This week I would like to give some general tips on speaking at a committee hearing. Citizens will need to research a bit on their own to see how things are done for the body they wish to testify in front of however no matter if it is City Council, State legislature or even on the Federal level should you be called to testify there are some basics in common that I will share with you today.
Do your homework
When testifying before a committee it is very important that you not speak only from your point of passion, that you also have very concrete facts to support your position. Facts need to be collected from reputable sources and not merely from blogs that are created to push an agenda and are not fair and unbiased. Good sites to visit are industry associations, scientific or university sites. Time magazine and Newsweek periodicals are considered reputable as are specific studies from researchers and pollsters. Look to your Secretary of State and Elections information to see how voters may have voted about the issue in question or a similar issue. This can be a very effective piece of information.
Once you have gathered all the data, take the best bits of it and prepare a handout sheet for the legislators to look at back at their office at their leisure. Make sure to have talking points only take up one piece of paper with the most important compelling information also include your contact information on the sheet should the elected officials want to contact you for follow up.
If you are working with an organization or are particularly skilled you may include a copy of the Legislation that you would like to have passed. Perhaps something that another state or community passed as an example to the legislator. That would be the only reason why you would want to have a second page. Make sure to staple it and have copies ready to pass to the committee’s secretary who will distribute it to the committee.
Requesting to speak at a hearing is different depending on the venue. On a Federal level testifying is by invitation only. In my State of Arizona, citizens must go down to the state capital to register into the Arizona Legislative Information System or ALIS. After registering in the system they may request to speak from that system by logging on to their personal computer at home. One may request to speak or merely state their position and not speak at the hearing.
Each state is different check with your state’s website or with your legislature to find out what the proper procedure is where you live.
Addressing the Committee
Be sure to arrive at the Committee hearing or meeting at least fifteen minutes prior to the start time to be sure to make it to the room and prepare materials. You will be called up to speak if there is time depending on the amount of people registered to speak and how much time has been alloted for the meeting. As a general rule people are given the opportunity to speak for up to three minutes. During this time you will state your name and sometimes address for the record. You will state any organization that you may be representing. Then go into your prepared statement.
Another part of doing your homework is to know the names of the people who are on the board or committee you are addressing. Often name plates will be showing to assist you however it is still good to know this information going in. When offering your prepared statement first thank the Chairman or Chairwoman and the board or committee for the chance to give your statement. Then proceed with a brief statement of the information you compiled, your personal story and any other relevant information. You will end your presentation with “Thank you I would be happy to answer any question you may have.”
If someone does ask you a question or addresses you in a way that you will answer them back you always address the Chair and then the person asking the question if they are someone different from the Chairperson. For example Mr. Chair/ Madame Chair, Senator Jones and then proceed to answer Senator Jone’s question.
Do not return to your seat or leave the table until you have been dismissed by the Chairperson.
Some people put together PowePoint presentations which can be very powerful at times. However, be prepared to go either way as some venues are not prepared for PowerPoint or because of time constraints you may not be permitted to use it so be prepared either way.
By using these ways of preparing for committee testimonial you will be looked on with respect and in a professional manner which hopefully will lead to the success of the legislation that you support.
Next time we will discuss candidates. Who are they? How are they selected? How can we get the type of candidate we want elected?
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Until next time,