You Never Forget Your First Time
My heart was racing. Thoughts quickly passed through my mind as I stared at the ceiling. “Is it hard? Will I always be this nervous?” It was time. Finally, I was losing my lobby meeting virginity. It was exhilarating, terrifying, and empowering all bundled into a quick thirty minutes.
I walked out of the metro station wide-eyed and confused. Not knowing the DC area, I typically become lost within five minutes of reaching anywhere and today was no different. My naïve belief that Senate and Representative Buildings are next together resulted in a sightseeing tour of Capitol Hill. I arrived to the prep meeting late, out of breath, and in dire need of coffee.
I met up with the other volunteers (Lenny, Ann, and Elizabeth from the Northern Virginia RESULTS Group) and Crickett Nicovich, the Senior Policy Associate with RESULTS, outside Senator Kaine’s office thirty minutes prior to the meeting. We quickly discussed the agenda for the meeting and the roles each individual would play. My role was to thank the Senator for signing onto the letter to the administration supporting nutrition in the lead up to the Nutrition for Growth Summit. (Getting Senator Kaine on that letter was my first action-taking with RESULTS this summer – definitely a summer of firsts!) The preparation and planning eased my nerves and was essential to the success of the meeting.
We then walked into the office and met with Senator Kaine’s Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant. After thanking him for his previous actions on our issues, we asked him to support us getting a face to face meeting with the Senator during the International Conference. We also discussed other issues their office was working on that overlapped with RESULTS issues. It was interesting to see the working relationships between staffers and RESULTS in the sense that I envisioned lobby meetings as one sided requests to members of Congress, not a working relationship between the two groups to achieve the same goal.
After one lobby meeting, I was hooked. It also restored my faith in the political process and working with Congress during what continues to be a very polarized political environment.
To all the REAL Changers and first time Lobby-ers, as you get ready for your first lobby meeting with your members of Congress and staff, be prepared , dress professionally, and remember that there is no need to be nervous! Members of Congress and their staff are not as soulless as the media portrays them – they probably even want to work with you!
Granted, I was absolutely terrified walking into that meeting, but as with everything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. So, get out there and lose your lobby meeting virginity. All the cool kids are doing it.