Reem is an associate consultant at Grassroots Public Affairs and is based in Ottawa. Reem can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
When it comes to lobbying government, I have learned it goes beyond scheduled meetings and formal conversations; it also includes maximizing each and every encounter, and embracing the unforeseen opportunities that can arise.
Recently, I had the opportunity of participating in two distinct lobby days — one federal and one provincial — both offering invaluable lessons in the power of face-to-face advocacy communications.
The federal lobby day at Parliament Hill focused on an important health issue and the meetings and stories I heard were deeply moving. These advocacy meetings were not uniform scripted discussions; they included powerful personal stories that resonated with who we were meeting with on a whole new level. Hearing directly from patient stakeholders enriched my understanding of their cause and strengthened the foundation for future advocacy endeavours.
A key takeaway was the importance of listening carefully by being fully present during conversations. Given the constant distractions we face daily, being present isn’t just about physically being there; it’s about full engagement, actively taking in every meeting detail. PT Barnum famously said, “Comfort is the enemy of progress,” and I agree. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone, even in familiar settings, is pivotal for professional and personal growth. Each client meeting, despite the number attendees, presents an opportunity to build relationships and evolve one’s communication skills.
The provincial lobby day at the smaller Queen’s Park legislature highlighted a contrast between federal and provincial environments, emphasizing the value of casual interactions. An informal morning reception created space for genuine conversations with MPPs, highlighting how brief encounters can help build important relationships with government officials which over time can lead to substantial commitments benefiting the client’s cause.
The value of being physically on-site cannot be overstated. While our clients were engaged in meetings where my presence wasn’t necessary, spending time in the Quorum Café at Queen’s Park proved invaluable. Seizing the chance to network with government officials unexpectedly led to a meaningful conversation with my own Member of Provincial Parliament. This impromptu interaction resulted in a commitment for a future meeting. Time and again I observe that face-to-face conversations cannot be imitated digitally.
Word of caution: engaging with officials should always be done respectfully and without intruding on their breaks. Yet, being where the action is can lead to some surprising encounters so next time you find yourself in line for a slice of carrot cake (author’s note: which is amazing at the Queen’s Park cafeteria!) and there stands your MPP, say hello. One never knows where a courteous exchange may lead.
In essence, I’ve learned that the art of effective lobbying goes far beyond routine meetings and formal conversations — it is about fully immersing yourself in the face-to-face experience and building those personal relationships. Each instance, each conversation, whether on Parliament Hill or at Queen’s Park offers a canvas for growth, fostering deeper connections, and future opportunities. Being fully present and engaged is paramount. A seemingly small moment may lead to progress and action.
– Reem Wahab, Associate Consultant