Guidance for Public Testimony

Giving public testimony is a unique opportunity we have as voters to speak directly to our leaders regarding our opinions about the decisions placed in front of them.

How your testimony is given will have an effect on the way your message and arguments are received and how the broader movement representing your issue is viewed. 

Here are some general guidelines we recommend when coming to testify on, for, or against any bill at the Capitol.  

Etiquette

  • Be professional at all times.
  • Remember that everything about you is communicating. Your body language, what you wear, your tone of voice, what you say and how you say it.
  • Children can provide powerful testimony. For authenticity we recommend their testimony be written by them specifically. Avoid having them read prewritten scripts written by someone else. 

Opposition 

  • Remember that your focus is about speaking truth with humility, not winning every argument or having the last word.  
  • Try to focus on the substance of what you disagree/agree with about the bill(s) you are testifying about and don’t get distracted by other issues not pertaining to the bill.
  • Always be thankful, gracious, and avoid making attacks on personal character, also, be careful not to make assumptions about things you are unsure of, like peoples’ motives.
  • Exercise care in pronouncing judgment on specific individuals. 

Helpful tips

  • Make good use of your time. Avoid tangents which may provide helpful context but will end up taking too much of your time leaving little time left for your main message.
  • Write out your testimony word-for-word before you come and if needed simply read it slowly and succinctly to the committee. 
  • Time yourself before you speak so you are not surprised by how short or how long your testimony may be.
  • Be aware that the committee chair can change the time limit allowed for testimony during the hearing which would require you to shorten your remarks. 
  • Speak on what you know; don’t feel pressured to venture outside of your area of competency. You might be asked questions by the committee so stick with points you can defend or personal experience.
  • Sticking to one specific argument/point which you are passionate and/or knowledgeable about may keep the committee’s attention better than trying to cover everything in a short amount of time. 
  • Be ready for a long day and a lot of waiting.  

Testimony Arc

When preparing your testimony against a bill, think of your presentation as an arc covering the following points. 

  • Any reason why you may be particularly credible to speak on this topic (position, experience, profession, etc)
  • Start with reasons why you are opposing a bill being heard.
  • Expand on why the proposed bill/solution is not working.
  • Expand on what your solution to the problem is. 
  • End your testimony with what you want the committee to do with a specific call to action.

Things to bring

  • Something to write and edit your testimony on
  • Food
  • Water
  • Battery charger for phone with cord 

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” Proverbs 25:15