Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Preparing for oral testimony

​Prepare Your Message:

  1. Review background information on the issue you plan to testify on. Answer these questions.

      • ​How did this issue come before the committee?

      • Why is this issue relevant?

      • How is this issue currently addressed by law?

      • ​​What stage is the issue in the legislative process and what is the next step in the process?

  2. ​Personalize your testimony. This is effective because it comes across as sincere, is usually straightforward and easy to understand. It is also easiest to prepare because you are expressing your own feelings and relating your experiences. What is your personal experience with the issue? What does it mean to you?

  3. Develop three key points you want to convey. Tie these points to how the issue impacts your audience. Make it personal. Use anecdotes from your practice or your community. Avoid jargon and too many statistics. Speak in layperson's terms.​

Know your presentation environment. Legislators often enter and leave during hearings. Your testimony should be concise and accurate. Study the environment where you will be presenting to make the most out of limited time. Take the time to head down to the state house and sit in on a committee hearing.

Generally people are allowed 2-3 minutes to provide testimony. Some committees have systems of lights that are used (Green, good; yellow, 1 minute left; red, stop). Prepare for a little less time to present than you are granted. It is always best to yield back a few seconds to the chair rather than go over time. Be prepared to state a strong conclusion quickly and concisely in case you run out of time.

Spend time walking the halls. Time walks from one relevant committee room to the other, and one chamber to the other. Gather committee's chair name and background on the committee members.

Practice. Now that you took the time to prepare for your day at the capitol, practice your delivery.

  • Present to a friend or spouse. Make yourself feel comfortable with the subject. Time yourself and remember that in most circumstances you will have no more than 3 minutes.
  • Emphasize your key points. What is it that you want the committee to remember when you leave the hearing room? Emphasize those points.
  • Make it personal. Tell your story and describe how this issue effects your practice, where you live, your family and your community. Be unique.
  • Questions & Answers. Be ready to answer difficult questions, and prepare responses to criticism. Practice answering questions in as few words as possible. Do not be long winded. For any answer that may require more than pointed response, offer to provide additional information in writing. If you don't know the answer to a question, say: "I don't know." Get back to the legislator with the answer immediately. You do not want to get caught up in a conversation based off an incorrect statement.
  • Reverse Roles. Get to understand your opposition..

Day of the Hearing.

  • ​Wear conservative/business attire.
  • Arrive early.
  • Sign up to speak.
  • Review written testimony of other parties. Meet other witnesses on your panel or other panels. 
  • ​Focus on your main points.​

Adapting an oral testimony >>​​​​

© 2017-2018 Community Associations Institute