Learning patterns/Public policy work: How to have an effective meeting
What problem does this solve?
Wikimedia's public policy work and its public image depend to a large extent on the impression volunteers make when meeting decision-makers.
Unfortunately, volunteers sometimes miss the chance to be as efficient and effective as they could be. The reasons for this usually lie in a failure to empathise with the counterpart or simply the lack of preparation and experience.
What is the solution?
After four years of public policy work in Brussels we have written a number of tips and tricks that can help volunteers stay on message, make a professional impression and increase the chances of follow-up cooperation:
1. Never demand that a decision-maker goes against his/her party or organisation. Instead, kindly ask them to share your concerns with their group.
2. Petitions and open letters are great, especially if we have managed to attract huge numbers of signatories. But in a personal meeting the goal is to form a personal connection. Try to show your expertise and always give account of a personal example why the issue you are talking about is a problem for you and hurts your volunteer efforts.
3. [Citation needed]: Do you have have two or three studies or statistics in mind that you quote to underline your arguments?
4. Listen! You are there to share your concerns, but also to understand your counterparts position better. Be attentive and let them talk.
5. When you hear counter-arguments, write them down. This shows you are really interested in different points of views but also helps you work on them later.
6. Tailor your demands/stories/arguments. If you're talking to a Lithuanian decision-maker try to provide examples from Lithuania.
7. Instead of focusing on the parts where you disagree, try to talk more about the things you and your counterpart agree with. This helps build a positive dynamic and shows you what is achievable instead of what is not possible.
8. If you are carrying brochures and give-aways with you, always hand them out at the end of the meeting. Otherwise your counterpart will pay attention to the hand outs during the meeting instead of focusing on what you are saying.
9. Start talking about the follow-up during the meeting. This could be an additional email with more detailed information you talked about, an further meeting or an invitation to an interesting event you will share.
Things to consider
When to use
When working on public policy, during meeting with other organisations, officials, politicians.