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Testifying at Public Hearings

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Public hearings are very important in the legislative process since they not only provide a great deal of detail to a legislator on the bills and issues, they also give an opportunity for people to put a human face to the impact of what they are considering.

Should you find yourself in the position of speaking at a public hearing, you will need to draw upon many of the same skills and rules that govern the other ways of speaking with legislators. Brevity, a good understanding of the facts, personal experience and courtesy are all essential in delivering effective testimony. The one major difference is that you are now addressing a number of legislators from a variety of backgrounds and constituencies, rather than just your local legislator.

Organize your thoughts in advance and get to the point of your testimony early on. Clearly state where you stand on the issue and why, and address the issue from a personal experience. This is an opportunity for legislators to assess the impact of their actions on real people.

Some additional thoughts:

  • If you have a prepared statement, bring copies for all members of the committee and summarize it rather than reading it verbatim.
  • Dress as you would for a job interview.
  • Send a copy of your testimony to your local media. It can help generate more awareness of the issue and increase support.