My previous post was about the upcoming legislative session and the need to plan for rally days. The various disability-focused rallies are among our best way of getting across to a large group of legislators.
The last post included tips for being prepared to be effective and meet your personal needs. Today we’ll focus on getting a message across, to effectively give voice to your issues.
Advocacy groups do great work in helping people become effective advocates, for themselves, for family members, for their staff members and for those they can relate to. Check with the group or groups you are involved in to see what is offered.
Groups differ in how they advocate for advocacy. Consider that staff members are leading the charge at the capitol, and keep abreast of changing tactics as well as needs. Respect the advice you get and understand that it may differ from group to group.
Take advantage of online resources and training. If you need to, print the materials out and review them. I was once on a group that worked on media issues at the capitol. It was helpful for me to have a paper copy of our legislation tucked into a notebook.
Being under the wing of a group can open more doors for you. Staff and other volunteers can help with scheduling appointments to meet legislators. Having that personal face-to-face contact can be very important and can provide a needed connection.
Get to know your legislator’s staff as well as legislators themselves. Staff are often the front line for constituent needs and can be very helpful.
Have your “elevator speech” ready. What is that? An elevator speech is a quick summary, of no more than a minute or two. It covers who you are, what your disability is and what your needs are at the capitol.
Think of it as meeting someone you have always wanted to meet in an elevator. Yet you only have a short time to get a message across.
Here’s an example to build on:
I’m Susie Smith from (town in your district). I work at ABC Company and I take part in XYZ Disability Group’s activities. I live with (disability) and want to lead my best life. Here is how Bill DEF would help or hurt me.
Build on those points.
Also, have a longer set of talking points in hand. Be able to give bill numbers. Be able to explain more about how a piece of legislation can be beneficial or be problematic.
Review your elevator speech and talking points with others, to see if they can be strengthened. Everyone needs an editor, including this editor.
Next time we’ll talk about some of the pros and cons of rally days.