Kidding aside, it's important to remember that many of those groups are coming to DC to talk to their elected officials and their staff. These meetings can be really effective or, well, not so much. If you're going to come to Washington, DC you'll want to be sure you're prepared for the DC environment. Frankly, it's crowded, chaotic and, in the summer months, unbearable hot in Washington, DC. So in addition to packing the shorts and flip flops, be sure to be prepared for meetings on Capitol Hill (including, but not limited to, don't wear your flip flops).
Advocates can get ready by:
- Learning a little about the legislators you'll be meeting with (try the House and Senate sites at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov). Review their positions on your issues (if applicable) as well as their overall political perspective. In addition, it's always good to know what bills they've introduced, which you can find at www.congress.gov
- Developing your personal story, with an understanding particularly of how it connects to the policy issues that will be discussed. For example, patient advocacy group advocates should understand how to connect requests for more funding and/or better coverage to their own personal experience.
- Reviewing some of the logistics before coming to Washington, DC (see metro maps at www.wmata.com and Capitol Campus maps at www.aoc.gov). Having these facts down will reduce the stress associated with navigating an unfamiliar city and allow advocates to focus more on their messages.
As an advocate coming to Washington, DC you'll want to not only be heard, but to be agreed with as well, right? So take some of these steps before you come and you'll be a "Washingtonian" in no time. Oh, and don't stand to the left on the escalators.