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10 top tips for working with Ministers

10 top tips for working with Ministers

  1. Be clear about what you want to achieve.  
    1. If you get a meeting with a Minister, time will be short and you will need to make your points succinctly and clearly
  2. Do your homework
    1. Don’t ‘wing it’.  Having worked out what you want to achieve from the meeting, do some research on what you think the response will be.  Eg Have there been any Ministerial speeches on the subject across government. Does the Minister have any personal interests in this area eg in their consitutency? What is realistic to expect and what is going to be time badly spent?
  3. Engage with the private office
    1. The Civil servants who run the ministers office are there to support the minister and make sure the meeting goes well.  Submit a proposed agenda in advance to them and start a dialogue (even if by email) before the meeting
  4. Engage with the civil servants
    1. The policy officials for your area will be asked to provide a briefing note for the meeting, and this may include briefing materials from other Government departments.  Work closely with the policy official to let them know what you would like to achieve from the meeting and ask them to guide you as to what is realistic (in their view) and what are the best avenues to pursue in the meeting.
  5. Invite the right people from your side. 
    1. Time will be short, so don’t turn up with lots of your own team.  Pick the key people who need to be there based on what you want to get out of the meeting.
  6. Relax
    1. Most Ministers are informed and very socially skilled, so when in the meeting be prepared for some small talk and just be yourselves.  If you can build up a genuine rapport there is more chance of your case being heard. 
  7. Be succinct
    1. Don’t give the Minister a full history of the issue – start with the main points and give the necessary background only.  Most Ministers will already have been briefed on what you are going to say.
  8. Listen
    1. The biggest mistake made in all meetings is not listening.  Try to listen to what the Minister and their senior officials are saying, and try to work out what they are implying too (between the lines).  Ideally tailor your message as you go along to take account of what you think can be agreed and negotiatied. 
  9. Follow up
    1. Leave with a set of action points and agree with the civil servants which actions are for you/them to follow up on.  Ideally do this before you leave the building and send an email confirmation with the agreed a follow up plan.
  10. Ask for feedback
    1. Ask the civil servants how they think the meeting went and how you/your organisation can improve your engagement on future occasions.
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