For many housing advocates, the NLIHC Policy Conference and Lobby Day is one of the highlights of the year. It’s a great opportunity to learn from experts in federal policy, connect with other advocates, and educate your congressional delegation about the low income housing needs in your district.

Here are a few tips to help you have the best possible experience this year:

1)      Make a reservation. Planning on visiting your congressional delegation during Lobby Day? Be sure to schedule your visits ahead of time to ensure busy lawmakers and their staff will have time for your group. Go to and enter your ZIP code to find your lawmakers’ contact information.

2)      Dress for success. The truth about hotel conference rooms is that they’re never the right temperature for everybody. And the truth about the weather in Washington, DC is that anything and everything can happen at the end of March! Your best bet is to come prepared: bring that umbrella or rain coat as well as your sunglasses, and make sure to dress in plenty of layers so that no matter what the weather (or the air conditioning) does, you’ll be comfortable indoors and out. Remember also that you might be doing more walking than usual (especially on Lobby Day). Wear your sturdiest, most comfortable shoes, and don’t be afraid to take a break when you need one.

3)      Study up. Do you know what conference sessions you plan to attend? Check out the conference schedule here. If you’ve got questions about any of the topics, write them down so that you’re prepared to ask the panelists. Panelists might not be able to speak to a specific situation you are encountering in your local community, but you will be able to take the information you learn at the conference and apply it back at home

4)      Two heads are better than one. Speaking of local communities, chances are there are attendees from other parts of the country who have faced the same issues you have. The Policy Conference is a great opportunity to trade strategies and share information with other advocates. Make it a goal to talk to one new person at each session you attend, and by the end of the conference you’ll have built a network of allies from across the country.

5)      Get oriented. Washington, DC is a fun city that is easy to get around using public transportation. Metro, DC’s public transit company, has a visitor kit that’s available in 11 different languages. Download it here. The Omni Shoreham hotel is just a stone’s throw away from the eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood. Learn more about the dining and nightlife options in Adams Morgan here.

6)      Table it. The conference doesn’t just have plenaries and workshops. It has tables, too! In the foyer outside the main room you’ll find our exhibitor space. Be sure to look out for the Communications Team table on blogging for advocacy, and our Tenant Talk table, where you can sign up to receive our special publication just for low income tenants and tell us what you’d like it to include. Finally, if you want to be prepared for Lobby Day, check out the Legislative Action Center. This center will have lobby day talking points covering key issues, and you’ll be able to print out your congressional district data, ask questions, and set up lobby visits.

Have a tip or experience from the Policy Conference you’d like to share? Talk about it in the comments!