Draft Testimony

Draft Congressional Testimony

Testifying before policymakers is a challenging, yet rewarding, and very effective way of providing information to legislators. Effectiveness of the testimony depends, in part, on the witness's’ knowledge, preparedness, and ability to answer questions.

Before actually drafting the testimony, research the topic thoroughly in order to be able to substantiate your statements. It is best to cite the most current research available. Define your goal in testifying (What do you want to accomplish?), Then, stick to that message.

Prepare both a written and oral statement. The written statement may be longer and allows you to explore the topic in more depth. Any data supporting your thesis should be attached to the written statement. If the statement is for a congressional committee, copies must be submitted 48 hours prior to a hearing. Contact the committee staff well in advance to determine how many copies you have to submit and how long you are allocated for the oral statement. Make sure you have other reviewers read both statements to ensure they are clear, accurate, well-organized, and grammatically correct.

The oral statement is the one that you will deliver during the hearing. Essentially, it is a summary of the written statement and highlights the most salient points you want emphasized. The most important thing you can do before you testify is practice! If possible, videotape yourself delivering the statement. Then practice in front of some volunteers who can critique your delivery. It is best to know the statement well enough to be able to talk to the group rather than read to them. This reinforces the perception that you know your subject matter and are confident in your beliefs about the topic.

Be prepared to answer questions but if you don’t know an answer, admit it and offer to research the issue and submit the response in writing after the hearing. Recognize that you may be asked many more questions than you may have to respond to in writing. And, because of the success of your testimony, you may be identified as a subject matter expert. As such, you will be consulted to provide expertise and opinions for the group.

Finally, it is very important to send a thank-you letter acknowledging the committee for the opportunity to testify. A short summary of the recommendations made in your statements is an effective way of reiterating your position.