Often, matters of public concern are considered at public hearings. At the State Capitol, there are a few tips to understand for someone who is interested in testifying at a public hearing.
How to Prepare
1. Call the committee clerk ahead of time to learn the place, time and procedure for the hearing: are public officials going to speak first, how long is allotted for each speaker, etc.
2. Prepare a statement:
a. Identify yourself and the organization or town you represent.
b. State your position for or against the proposed bill; identify the bill by name and number.
c. Summarize your recommendations first and then give explanation.
d. Sum up your position at the end.
e. Thank the committee for the opportunity to speak.
3. Rehearse your testimony. Anticipate questions you might be asked and practice answering them.
4. If several people are speaking from the same organization, divide up the points to be made with each speaker addressing different areas.
5. Keep your testimony SHORT –most committees limit testimony to 3 minutes.
6. Bring copies of your prepared statement for the entire committee and the press. Be sure the clerk has a copy for the record (about 50 copies). Double-space all your copies and type on only one side of the paper for easy reading. All capitals are not easier to read. Keep a copy of your statement in your files.
On the Big Day
7. Arrive early to sign up, indicating that you wish to testify. Usually, media coverage is given to those who speak early at a hearing.
8. If there is a microphone, your mouth should be about six inches from it. Move the mike, if necessary, to the right position for you. If they can’t hear you, you are ineffective, no matter how carefully your statement was prepared.
9. Answer only those questions that you can answer correctly. Offer to find the answers to others and get back promptly to committee members with the information.
10. Avoid arguing with members of the committee and with people giving opposing testimony.
11. 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 concur with the testimony given by the preceding speakers and urge them to take the appropriate action.
12. Put copies of your testimony in the Capitol mailboxes of committee members who were not at the hearing.
13. If you have a valid, 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, ask to speak. Sometimes these from-the-heart “statements” can be the most convincing of all.