Advocates often spend time quizzing themselves on specific policy positions for their meeting, but often forget the human side of the interaction. However, policy specifics are not enough – they must also be effectively conveyed. Whether communicating to a policymaker or donor, advocates must be strategic about how they influence others to their side. Meetings are not just information exchanges – they are also “relationship-building” sessions. Establishing these relationships enables your advocacy efforts to take root and make a difference for those you serve.
To that end, based on research and best practices, we have developed the Five C’s of an Effective Meeting:
- Compelling – Tell a story to help illustrate your point. Everyone responds to a story and research has shown that stories increase message retention.
- Clarity – Be focused and clear. Often, advocates, especially those who are experts, want to share everything they know in the first meeting. This is not about impressing your audience with the breadth of your knowledge. Be restrained in what you share – summarize the high points.
- Consistency – Do your homework on meeting participants. Connect to their interests, including past decisions or common interests.
- Conversation – Allow for dialogue. Creating an opportunity for a two-way conversation will allow for questions and clarifications, which lead to greater buy-in.
- Close – End the meeting effectively by including a direct request. Never let an opportunity pass to ask for support – for dollars, for a tour, or for policy change.
So as you plan your meetings this spring, remember to start small and build a solid foundation for a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.