University of Florida

Speaking with Policymakers about Current Issues

It’s important that agriculture and natural resource industry professionals and educators communicate with policymakers, but discussing controversial subjects is not always easy. Additionally, local, state, and national policymakers often have busy schedules, so those who want to speak with them must deliver strong messages in effective ways.

The following 10 tips can help you speak with policymakers about current issues:

  1. Start by educating policymakers on a certain topic (increase their knowledge or broaden their horizon), and then persuade them by narrowing down options. This can focus their attention and motivate them to select one of the options presented.
  2. Respect the policymaker’s time by presenting only the information he or she needs to know. Be concise and to the point.
  3. Use storytelling, rather than statistics, to engage the policymaker.
  4. While telling a compelling story can be a great tool, stay on topic and keep your message clear.
  5. Refrain from using technical jargon and terms that only an expert in your field would understand. Instead, use simple terms that aren’t too elementary.
  6. Discuss current issues—keep decision cycles and calendars in mind.
  7. Don’t lose the policymaker’s interest by presenting too many complicated graphs and figures.
  8. Practice your speech before you meet with the policymaker.
  9. Respect policymakers’ insights—they can understand how the information you present will impact their constituents.
  10. Recognize the policymaker’s limitations and remember that the information you present may conflict with his or her current situation.

These strategies can help those in the agriculture and natural resource industries better communicate with policymakers, ensuring that different perspectives are presented.

Adapted and excerpted from:

A. J. Lamm, Speaking with Policymakers About Current Issues (WC152), UF/IFAS Agricultural Education and Communication Department (08/2013).


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