Tips for a meeting with a decision maker: Preparation for people with lived experience

Meeting with a Member of Parliament (MP) or other key decision maker is a chance to have the voices of newcomers heard. It allows decision makers to better understand the challenges that individuals and families face as newcomers to Canada as refugees, refugee claimants, separated family members, or as live-in caregivers.

Here are some tips to prepare for a meeting with a MP or other key decision maker:

What is the purpose of the meeting?: Tailor your message and stories

Involve people with lived experience in the meeting in the planning process.

  • What are your objectives/goals for the meeting? What changes do you want to see?

Balance your objectives:

  • Meeting goals and personal goals of presenters

Decide team roles:

  • Who will present: what and when?
  • Who will answer questions? Which ones?

Planning personal presentations to Members of Parliament:

  • Do you have previous experience talking about these issues? Is speech coaching needed?
  • Develop a clear, compelling story. How does the story link back to the meeting objectives?
  • Check any facts, statistics, laws and regulations

Prepare presenters:

  • Build trust, ensure a safe space beforehand
  • Do you need to plan for a translator at the meeting?
  • Share  the meeting plan with all team members, understand each team member’s role
  • Practice presentations
  • Prepare for tough questions and answers
  • Manage expectations:
    • MPs can be limited in their powers to act on individual cases
    • Plan sensitively around limited time: In a 30 minute meeting with the MP, there may not be time to speak at length about a single issue or lived experience.

Preparation tips:

  • Be sensitive to personal details: Know what information is okay to share, know what kinds of information not to share. How will you manage sensitive questions? Discuss this in advance.
  • How will you stay on message, link back to your meeting objectives during questions?
  • Plan responses to surprises and tough questions. Have support people ready to assist, fill in any gaps in information.

Debrief presenters and other delegation members after the meeting:

  • How did the meeting go? How do the presenters feel?
  • What commitments were made at the meeting? Who will follow up? What comes next?
  • How can the community (delegation members, community) provide ongoing support?
  • (How) Is the person/family with lived experience interested in staying involved?

March 2017