Attend a Town Hall Meeting!
One of the most effective ways to communicate directly with Members of Congress is to attend their town hall meetings, an informal public meeting that gives community members an opportunity to come together to discuss issues and voice concerns and priorities for the community.
Because Members pay particular attention to the attendees of town hall meetings, participating in this process allows you to bring forward your concerns about vision and eye health in a public forum. Members of Congress take to heart what they hear directly from constituents who make the effort to show up at a town hall meeting. From the other side of the podium, Members see attendees first and foremost as concerned voters. The more often you attend and ask a question or praise a Member for doing something you support, the stronger and more meaningful your relationship will be with the Member and the staff.
While some of the steps outlined here may seem quite obvious, when combined, they will guarantee that your attendance at a congressional town hall meeting will have longer term benefits and be fun and effective!
- Get on the alert list for your Members’ meetings. Most Members will announce their schedule via mailings or e-mails to the district and often through the media. However, offices will directly contact constituents who have expressed an interest in knowing the information.
- When you get to the meeting, check to see whether there is any procedure for the meeting. For example, most offices will provide a place for constituents to sign in or a sign-up sheet for individuals who would like to ask questions.
- Be prepared in advance with your specific question. Bring supporting materials that you can provide to the staffer, who will be traveling with/accompanying the Member. Keep your question short and to the point.
- Clearly identify yourself as a constituent and an Eye Care Action Network member. Be polite and courteous. Keep in mind that the media may be attending along with your friends and neighbors.
- Ask for a response to your question. If she/he cannot give you a response, let the Member know you will follow up with his/her office at a later date.
- Use your judgment. The dynamics of town hall meetings can be shaped by factors beyond your control. If the audience is riled up over an issue unrelated to eye and vision health concerns, and you get the feeling that participating would be counter-productive, it might be best to stay silent or take a pass when given the opportunity to ask a question. .
- If there is an opportunity, make an effort to say hello and introduce yourself to the Member and the staffer before or after the meeting. Be sure to give them any materials you brought along with your personal/home contact information. Ask for the staffer’s name and request a business card, so you know with whom you should follow-up.
- Follow-up and send a letter to the Member and staff person. Remind them that you were at the town hall meeting, giving the date and location, thank them for the opportunity to attend and reiterate the issue you discussed. Even if you did not get to ask a specific question publicly, send a follow-up letter about your presence at the meeting. If there was anything that the Member or staff requested, be sure to provide that in your follow-up correspondence.
- Share your experience and the results of the meeting on our Eye Did webpage!