A new Government has won the election, been sworn in and Ministers are now getting used to their new portfolios. Somehow, notwithstanding the chaos, you've secured your first meeting with a freshly minted 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 their advocacy. Here are some simple tips to help make the most of your Ministerial meetings while avoiding some of the pitfalls.
Provide clear and simple information quickly
Rule number one: Ministers are time-poor – especially new Ministers who are busy getting across their portfolio. 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. There is no need to spend minutes on pleasantries - all that's necessary is an introduction and then get straight to the issue.
Understand that a Minister may even have to cut your meeting short. It's all part of the business.
Pitch everything as a problem, solution and benefit (to them)
When it comes to the key messages you want the Minister to understand, present them concisely, clearly and without superfluous information. In terms of how you structure your message, think about it as a problem, solution and benefit: What's the issue? What's your suggestion to address it? Why should the Government care? Any context given to help answer these questions should also be simple and clear.
Drop the jargon
Even though they might be the Minister, the subject matter experts are often the senior public servants or the advisers on their team. Make sure that the information you provide is limited in or free from departmental or industry jargon that may just confuse.
Know who you're meeting with
One of the most common mistakes is seeming not to know much about the Minister you're meeting with. 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 in Parliament or social media, and by reading their inaugural speech.
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 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 (although make sure to be clear if it's a social or networking opportunity so as not to appear to be wasting their time). 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.