Lobbyists often have contact with Members of Parliament, government officials, civil servants, and all other residents of the political arena. However, it is important that an expert engages in conversation with a Member of Parliament, not the lobbyist. Here is a blog for everyone who needs to talk to a Member of Parliament, but does not do this every day as their profession.
Think beforehand about what you want to get out of the meeting.
Be clear about the message you want to convey and what you want to get out of the meeting. This can include knowledge transfer, an invitation to an event, parliamentary questions, or a motion. But do not go into a meeting without deciding beforehand what you want to get out of it or what you want to bring. Always make sure to close the meeting with follow-up appointments.
Research the Member of Parliament.
Do a little research on the Member of Parliament you will be speaking to, such as their place of birth and residence. Did the Member of Parliament attend university? What was their career like before becoming a Member of Parliament? The life course of a Member of Parliament will certainly have an impact on their ideas, values, and level of knowledge. You don’t want to find out on the spot that the Member of Parliament knows more about the subject than you do. In addition to the past, it is also good to research recent activities, such as what motions the Member of Parliament has recently submitted and what parliamentary questions have been asked. Watch a piece of debate from the Member of Parliament so you also know how they dress and what their style is: you approach a Member of Parliament who is dressed informally and wearing a t-shirt in the plenary hall differently than a “respectable gentleman” in a three-piece suit.
Just as important as the background information is to find out the political subjects and topics on which the MP wants to build a profile on. You can simply ask him/her what his pet projects are.
Give and take.
A Member of Parliament likes to hear what is happening in the country and how they can contribute to solving problems. It is therefore important that you articulate your problem as well as possible. However, as most lobbyists know, it is not enough to just present your problem. You also need to think about the solutions. The more detailed your solution, the greater the chance that the Member of Parliament can do something with it (but a twenty-page action plan is too much for a Member of Parliament or their staff to read). You certainly don’t have to just point out problems, Members of Parliament usually appreciate it when you contact them to bring knowledge and expertise without an immediate key-ask. This game of giving and taking is often called “halen en brengen” by lobbyists.
Stay within your role and mandate.
It is tempting to address other grievances and issues during a conversation with a Member of Parliament. Do not do this. You probably entered because of a specific topic, and it is not done to surprise the Member of Parliament with other topics. Be friendly and courteous, but always remain professional and within your role as an expert. Try to avoid situations where you express your political preferences. After all, tomorrow you may have to deal with a different Member of Parliament with completely different worldviews. Also, try not to stray too far into topics and opinions that are outside the mandate of your organization. A chat about a shared hobby to break the ice at the beginning of the conversation is of course allowed, but then quickly move on to the business at hand.
Be aware of the limitations of a Member of Parliament.
Although a Member of Parliament likes to think along and help, they have only a limited range of resources to help your case. For example, a Member of Parliament can ask parliamentary questions or draw attention to the issue during a debate. The Member of Parliament can also submit a motion calling on the government to take action. But a Member of Parliament cannot implement the policy itself. Nor is attention for your issue a guarantee that something will be done about
Thanks to Ivo Thonon and Mira Levi for the extra suggestions and tips