One of the most common sights in Washington, D.C. is the fly-in lobby days. People from off the Hill flood the hotel conference rooms of our Nation’s capital, sometimes in droves and others in trickles, so they can learn how to effectively carry their group’s message to their representatives. The largest effect of this is making life hard on the people that are already hard at work in DC. Woe is the life of a lobbyist who is just on time for a meeting only to see a line at the nearest security entrance where people are being held up for not realizing that metal detectors are, among other things, very good at detecting metal. Successful fly-in days are few and far between, though I am happy to write that earlier this week at least one organization got their fly-in day right and got the biggest bang for their members’ buck.
ASAE – The Center for Association Leadership, held their fly-in for members from throughout the country at the Hyatt Regency earlier this week and, having attended more than my share of these events, hit on exactly what a good fly-in day should be. There were panels that educated the visitors what to say, and more importantly, what to specifically ask for. Too often, people get caught-up in the moment speaking to the Members or staff that they forget to give the specifics for why they are there and what they are hoping to accomplish, leading to a wasted meeting and opportunity. Or they use the general “we want you to make things better” without offering a how, to which staff usually respond “we’ll look into that… or something…” Additionally, the panel went out of their way to instruct people what not to say, which is sometimes more important.
Also included was a panel on social media that was dedicated to both the follow-up for Hill meetings, and also to organize the ASAE membership. I’ve stated before that no matter how many members an organization has, being unable to reach them makes them all but useless, a point that ASAE demonstrated.
The often over looked part of the fly-in is the follow-up, which is really where most of the best lobby-related benefits from a fly-in are found. Too often the staff for an organization is focused on the day itself or the post-Hill day to properly see the future and long-term goals of a fly-in. Additionally, visitors are often tired after their day(s) of meetings and just want to get home without doing a proper de-briefing of what went on in their meetings. As a result, staff inquiries and contacts are often lost in shuffle and not properly followed-up with. ASAE used a special database and submission system in addition to the standard methods to keep track of contacts and conversations during the fly-in.
It is also good to see a well done fly-in day. Too often are they treated as vacations or an excuse to vent to staff when they should be done with a longer-term legislative goal or series of objectives in mind. More fly-ins like this will make all involved roll their eyes a little less when they see the groups walking down the hall. Now if only something could be done about the metal detector lines…
For more information about the ASAE lobby day, click here. Lobbyblog.com is published by Columbia Books Inc., which was a sponsor of the event and provider of Congressional Handbooks for ASAE.