm it was received. Once you have confirmed the meeting details, provide the scheduler a full list of attendees.

Let IREM know about your meeting
Once your meeting is confirmed, please email us at iremlegislation@irem.org with your meeting details.

How to prepare

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your meeting

Practice before the meeting
Schedule a meeting or conference call with the IREM Members who will be attending the meeting. Review the issues and decide who will present on each issue. The meeting or call can be brief, but it’s always wise to touch base with other attendees before your meeting.

If you are conducting a virtual meeting, make sure you consider the following:

  • Have a solid internet connection.
  • Make sure your platform is simple. If it is too complicated, it will be more likely you will run into technical issues.
  • Try to have a back-up (someone else who can talk if you run into technical issues)
  • Test it, test it, test it!!

The meetings generally follow this format:

  • Introductions and exchanging of business cards
  • Informing the legislator/staff about IREM
  • Discussing the issues and ask for their support
  • Give the legislator/staff a “leave behind”
  • Thank them for their time and offer IREM as a resource in the future

Day of the meeting
Arrive and/or log-in 15 minutes early. Even though the meeting will most likely be virtual, it is still important to dress nicely. Business attire is appropriate. Don’t let your appearance detract from your message or impair your credibility.

Virtual meeting etiquette

For a virtual meeting, make sure you are sitting somewhere for your meeting that has a professional backdrop and that is relatively free from distractions.  Life happens, and many of us are still working from home right now, but it helps to find a quiet spot with a distraction-free backdrop. Other suggestions when conducting a virtual meeting:

  • Simulate eye contact – Look into/toward the camera
  • Lighting – make sure you have good lighting – not too bright or dark
  • Limit screens to 6 if you can
  • Turn off or silent your cell phone!!

Do not be upset if the legislator cancels at the last minute – staffers are great resources and are knowledgeable on many issues. They also brief their bosses on the issue and can relay important information that you shared.

Remember to inform them briefly about IREM, your involvement, and that you are a constituent! (I have been a member for X amount of years, I manage/own X number of properties in your district, etc.)

Discuss the issues

  • Explain the issue (the legislator and/or staff may be unfamiliar) briefly.
    • Phrase the argument in your own words. Don’t be surprised if it appears you are more knowledgeable than the individual you are lobbying. No legislator can be expected to know everything!
  • Explain that you are proponent/opponent of the issue (include bill numbers if necessary).
  • VERY IMPORTANT: Give a personal example of how the issue/bill has or would impact you and your business.
  • Respectfully ask for their support.

Questions

  • If the legislator/staffer has questions, try to answer to the best of your ability.
  • However, it is okay for you to not know all the answers! If you don’t know an answer, admit it. Communicate that you will look into the issue and report back. This will also provide you the opportunity for follow-up and to provide any additional information.

Conclusion

  • Ask if they would like to take a tour of your property/business.
  • Thank your elected official and promise to follow up.
  • Ask for a photo (virtual or in-person) with the legislator and/or staff!

After the meeting
Send a thank you email the following day (send to any staffers you met with and they’ll relay the message to the legislator). Use this opportunity to reiterate your main points, answer any unanswered questions, and most importantly thank them for their time.

Also attach the leave behind so they can put it in their online files.

Dos and don’ts
DO…

  • Address your Senator or Representative properly: “Hello, Representative Smith” or “Thank you, Senator Miller”
  • Introduce yourself to everyone you meet
  • Hand everyone you meet a business card.
  • Know important details about the bills you’re discussing such as its status and bill number.
  • Use our issues brief for information on each issue.
  • Use your own words and experiences (personal experiences are key!)
  • Be concise and courteous – especially if they do not agree with you!
  • Do meet with staff. They know a lot about the issues and keep the legislators updated.
  • Establish yourself as an expert on the subject.
  • Give legislators the leave behind. This helps them remember what was discussed.
  • Familiarize yourself with staff, they are often the gatekeepers to the legislator.
  • Always keep off-the-record comments confidential.
  • Keep the door open for further discussion despite differences of opinion.

DON’T…

  • Don’t remind them that you pay taxes or “pay their salary.”
  • Don’t be arrogant, condescending, or threatening toward legislators or their staff.
  • Don’t argue, be aggressive, or force an answer.
  • Don’t take notes while talking to a legislator, wait until you leave the office.
  • Don’t send copies or form letters unless you have taken the time to include a personal note.
Close