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A Guide to Preparing and Giving
Legislative Testimony

I.  Introduction

Whether you are planning to speak at a legislative hearing or just submit written testimony, this tutorial will help you deliver an effective message!

Giving legislative testimony is an opportunity not to be taken lightly. It is one of the most effective ways to educate legislators and policymakers about the impact, either positive or negative, that proposed legislation or legislative change might have, especially for specific groups of individuals such as the elderly or persons with disabilities. Legislators aren't always aware of all the implications a particular piece of legislation may have on their constituents, especially on underserved individuals. Providing this testimony and education clearly and professionally is very important, and can dramatically help you or your organization achieve the results you are seeking.

The following tutorial includes guidelines for preparing, writing, and giving testimony plus two examples of actual testimony given at two Connecticut public hearings. While the examples are specific to Connecticut, this guide overall should be helpful and applicable to developing legislative testimony in other states as well.

II.  Guidelines for Testifying Before the Legislature

  • Your testimony should be short - no longer than 3 to 5 minutes. Speak from your own personal experience.
  • Since you will be submitting copies of your testimony for distribution to your state legislators, it is best to type your testimony using a word processing program (e.g., MS Word) to ensure its legibility. If you don't have access to a word processing program, try to get help from someone who does.
  • When preparing your testimony, type on one side of the paper only and double-space all your testimony for ease of reading. It is also helpful to use a large enough text size to be read comfortably.
  • Follow this outline for preparing your statement:
    1. Identify yourself and the organization you represent;
    2. State your position as "for" or "against" the proposed bill; identify the bill by name and number;
    3. Summarize your recommendations first, and then add explanation;
    4. Restate your position at the end of your testimony;
    5. Thank the committee for the opportunity to speak.
  • Rehearse your testimony!  Anticipate questions you might be asked and practice answering them.
  • Arrive early and sign-up. Make sure you follow any procedures that have been published, and indicate that you wish to testify. Generally, speakers will testify in the same order as their names appear on the sign-up sheet. Note, however, that some committees are now using a lottery system to determine the order in which people will testify.
  • Bring enough copies of your prepared statement for the entire committee. Be sure the committee clerk has a copy for the official record of the hearing. They usually ask for 50 to 60 copies of your testimony.
  • If your testimony is very technical, ask the committee clerk to hand out copies of your testimony to the committee before you testify.
  • If there is a microphone, speak directly into it (keep the mike about 6 inches from your mouth). If necessary, move or adjust the microphone. If you cannot be heard, your testimony will not be effective, regardless of how carefully your statement was prepared.
  • Do not repeat points made by speakers ahead of you. If all of the points you wanted to make have been made, tell the committee you agree with the testimony given by the preceding speakers and urge them to take the appropriate action.
  • Answer only those questions that you can answer correctly, and answer as clearly and succinctly as you can. Offer to find the answers to other questions and promptly get back to the committee members with the information.
  • If several people are speaking from the same organization, divide up the points to be made with each speaker addressing different areas.
  • Do not argue with members of the committee or with people giving opposing testimony.
  • Put copies of your testimony into the mail boxes at the Capitol of committee members who were not present at the hearing. (Ask for directions to the legislative mail room.)
  • Keep a copy of your statement in your files.
  • If you have a valid or interesting testimony, but have not prepared a statement, or if you discover after listening to others that there is something you urgently wish to contribute, at the end of the hearing, ask to speak.

NextExample Testimony #1

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