Three steps for organizing an effective candidate meeting

Set up and plan a meeting with the candidate

The easiest way to set up a meeting is to phone or email the candidate’s campaign office and ask to speak with the scheduler. Finding candidate contact information is easy—just search for their name online to find their campaign website to find all the information you need.

  • When speaking to the scheduler or campaign manager, it is important to tell them who you represent and what you would like to discuss.
  • If possible, be flexible when scheduling a date and confirm the meeting a day or two before. You can take advantage of the availability of Zoom and other platforms for a virtual meeting, which would allow more flexibility and would likely increase your chances of securing a meeting with the candidate.
  • Candidates like to know who you are and who you are representing, therefore it may be helpful to include in your confirmation e-mail a note of introduction. Repeat what you will be discussing with them and why it is an important issue in their riding. If you have material to share with them (ex. OCUFA election material or issue briefs), you can email it to the candidate ahead of the meeting.

Meetings are often more effective, and less intimidating, if you go in a small group of two or three.

  • The composition of the group should reflect the diversity and the interests of your faculty association.
  • If you have another association in your immediate area, you might consider teaming up with them for the meeting.
  • Your group should have a main spokesperson who starts the meeting and sets the tone.

In advance, it is important to plan the issues you want to address. You will probably only have about 20-30 minutes for a meeting. Attempting to address more than three or four issues will be very difficult in this limited time.

  • You may want to highlight the need for increased university funding, faculty renewal, and fairness for contract faculty, which are OCUFA’s election priorities.
  • You should note how these concerns affect your university and provide examples and stories where possible.
  • It is always a good idea to emphasize the beneficial impact your institution has on the wider community.

The meeting

The meeting will have two primary components:

  • The presentation of your position (as a representative of both your association and OCUFA); and
  • The gathering of information and commitments from the candidate.

The key to a successful meeting is presenting your facts and ideas in a clear and concise manner. An effective lobby effort is essentially a good communications campaign.

  • Don’t forget, you will likely know a good deal more about the issue than the candidate, so start with the basics.
  • Avoid long or overly detailed presentations to allow time for the candidate to ask questions and have a conversation with you.
  • Make sure to personalize your key messages by showing the candidate how your concerns are reflected in the riding and at your institution.
    • What difference would more public funding make at your university?
    • What working conditions do contract faculty face at your institution?
    • Has your department or institution had sufficient full-time faculty hiring in recent years?
    • How have high tuition fees and levels of student debt impacted students on your campus?

Also, take a few moments to consider how to present your issues to candidates from different parties. While you should never misrepresent or depart from your priorities, individuals from different ideological perspectives will respond better to certain types of messages (for example, for a candidate who is very interested in small business, you may wish to emphasize the economic benefits that flow from a well-funded and high-quality university). It is important to make concrete suggestions on how they can help make the necessary changes happen.

Time management is crucial to a successful meeting. There is nothing more frustrating than running out of time before you have a chance to ask the candidate all of your key questions.

  • Try to avoid getting sidetracked by arguments or conversations about other topics that don’t serve your priorities.
  • Firmly and politely state your case and the logic behind it—then move on.
  • Do not be afraid to politely interject and steer the conversation back to your key messages.

If a candidate has a question you cannot answer or an objection to which you do not feel you can respond, do not feel that you have to come up with a response in the meeting. Tell the candidate you are not sure what the answer is, but that you can follow up with a response. Make a note of their question and pass the information along to OCUFA. We can help provide you with an answer.

Once you have outlined your position and concerns, ask the candidate to state their position and the position of their government if elected.

  • Feel free to make notes during the meeting and make sure to write down their responses and comments to direct questions.
  • If you plan to publish or make public the candidate’s positions, you should disclose this prior to starting the meeting.
  • If the candidate provides you with direct responses or positions on issues relevant to OCUFA’s election advocacy, make sure to inform OCUFA staff so they can keep record and follow up.

Leaving business cards and information behind is always a good idea. OCUFA staff can assist you in preparing material for this purpose.

Follow up

After the meeting, send the candidate an email thanking them for their time and reinforcing the key points you made in the meeting. Don’t forget to send them a summary of the meeting, any information or background you may have promised. Also consider sending the candidate any important updates on issues—especially those in which they took a particular interest.

An effective lobby strategy includes a long-term plan to keep in contact with the candidate. You can strengthen your relationship with the candidate by offering them information that is helpful for their endeavours (e.g. studies or information on a subject of mutual interest). This also creates an avenue for you to include your message within the information you are giving. Candidates will view you as a helpful ally.

You may want to suggest a follow-up meeting, an invitation for them to address your members at a membership meeting or town hall, tour of a facility or demonstration of something of interest (e.g. new technology) within the riding. Candidates appreciate opportunities to engage with the public and be seen in high traffic areas. Inform media, including student newspapers, of the candidate’s presence. Again, this promotes a long-term relationship and will help engage the candidate with the issue.