Meeting with a Minister 101
So you’ve secured your first meeting with a Minister. Now what?
The answer may seem obvious, however even seasoned professionals can fall into the trap of employing poor meeting techniques that can derail a campaign. Here are some simple tips to help make the most of your Ministerial meetings while avoiding some of the pitfalls.
Rule number one: Ministers are time-poor. Whether your meeting is in Parliament House or in a Commonwealth Parliamentary Office, remember that it may be one of two dozen they have in their diary that day. Be on time. Be prepared. Understand that a Minister may even have to cut your meeting short. It’s all part of the game.
Provide clear and simple information quickly
Meeting with a Minister is unique in that behind closed doors, politicians are used to cutting to the crux of an issue in a heartbeat. There is no need to spend minutes on pleasantries - all that’s necessary is an introduction and then get straight to the issue.
When it comes to the key messages you want the Minister to understand, present them concisely, clearly and without superfluous information. What’s the issue? Why should the Government care? What is your suggestion to address it? Any context given to help answer these questions should also be simple and clear.
Know who you’re meeting with
One of the most common mistakes that Ministerial staffers loathe is an advocate who seems to know almost nothing about their Minister. This usually reveals itself by way of telling the Minister something they already know (which would have been obvious with a little research).
A Minister’s views on your issue, as well as their personal areas of interest, can be ascertained by reviewing your notes from previous meetings, their recent speeches and by reading their maiden speech which can be accessed from their parliamentary profile.
The staff are the key to your relationship
Although meeting with a Minister can be a key opportunity to further your advocacy, the primary engagement with your issue will take place through relevant advisers and through them, the Minister’s department.
Fostering a strong relationship with the staff you meet in the Minister’s office is critical to progressing your issue. Engage with them regularly. Make offers of hospitality – lunch, an event, even a coffee – without necessarily discussing your particular situation. Be a good gatekeeper of useful information and a source they can rely on at short notice.
The real work starts after the meeting
It’s unlikely your issue will be resolved at the first meeting. It’s important that you take the opportunity to provide the Minister’s staff with an electronic version of anything you presented to the Minister and quickly follow up any request for further information.
It’s also important to provide the Minister’s office with any updates on your issue should circumstances change.
Say thank you
It’s not only important to show gratitude for the initial meeting, but if your issue is resolved positively, be sure to thank the Minister and their office, verbally and in writing. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to issue a press statement acknowledging the Minister’s support.