If you’ve been a longtime ACMA member, you’ve heard us rave repeatedly about the value of meeting your Members of Congress and having them to your facilities for site visits. I’m excited to report that it’s still possible to make this happen – at least almost.

On July 16th, I tuned in to a most informative webinar put on by the Congressional Management Foundation in partnership with The Advocacy Association called “Preparing for The New August Recess: Virtual Site Visits With Congressional Offices.” I admittedly tuned in for tips to help the ACMA gear up for our forthcoming Virtual National Catalog Forum, September 2, 9, 16, 23 & 30, but I gleamed some great info on the benefits of setting up virtual site visits by your Members of Congress.

Bottom line is, it’s possible to not only “host” your local congressman or senator in the current environment for a site tour, but you can come pretty darn close to duplicating the on-site experience. Here are some key pointers:

Setting It Up

  • Make your request three to four weeks in advance. Contact your Member of Congress’s scheduler or legislative aide. If you’re unsure who to contact, call or email me and I can help.
  • Allow for one to two weeks if you don’t receive a call-back, then reach out again.
  • Also allow 3 to 4 weeks to get yourself organized.
  • Regardless of how much on your premises you decide to show your Member of Congress, allow yourself no more than one hour total time.

‘Put on a Show’

  • The webinar speaker, Brad Fitch, President & CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, equates virtual Hill meetings like “putting on a play.” That entails the following:
  • Find an internal on-site stage director, who needs to get internal approval and support up front.
  • Recruit your cast and crew.
  • Don’t give a lead role to pro lobbyists. Hill Members want to hear what you have to say, not a lobbyist.
  • Choose a location in your facility that will enhance the Member’s and staff’s understanding of your operations.
  • Find a unique spot and consider your backdrop:
  • Broadcast on location.
  • Use videos (taken in advance) that are ready to be shown.
  • Use virtual backgrounds.

Technological Considerations

  • Assess your proficiency and comfort level in using the technology.
  • Make sure you have a solid internet connection.
  • Don’t rely on mobile wifi.
  • Be familiar with your video conferencing platform; make sure you have in in-house expert.
  • Consider a virtual photo op with your visitor.
  • Use a good microphone, not a built-in one on your laptop.
  • Consider your lighting; make sure faces aren’t all shadowed.
  • When you take your visitor on a “virtual tour” through your facilities, use a tripod or selfie stick.
  • Consider alerting your local media.
  • Use social media.
  • Record the session – but make sure everybody knows ahead of time.
  • Beware of legal pitfalls – don’t subject yourself HIPAA violations.
  • Consider how to promote the Member’s goals and follow the Member’s scheduling process.

Preparation & Production

  • Raise webcams to peoples’ eye levels. On Zoom or Skype calls, people have a tendency to point their nostrils right into the camera – you don’t want that of course.
  • Simulate eye contact and look toward the camera by positioning the video conference window near the camera.
  • Dress nicely! Don’t wear a T-shirt or any ratty clothing.
  • Make sure of your background – ideally create a virtual background.
  • Keep it simple – getting too fancy risks breakdowns.
  • Practice and test everything.
  • Have back-up plans.
  • Close all unnecessary apps and programs from your event.
  • Avoid having a bunch of cameras open at once, thereby looking like “The Brady Bunch.”
  • Check “share audio” when sharing videos. If on Zoom, check the boxes on the bottom left.
  • Have different people handle different tasks; don’t put everything on one person’s shoulders.


Why I Really Attended

We’re pulling together a great virtual National Forum for you, taking place on five successive Wednesdays in September – the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd & 30th. Click here for the preliminary agenda and please mark your calendar now. In the age of Covid, virtual is the way to go this year, so we’re going to do it right for you. Registration opening up soon.

Share this