Fast Facts to Meeting With Your Congressmen and Congresswomen

By Jordan Waddell October 17, 2016

You have planned to come to CWF. You have planned out the perfect Capitol Hill day with perfectly timed tours and meetings with your Congressmen and Congresswomen. Now the time has come to figure out what to do in those meetings.

Spending a week in our nation’s capital is quite an honor, especially when having the opportunity to represent 4‑H on a state and national level. One of Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) delegates’ favorite parts of their CWF experience is Capitol Hill Day, which is a day where the delegates spend a day on Capitol Hill exploring the ins and outs of Congress and our government at the heart of Washington D.C. This special experience is a chance to not only see how Congress works, but is also an opportunity for delegates to meet the people who represent them.

On Capitol Hill Day, CWF delegates meet with their respective members of Congress – both members of the House of Representatives and Senators – to discuss 4‑H with them, to learn more about what their roles entail, and to get exposed to what the federal government looks like from an insider’s perspective. The day is centered around meeting with Representatives and Senators, so here are a few tips for you on your Capitol Hill Day, so that you can be a pro and really impress the Senators and Representatives you meet with.

  • Be flexible. Congressmen and Congresswomen are some of the busiest people in D.C. because they have meetings with so many constituents (like yourselves) and other politicians. Sometimes your meetings will include walking with the staff of the Representative or Senator, or your meeting will take place in a hallway for a few moments. Be able to work with them and understand their busy schedule so that you can still work a meaningful visit in with a couple of good questions and talking about 4‑H.
  • Have an elevator speech prepared. An elevator speech is a way for you to share your story with someone, and because of how concise and clear it is, Capitol Hill Day is a great time to use this. This elevator speech should be about 45 seconds of explaining who you are, what your 4‑H story is, and what your purpose is for the visit. This way, at the end of those 45 seconds, the Representative or Senator knows exactly who you are and why you’re there, and the conversation can take off from that point. Be sure to first run it by someone and practice it.
  • Ask meaningful questions. Capitol Hill Day is a once in a lifetime chance for some people. There aren’t a lot of times in your life when you get to meet with someone who represents you on a national level in Congress, and when you get that chance, they’re going to look to you for questions. It’s your job to be prepared with questions that you can ask them. These questions shouldn’t be controversial, but should come from your interest to learn more about what they do or what is happening in the country/government currently.
  • First impressions matter. A firm handshake is key in your meetings on Capitol Hill Day, and don’t forget to say your name and where you’re from. Most times, the Congressmen and Congresswomen and their staff will know where you’re from if you say it, and they love to learn more about who they’re representing and working for. Don’t forget to smile, too!
  • Be engaged. You may have a whole half hour with your Representative or Senator, or you may only have five minutes. The timing of each meeting differs, but no matter how much time your meeting actually takes, you still should be engaged and contributing to the discussion. This means asking good questions, but also listening well to understand. Being present in these meetings is key to a successful Capitol Hill Day. Make the most of your meetings and let your voice be heard.
  • Introduce yourself to the staff. Very frequently on Capitol Hill do people make appointments with a particular Representative or Senator and end up meeting with members of the staff instead. It’s still a great chance to let your voice be heard and to understand Capitol Hill and the federal government, so continue to ask meaningful questions and be engaged with these meetings like you would with a Congressman or Congresswoman. Members of the staff often have incredibly helpful information – ranging from what’s happening in your home state to internship opportunities on Capitol Hill. It takes a lot of people to make sure that everything gets done in a Congressman or Congresswoman’s office, so the members of their staff really are helpful and can provide you with some great information.
  • Share 4‑H’s message. Some people like to take a picture with your Representative or Senator after meeting with them. Some people even like to include that picture in a thank-you note to their Representative or Senator, but it’s also great to share that on social media as well. Encourage them to tag @4H on Twitter or Instagram so that we can share the experience with 4‑H’ers across the country as well.

Take some time to prepare for your Capitol Hill Day, because it will add to the success of your visits and meetings. Good luck, and don’t forget to represent 4‑H to the best of your ability!

Elizabeth Galbreath
CWF PA 2016