Guidelines for Testifying

Giving Testimony

Giving testimony at a legislative committee hearing can be an exciting and fulfilling experience if you are prepared. It is not as difficult or intimidating as it might seem at first. Your testimony can easily be broken down into sections. Just follow these steps to prepare your testimony!

  1. Greeting and Introduction

    • Begin your testimony by greeting the chair or chairs of the committee.
    • State your name, where you are from, and what group or organization (if any) you may be representing.
    • State your position “for” or “against” the proposed bill, identifying the bill by name and number.
  2. Body of Testimony Statement

    • Keep it brief and direct. Think of your testimony in terms of a letter to the editor. Your testimony should not be longer than three minutes.
    • Summarize your position.
    • State or list the reasons for taking your position. Legislators are not always aware of how a particular piece of legislation will affect specific groups e.g. the elderly or disabled, women, undeserved populations. Include any facts, figures, statements, and experiences to support your position. You are trying to give lawmakers some insight as to the effects the legislation will have on their constituents.
    • Keep it personal. You can either chose to tell your own story (my personal experience) or address how the bill would effect your family, colleagues, or the public in general (what the bill would mean to me.) Ask yourself the following questions. Why is the issue important to me? What do you want to change about this issue? How would your life or those you might represent be different if this issue were to change?
    • Do not repeat points made by speakers ahead of you. If all the points you wanted to make have been made, tell the committee that you agree with the testimony given by the preceding speakers and urge them to take appropriate action.
    • If you are speaking to a bill as part of a legislative effort by MCFL, discuss your planned testimony with someone at MCFL so that each speaker will be addressing different points to be made at the hearing.
  3. Closing Your Testimony Statement

    • Restate your position at the end of your testimony.
    • Thank the committee for the opportunity to speak.
    • Be prepared to answer questions from committee members about your testimony or your position on the bill. These are designed to gain additional information. If you do not know the answer to a question, be honest and do not answer the question. Instead, tell the members you will send a written answer to the committee and then follow through. Your response to a question is always through the Chair. For example, “Madame Chair________, Senator/Representative ______________ the answer to your question is…..”
  4. After you complete your testimony, give the committee Secretary enough copies for all members of the committee. You can determine how many copies you will need by going to www.malegislature.gov and click committees. Click on House, Senate or Joint committee and then the committee hearing the bill.

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