Congressional members who work in Washington, DC still value the thoughts and concerns of their constituents in their district. One way that they seek to hear from the general public in their district is to hold town hall meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to hear from you, the constituent, so go make your voice heard for celiac disease! At these meetings you will have the chance to educate and motivate your congressperson as well as informing your fellow citizens.
How to find out if your elected official is hosting a town hall meeting:
To find out if your congressperson is holding a town hall meeting, you can either check your local newspapers, call your congressperson’s office to ask, or check on their respective website, Facebook page or Twitter feeds for postings about future meetings. Often, these meetings are not announced very far in advance, so check back often. Some meetings require that you register or RSVP, so be sure to pay close attention to any instructions or details about the meeting.
How to prepare for a town hall meeting:
Preparation is critical to a successful meeting. Read through your congressperson’s website, twitter or Facebook page to see what your representative cares about, and what he/she has been paying attention to recently. Prepare your statement for your congressperson, and practice saying the statement until you can say it confidently. Be sure that your statement is brief, appropriate, includes a personal story and ends with an open-ended question. Your whole statement should take less than 2 minutes to complete. Print out flyers to leave behind with the congressperson and their staff about celiac disease. Click here to download Celiac Disease Foundation’s celiac disease fast facts flyer.
How to conduct yourself during the town hall meeting:
Arrive early. Upon arrival, introduce yourself to the congressperson’s staff, and sign in if necessary. If possible, share your story with the staff member as well. Ask if you need to sign up to ask a question, and do so if required. Sit close to the front of the room and near the microphone. Be sure that your cell phone is silenced! When the floor is open to ask questions, try to be one of the first to go. The first questions are more likely to receive media attention, and you want to be sure that there is enough time allotted for you. Be sure to leave behind printed information about celiac disease and your contact information. Most importantly, be polite, professional and appreciative throughout the entirety of the meeting. You want to be remembered for what you say about celiac disease, not for being rude.
What to do after a town hall meeting:
Be sure to follow up with your congressperson within a week of attending town hall. In this follow up letter or email you should thank the representative for their attention to your question, remind them what you said in your statement, and propose ways that he/she can play a role in advancing celiac diagnosis and gluten-free labeling in the near future. Also, fill out this form to let Celiac Disease Foundation know that you attended a meeting with your congressperson so that we can follow up as well. Keep showing up at future meetings as well to show that you are committed to advocating for celiac disease and that you are not going away.