Legislators are looking for effective ways to connect with their constituents at town halls, group discussions or other meetings. To engage constituents in a meaningful way, legislators should:
- Be genuine. Be yourself. Follow your passion, instincts and core beliefs.
- Actively listen. Emphasize listening over speaking. You need to know what your constituents are thinking.
- Make it simple. Make your citizen engagement plans practical and doable. You don’t have to start big. Some of the most successful practices are low cost, no frill conversations.
- Pick a hot topic. Embrace controversy—for group meetings these hot topics consistently draw the most people.
- Get help. Concentrate on your role in the meeting. If you feel uncomfortable facilitating the session or setting logistics, find someone else to fill those roles. Use available people on your staff or in your community to help.
- Go where the groups meet. Take the guesswork out of organizing and promoting a meeting. Go participate with your neighborhood or civic association or similar organization.
- Connect to key stakeholders. Hold richer, more productive conversations by occasionally meeting with small business owners, school superintendents or other groups of people with common experiences or professions.
- Bring in experts. Simplify complex topics by bringing in experts to help frame and clarify an issue.
- Work as a team. Work together by often meeting constituent groups as a legislator delegation. You can hear the same stories, each emphasize your own expertise and divide up the resulting work.
- Use social media. Use Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools to reach a vast audience that might never come to an in-person meeting. Make sure you respond to constituent comments to make it a meaningful discussion.
These tips are derived from legislator engagement practices that were observed by NCSL staff.
For more information, please contact Angela Andrews.