Guidelines for Successful Testimony

Have you ever witnessed someone at a meeting become passionate about an issue and make the decision to speak? Often they let their emotions guide their comments. And while this passion is a good thing, if the speaker is not prepared, it can lead to a dialogue that becomes irrelevant, inappropriate or does not contribute to the decision making process. And those they are trying to influence stop listening.

The same is true in Tallahassee. In committee meetings during session, time limits on speakers are necessary and stringently adhered to by the committee chair.  So with only a few minutes to explain your position, you want to deliver the most powerful message in a very short time.  A challenge to be sure, but you can do it successfully…IF you’re prepared and keep your emotions in check. Here’s how:

  • It’s okay to have your presentation in front of you at the podium, however DON’T read it and not make eye contact with the members. If you’re not looking at them, they’re not looking at you!
  • Members (especially the committee chair) respect speakers that know the committee rules. Familiarize yourself with them by observing a committee hearing either in Tallahassee or on line before you plan to testify.
  • Respect and honor the time limit allotted by the committee chair. It may change at their discretion once the meeting begins, so make every effort to adjust your presentation accordingly.
  • Make sure you’ve completed an appearance card and turned it into the Sergeant before the meeting starts. Committee chairs rely upon these cards to plan their time and ensure the meeting starts and ends on schedule.
  • Answer the members’ questions as directly as possible. Often a speaker has a “point” to make and will attempt to make that point…no matter what. Members are asking questions for a reason, and appreciate direct answers.
  • Only answer what they ask you. If they want you to elaborate, they’ll ask you to do so.
  • If speaking in opposition, let them know immediately. The members appreciate your honesty. Couple that with the proper statistics to support your position and while they may disagree, they will respect you and pay attention to your comments.
  • Don’t speak just for the sake of speaking. If you have something new to add, by all means share it. Especially if may persuade a member’s vote or is a personal story.
  • If you’re sharing a personal story or fiscal impact…start with it! A compelling story or fiscal information gets and keeps the members’ attention throughout your presentation.
  • For elected officials – Speak their language – know the words/phrases that get and keep their attention and use them within your testimony.
    • Unintended consequences
    • Government efficiency
    • Engaged citizenry
    • Hardworking taxpayers
    • Transparency and accountability
    • Practical considerations
    • Get bill in proper posture
    • Due diligence
    • Economic benefits
    • Remove regulations
    • Deficiencies in the law
    • Greater oversight
    • Burdensome regulations
    • Over regulated
    • Bill components

With little time and a lot to say…being prepared can be the catalyst to success!

Your Partner in Advocacy…Kathy