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Public Testimony Tips

Why Give Public Testimony

Jennifer Osborne and Margaret Crittendon address legislators and their aides, Partners in Policymaking project.

Jennifer Osborne and Margaret Crittendon address legislators and their aides, 2005 Partners in Policymaking project.

Public testimony is an effective way to help policymakers understand how an issue, policy or situation affects people across the state, presents difficulties or addresses needs. Public testimony also gives you the opportunity to show your support for what is being considered by the legislature.

Public speaking can be somewhat scary, especially for people who do not do it all of the time. But with some preparation, giving public testimony can be simple.

Preparing and Practicing Your Testimony

Most committees will limit the time witnesses have, so expect to have three minutes. Decide what you want to say in advance, and practice, practice, practice!

Practicing what you are going to say out loud in front of a mirror can help you become comfortable with your testimony and the words you want to use.

If you practice in front of your friends or family you will feel less nervous when you speak to a larger group. This will also give you an opportunity to get feedback on how to improve your message.

It is also a good idea to prepare two versions of your testimony — one that summarizes your message in 3 minutes — and a longer, written version that you can give to the legislators. If you take written testimony, call the committee office to find out how many copies you will need. If you do not have time to type up your testimony or make copies, you should still testify.

At the Hearing

There will be a sign-up sheet at the hearing. Speakers are taken in order of first come-first served. Legislators, state agency staff and invited speakers are allowed to testify first.

Be respectful and professional. State who you are and the organization you represent.

Try not to read your testimony.

Identify your concerns and how you think the legislators can help. Offer to answer questions.

Remain aware of time limits, but do not hurry through your testimony. Take your time and be relaxed. They will let you know when your time is over.

Thank the legislators for their time and consideration of your position.

Other Ways to Give Testimony

If you do not wish to speak, you have the option of filling out a testimony card to state your position on an issue. You can also submit written testimony in lieu of speaking.

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