Tips for Testifying Before the Commission
Testifying before a committee or any governmental body can be a daunting experience, but it is also a significant way for citizens to impact the legislative process. To help students prepare testimony for the Michigan House Civics Commission, we offer the following suggestions:
The first step in preparing testimony is to do your research. Know your topic and your position well, backing up your ideas with facts, not merely your opinion. Poorly presented and argued testimony can do more harm to your cause than not testifying at all.
Prepare a clear, concise written statement, typed if possible. Make at least 22 copies which will be distributed to the committee. This will give them a chance to read over your proposal again after the meeting is over.
You can show charts and other statistical and graphic information if it helps explain and illustrate your clearly stated position. For example, if you are debating ice cream makers for kids, make sure you have references, charts and websites to support your argument.
When you testify, identify who you are, which school you attend, and the issue or idea that you wish to address.
Keep your testimony short and to the point, limiting your testimony to no more than five minutes. Rambling, disorganized speaking that strays off of your proposal can quickly bore or offend your listeners. Find your best arguments and highlight them.
Don't get overly angry or hostile in presenting your testimony. This can quickly turn off people even before they have heard your position. Abraham Lincoln said it best, "If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend."
Commission members may ask questions, so know your proposal or topic well enough to be able to answer questions. On the other hand, if you don't know the answer, don't make something up. Tell the questioner that you will try to find the answer and get back to them at a later date.