Happy New Year!! Okay, I know I’m a little early, but I also know you’re eagerly awaiting the return of your legislators to the state capitol in January so this month I wanted to remind you just how easy it is to testify before a legislative body. Whether you’re working an issue at the city, county, state or federal level the basics are the same – and they’re easy!
Remember to identify yourself. You’d be surprised how many people forget to do this! Share your name, the name of the organization you represent including how many members you have and, if you know it, the number of employees those members have on their payroll. In this case, numbers are impressive!
Keep your testimony short and to the point. If you’re weighing in on a popular or controversial issue, there may be lots of people in line to speak so limit your comments to 3-5 minutes. Sometimes committee chairmen even time your testimony in an effort to keep things moving so be prepared to adjust your comments accordingly (usually 3 minutes).
Look at committee members. This is your big chance to connect with the people who will be making the decision whether to move your issue forward or not. It’s okay to have your testimony written out and in front of you, but try not to read it as you will make a stronger impression if you can look committee members in the eye as you are speaking.
Think about the words you are using. It’s so much easier to bring people along to your way of thinking if they can “see” in their mind’s eye what you are talking about. To that end, avoid words like “infrastructure” that are vague and non-descriptive. Instead, talk about roads and bridges, energy generation and transmission facilities, water and wastewater systems, etc. The more specific you can be, the better your audience will understand you and the more likely they will be to agree with your point of view.
Testifying before elected officials is really pretty easy and fun. Be prepared, relax and you’ll leave a lasting impression.