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What is Congressional Testimony?

Congressional testimony is information shared at a congressional committee hearing by an issue expert in order to inform legislative action. Committees in Congress (and state legislatures, too) work on a staggering number of issues. Calling witnesses and gathering testimony allows lawmakers to explore issues, collect data, argue their positions, and hear input from different points of view. Witnesses can include academics, government officials, advocacy organizations, subject-matter experts, constituents, and just about anyone else lawmakers want to hear from. In some cases, witnesses are asked to submit testimony in writing. In others, they are asked to appear. The result is a Q&A session with a witness giving a statement and then taking questions—sometimes tough questions—from lawmakers. For public affairs teams, congressional testimony can be an opportunity as it offers the chance to highlight your organization’s expertise, defend your position on an issue, and make that case directly to a committee or subcommittee. While there is always risk in appearing before Congress and taking questions, with every word recorded and transcribed, careful preparation can minimize problems.

Types of Congressional Hearings

Hearings can vary a great deal depending on the topic, the political environment and whether they take place before the House, the Senate, or a joint committee, but they do fit into several basic categories:
  • Legislative Hearings. These are held to collect input on policy, often as a prelude to legislation.
  • Oversight Hearings. These exercise the supervisory role of Congress, often focusing on the performance of federal programs or government officials.
  • Investigative Hearings. These are the hearings where many would prefer to avoid the witness table. Congress has broad authority to investigate government and private-sector activity, including the power to subpoena records and testimony. These probes sometimes unveil wrongdoing, which can lead to referral to the Department of Justice for criminal charges or to legislation.
  • Confirmation Hearings. These are held in the Senate to confirm presidential nominees such as cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Most are routine, though some recent instances have generated controversy, like Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing.
  • Field Hearings. These are hearings held outside Washington DC, often in locations where the policy under consideration has a heavy impact.

How to Write Testimony for a Bill

Committees solicit testimony for a reason. Congressional staff spend a great deal of time preparing for hearings (for a sense of the time, take a look at procedures in the Senate) and are usually clear about the role they want your organization to play. Often, it is to provide informed expertise from a certain point of view, and your organization should strive to give the committee what it wants to hear. While every appearance before Congress is different, there are some common features. Written testimony should be 3-5 minutes when spoken aloud, unless otherwise specified. When preparing testimony, consider these steps:
  1. Greet the committee and identify yourself, your organization and your credentials, if appropriate.
  2.  Summarize your position on the issue under discussion.
  3. Make your argument succinctly and support it with facts and data.
  4. Introduce anecdotes and personal stories to support your argument.
  5. Summarize your position.
  6. Thank the committee and take questions.
Remember that this is a speech and it should be written as such. Read it aloud with a timer on and revise until you have language that can be delivered smoothly. Reading congressional testimony samples from your organization or others may help. Templates, such as this guide by the Community Associations Institute, can also help.

The Dos and Don’ts of Testifying Before Congress

The goal is to recite a speech largely from memory, referring to notes only when you need a specific quote or data point. Simply reading a written speech will feel dull and scripted. Instead, the goal is to speak to the committee, delivering authentic and compelling testimony. As in all of advocacy, there are some best practices and some things to avoid.

Dos

Here are some considerations to successfully testify before Congress:
  • Understand the Environment. Some lawmakers will support your position and others will stand in opposition. Knowing who is who is important, and your lobbying team will be a key resource. They can explain who is supportive, who is antagonistic, and who is indifferent. In fact, they can contact congressional staff in advance to learn exactly where lawmakers stand. Knowing the landscape will help you write testimony, identify tough lines of questioning, and develop solid responses.
  • Choose Your Messenger. In some cases, committees will invite a specific person to testify, like a CEO. In other cases, organizations have some say over who they send. The committee is looking for a point of view and the organization can suggest who should appear. Who you send to testify is very important and should be considered carefully. Top executives and spokespeople may be the everyday face of your organization, but that does not mean they will perform well in a committee room. Often, a member of the public affairs team or a subject matter expert with solid credentials is a better choice. No matter who you choose, they should be a solid public speaker who is confident in a role that requires delivering an argument and then defending it.
  • Assemble a Team. Create a team with experts from legal, policy, government affairs, communications, and any other department that may be helpful. This team can not only vet and polish testimony after it is written, but they can prepare the person testifying for questions they are likely to encounter and how they can best respond.
  • Practice in Advance. There’s a reason that most U.S. presidents practice their State of the Union speech. They want to be well prepared and comfortable when they face Congress. Your organization should too. Whomever is set to testify should practice delivering their testimony before your team and then answer questions as though they were before the committee. This will get them used to taking tough queries and help them create solid answers. It’s a good way to work out language that addresses questions fully while also advancing your organization’s point of view.
  • Include Personal Stories. A lot of wonky stuff happens in Congress and lawmakers can be forgiven for occasionally glazing over. But you don’t want them to do that during your testimony. One way to make it compelling is to deliver personal stories from real people. Many organizations collect these stories through advocacy campaigns, and then use them when the time is right. Congressional testimony is a good time to do so because anecdotes humanize your argument and make it relatable.
  • Use Statistics Correctly. Data too should be compelling. While every organization has statistics, unleashing a torrent of numbers is rarely helpful. Often, the points get lost. A better approach is to use your organization’s data to uncover the high-impact numbers that best tell your story, and then repeat those to punch home the central points that you want lawmakers to retain.
  • Don’t Forget Communications. There is much your organization can do to communicate around an appearance on Capitol Hill. If the issue is important, you can get your narrative and the accompanying data points to news outlets in advance. Then, notify reporters that your organization is testifying and provide the written testimony. After the hearing, you can put out a release with salient quotes, release video clips and make your expert available for interviews. The same approach can be taken on your own channels. Let your audience know that your organization testified before Congress and tell them what was said, with photos and video. Post the testimony on your site, so it can be quoted by others.

Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when testifying before Congress:
  • Disrespect and Condescension. While Congress is much maligned, it is still the highest deliberative body in the land and respect for both the committee and the proceeding is important. Make sure that testimony is not condescending or overly aggressive.
  • Inconsistency. Be sure that messaging used in communications outside the hearing room matches the testimony delivered to lawmakers, both in substance and tone. Using one approach when talking to lawmakers and another when talking about lawmakers could lead to problems.
  • Guessing. Do not answer a question unless you know the answer to be true. If you do not know the answer, say so and promise to get the information to the committee after the hearing.
  • Deception. Never lie or mislead members of Congress or their staff. Every organization is expected to deliver its spin on an issue, but it is not acceptable to cross the line into deception. Organizations that do so suffer reputational damage that often cannot be repaired. It can also lead to legal trouble, especially in the case of an investigation. Providing a false statement to Congress can be a crime

Preparing for a Hostile Hearing

Hostile hearings are part of the political process. If your organization has been invited to testify in an environment where you may be questioned aggressively, special preparation is required. In these situations, political intelligence in advance of the hearing will be crucial in order to determine what line of questioning your organization will face and where that scrutiny will arise. Knowing where key committee members stand, and what they are likely to do in the hearing, will be vital. Preparing your witness is also far more important in a hostile hearing. Your team must anticipate tough questions; formulate responses to convey your organization’s position; and then practice using mock exercises until your witness is comfortable. If you think the hearing will be covered by news outlets, preparing a media response plan may be prudent, along with a plan to communicate directly with your own audience.

The Day of the Hearing

There may be nerves on the day of the hearing. Here are some tips to ensure testimony goes smoothly:
  • Arrive Early. Check in with committee staff, ask for the agenda and see if there are any changes. Your testimony will be sent in advance, but make sure you have copies available.
  • Listen to the Proceedings. You will want to know what the witnesses before you have said.
  • Check the Mic. Make sure that it is the right height and that you can be heard without booming.
  • Avoid Repetition. If those who came before you made your same points, you can concur and expound, highlighting information that only your organization can provide.
  • Do Not Argue. Do not clash with lawmakers or fellow witnesses. You can disagree, but do so without direct argument.

After the Hearing

When the hearing closes, it is important to follow up properly. Make sure you have a post-hearing plan. This may include:
  • Committee Members. Outreach to relevant committee members is essential to ascertain how your testimony was received and how it may have changed the legislative landscape. Your lobbyists will be central to this effort.
  • News Media. Your organization may want to do some communication around the testimony, such as publishing a release and the testimony or offering interview opportunities.
  • Internal Communications. It is often useful to update employees on the testimony and how it was received. Anyone who will get questions from outside the organization should be briefed.
  • External Communication. Testifying before Congress show’s your organization's influence and expertise. That may be worth sharing with your audience, whether they are members, supporters, customers or partners.
  • Postgame Analysis. After the hearing, your team will want to gather to discuss high points, low points, next steps and what can improve next time.

Prepare for Congressional Testimony With Quorum

Quorum can help your team prepare to testify. Legislative tracking software can monitor bills as they move through the system. It can also provide insight into committee members such as how they have voted, which bills they co-sponsored, and what they are saying on social media. Many organizations also append their own data, such as notes from lawmaker meetings, talking points, action alerts, and other information that documents your interaction with the committee and its members. All of your interactions with the committee can be documented, all in one place. [post_title] => Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congressional-testimony [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 8546 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'congressional-testimony' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8546 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_content] => Americans have been treated to a lot of televised testimony in recent years as Congress investigated everything from social media platforms to post-election mayhem. It has yielded some very dramatic moments. In the last five years, we have seen Mark Zuckerberg explain how Facebook works, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh defend his teenage conduct, Twitter executives explain censorship, and a slew of former White House aides discuss the final days of the Trump administration. Yet, the truth is that most testimony before Congress is far more mundane, and hearings often represent an opportunity for public affairs teams. While investigations do happen and testifying under those circumstances can be a white-knuckle experience, the mission of most hearings is to gather information and hear expertise on a bill or an issue. When you’re called as the expert, it can give you a great opportunity to present the perspective of your organization and its stakeholders.

What is Congressional Testimony?

Congressional testimony is information shared at a congressional committee hearing by an issue expert in order to inform legislative action. Committees in Congress (and state legislatures, too) work on a staggering number of issues. Calling witnesses and gathering testimony allows lawmakers to explore issues, collect data, argue their positions, and hear input from different points of view. Witnesses can include academics, government officials, advocacy organizations, subject-matter experts, constituents, and just about anyone else lawmakers want to hear from. In some cases, witnesses are asked to submit testimony in writing. In others, they are asked to appear. The result is a Q&A session with a witness giving a statement and then taking questions—sometimes tough questions—from lawmakers. For public affairs teams, congressional testimony can be an opportunity as it offers the chance to highlight your organization’s expertise, defend your position on an issue, and make that case directly to a committee or subcommittee. While there is always risk in appearing before Congress and taking questions, with every word recorded and transcribed, careful preparation can minimize problems.

Types of Congressional Hearings

Hearings can vary a great deal depending on the topic, the political environment and whether they take place before the House, the Senate, or a joint committee, but they do fit into several basic categories:
  • Legislative Hearings. These are held to collect input on policy, often as a prelude to legislation.
  • Oversight Hearings. These exercise the supervisory role of Congress, often focusing on the performance of federal programs or government officials.
  • Investigative Hearings. These are the hearings where many would prefer to avoid the witness table. Congress has broad authority to investigate government and private-sector activity, including the power to subpoena records and testimony. These probes sometimes unveil wrongdoing, which can lead to referral to the Department of Justice for criminal charges or to legislation.
  • Confirmation Hearings. These are held in the Senate to confirm presidential nominees such as cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Most are routine, though some recent instances have generated controversy, like Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing.
  • Field Hearings. These are hearings held outside Washington DC, often in locations where the policy under consideration has a heavy impact.

How to Write Testimony for a Bill

Committees solicit testimony for a reason. Congressional staff spend a great deal of time preparing for hearings (for a sense of the time, take a look at procedures in the Senate) and are usually clear about the role they want your organization to play. Often, it is to provide informed expertise from a certain point of view, and your organization should strive to give the committee what it wants to hear. While every appearance before Congress is different, there are some common features. Written testimony should be 3-5 minutes when spoken aloud, unless otherwise specified. When preparing testimony, consider these steps:
  1. Greet the committee and identify yourself, your organization and your credentials, if appropriate.
  2.  Summarize your position on the issue under discussion.
  3. Make your argument succinctly and support it with facts and data.
  4. Introduce anecdotes and personal stories to support your argument.
  5. Summarize your position.
  6. Thank the committee and take questions.
Remember that this is a speech and it should be written as such. Read it aloud with a timer on and revise until you have language that can be delivered smoothly. Reading congressional testimony samples from your organization or others may help. Templates, such as this guide by the Community Associations Institute, can also help.

The Dos and Don’ts of Testifying Before Congress

The goal is to recite a speech largely from memory, referring to notes only when you need a specific quote or data point. Simply reading a written speech will feel dull and scripted. Instead, the goal is to speak to the committee, delivering authentic and compelling testimony. As in all of advocacy, there are some best practices and some things to avoid.

Dos

Here are some considerations to successfully testify before Congress:
  • Understand the Environment. Some lawmakers will support your position and others will stand in opposition. Knowing who is who is important, and your lobbying team will be a key resource. They can explain who is supportive, who is antagonistic, and who is indifferent. In fact, they can contact congressional staff in advance to learn exactly where lawmakers stand. Knowing the landscape will help you write testimony, identify tough lines of questioning, and develop solid responses.
  • Choose Your Messenger. In some cases, committees will invite a specific person to testify, like a CEO. In other cases, organizations have some say over who they send. The committee is looking for a point of view and the organization can suggest who should appear. Who you send to testify is very important and should be considered carefully. Top executives and spokespeople may be the everyday face of your organization, but that does not mean they will perform well in a committee room. Often, a member of the public affairs team or a subject matter expert with solid credentials is a better choice. No matter who you choose, they should be a solid public speaker who is confident in a role that requires delivering an argument and then defending it.
  • Assemble a Team. Create a team with experts from legal, policy, government affairs, communications, and any other department that may be helpful. This team can not only vet and polish testimony after it is written, but they can prepare the person testifying for questions they are likely to encounter and how they can best respond.
  • Practice in Advance. There’s a reason that most U.S. presidents practice their State of the Union speech. They want to be well prepared and comfortable when they face Congress. Your organization should too. Whomever is set to testify should practice delivering their testimony before your team and then answer questions as though they were before the committee. This will get them used to taking tough queries and help them create solid answers. It’s a good way to work out language that addresses questions fully while also advancing your organization’s point of view.
  • Include Personal Stories. A lot of wonky stuff happens in Congress and lawmakers can be forgiven for occasionally glazing over. But you don’t want them to do that during your testimony. One way to make it compelling is to deliver personal stories from real people. Many organizations collect these stories through advocacy campaigns, and then use them when the time is right. Congressional testimony is a good time to do so because anecdotes humanize your argument and make it relatable.
  • Use Statistics Correctly. Data too should be compelling. While every organization has statistics, unleashing a torrent of numbers is rarely helpful. Often, the points get lost. A better approach is to use your organization’s data to uncover the high-impact numbers that best tell your story, and then repeat those to punch home the central points that you want lawmakers to retain.
  • Don’t Forget Communications. There is much your organization can do to communicate around an appearance on Capitol Hill. If the issue is important, you can get your narrative and the accompanying data points to news outlets in advance. Then, notify reporters that your organization is testifying and provide the written testimony. After the hearing, you can put out a release with salient quotes, release video clips and make your expert available for interviews. The same approach can be taken on your own channels. Let your audience know that your organization testified before Congress and tell them what was said, with photos and video. Post the testimony on your site, so it can be quoted by others.

Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when testifying before Congress:
  • Disrespect and Condescension. While Congress is much maligned, it is still the highest deliberative body in the land and respect for both the committee and the proceeding is important. Make sure that testimony is not condescending or overly aggressive.
  • Inconsistency. Be sure that messaging used in communications outside the hearing room matches the testimony delivered to lawmakers, both in substance and tone. Using one approach when talking to lawmakers and another when talking about lawmakers could lead to problems.
  • Guessing. Do not answer a question unless you know the answer to be true. If you do not know the answer, say so and promise to get the information to the committee after the hearing.
  • Deception. Never lie or mislead members of Congress or their staff. Every organization is expected to deliver its spin on an issue, but it is not acceptable to cross the line into deception. Organizations that do so suffer reputational damage that often cannot be repaired. It can also lead to legal trouble, especially in the case of an investigation. Providing a false statement to Congress can be a crime

Preparing for a Hostile Hearing

Hostile hearings are part of the political process. If your organization has been invited to testify in an environment where you may be questioned aggressively, special preparation is required. In these situations, political intelligence in advance of the hearing will be crucial in order to determine what line of questioning your organization will face and where that scrutiny will arise. Knowing where key committee members stand, and what they are likely to do in the hearing, will be vital. Preparing your witness is also far more important in a hostile hearing. Your team must anticipate tough questions; formulate responses to convey your organization’s position; and then practice using mock exercises until your witness is comfortable. If you think the hearing will be covered by news outlets, preparing a media response plan may be prudent, along with a plan to communicate directly with your own audience.

The Day of the Hearing

There may be nerves on the day of the hearing. Here are some tips to ensure testimony goes smoothly:
  • Arrive Early. Check in with committee staff, ask for the agenda and see if there are any changes. Your testimony will be sent in advance, but make sure you have copies available.
  • Listen to the Proceedings. You will want to know what the witnesses before you have said.
  • Check the Mic. Make sure that it is the right height and that you can be heard without booming.
  • Avoid Repetition. If those who came before you made your same points, you can concur and expound, highlighting information that only your organization can provide.
  • Do Not Argue. Do not clash with lawmakers or fellow witnesses. You can disagree, but do so without direct argument.

After the Hearing

When the hearing closes, it is important to follow up properly. Make sure you have a post-hearing plan. This may include:
  • Committee Members. Outreach to relevant committee members is essential to ascertain how your testimony was received and how it may have changed the legislative landscape. Your lobbyists will be central to this effort.
  • News Media. Your organization may want to do some communication around the testimony, such as publishing a release and the testimony or offering interview opportunities.
  • Internal Communications. It is often useful to update employees on the testimony and how it was received. Anyone who will get questions from outside the organization should be briefed.
  • External Communication. Testifying before Congress show’s your organization's influence and expertise. That may be worth sharing with your audience, whether they are members, supporters, customers or partners.
  • Postgame Analysis. After the hearing, your team will want to gather to discuss high points, low points, next steps and what can improve next time.

Prepare for Congressional Testimony With Quorum

Quorum can help your team prepare to testify. Legislative tracking software can monitor bills as they move through the system. It can also provide insight into committee members such as how they have voted, which bills they co-sponsored, and what they are saying on social media. Many organizations also append their own data, such as notes from lawmaker meetings, talking points, action alerts, and other information that documents your interaction with the committee and its members. All of your interactions with the committee can be documented, all in one place. [post_title] => Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congressional-testimony [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 1 [current_post] => -1 [before_loop] => 1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 8546 [post_author] => 43 [post_date] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_content] => Americans have been treated to a lot of televised testimony in recent years as Congress investigated everything from social media platforms to post-election mayhem. It has yielded some very dramatic moments. In the last five years, we have seen Mark Zuckerberg explain how Facebook works, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh defend his teenage conduct, Twitter executives explain censorship, and a slew of former White House aides discuss the final days of the Trump administration. Yet, the truth is that most testimony before Congress is far more mundane, and hearings often represent an opportunity for public affairs teams. While investigations do happen and testifying under those circumstances can be a white-knuckle experience, the mission of most hearings is to gather information and hear expertise on a bill or an issue. When you’re called as the expert, it can give you a great opportunity to present the perspective of your organization and its stakeholders.

What is Congressional Testimony?

Congressional testimony is information shared at a congressional committee hearing by an issue expert in order to inform legislative action. Committees in Congress (and state legislatures, too) work on a staggering number of issues. Calling witnesses and gathering testimony allows lawmakers to explore issues, collect data, argue their positions, and hear input from different points of view. Witnesses can include academics, government officials, advocacy organizations, subject-matter experts, constituents, and just about anyone else lawmakers want to hear from. In some cases, witnesses are asked to submit testimony in writing. In others, they are asked to appear. The result is a Q&A session with a witness giving a statement and then taking questions—sometimes tough questions—from lawmakers. For public affairs teams, congressional testimony can be an opportunity as it offers the chance to highlight your organization’s expertise, defend your position on an issue, and make that case directly to a committee or subcommittee. While there is always risk in appearing before Congress and taking questions, with every word recorded and transcribed, careful preparation can minimize problems.

Types of Congressional Hearings

Hearings can vary a great deal depending on the topic, the political environment and whether they take place before the House, the Senate, or a joint committee, but they do fit into several basic categories:
  • Legislative Hearings. These are held to collect input on policy, often as a prelude to legislation.
  • Oversight Hearings. These exercise the supervisory role of Congress, often focusing on the performance of federal programs or government officials.
  • Investigative Hearings. These are the hearings where many would prefer to avoid the witness table. Congress has broad authority to investigate government and private-sector activity, including the power to subpoena records and testimony. These probes sometimes unveil wrongdoing, which can lead to referral to the Department of Justice for criminal charges or to legislation.
  • Confirmation Hearings. These are held in the Senate to confirm presidential nominees such as cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Most are routine, though some recent instances have generated controversy, like Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing.
  • Field Hearings. These are hearings held outside Washington DC, often in locations where the policy under consideration has a heavy impact.

How to Write Testimony for a Bill

Committees solicit testimony for a reason. Congressional staff spend a great deal of time preparing for hearings (for a sense of the time, take a look at procedures in the Senate) and are usually clear about the role they want your organization to play. Often, it is to provide informed expertise from a certain point of view, and your organization should strive to give the committee what it wants to hear. While every appearance before Congress is different, there are some common features. Written testimony should be 3-5 minutes when spoken aloud, unless otherwise specified. When preparing testimony, consider these steps:
  1. Greet the committee and identify yourself, your organization and your credentials, if appropriate.
  2.  Summarize your position on the issue under discussion.
  3. Make your argument succinctly and support it with facts and data.
  4. Introduce anecdotes and personal stories to support your argument.
  5. Summarize your position.
  6. Thank the committee and take questions.
Remember that this is a speech and it should be written as such. Read it aloud with a timer on and revise until you have language that can be delivered smoothly. Reading congressional testimony samples from your organization or others may help. Templates, such as this guide by the Community Associations Institute, can also help.

The Dos and Don’ts of Testifying Before Congress

The goal is to recite a speech largely from memory, referring to notes only when you need a specific quote or data point. Simply reading a written speech will feel dull and scripted. Instead, the goal is to speak to the committee, delivering authentic and compelling testimony. As in all of advocacy, there are some best practices and some things to avoid.

Dos

Here are some considerations to successfully testify before Congress:
  • Understand the Environment. Some lawmakers will support your position and others will stand in opposition. Knowing who is who is important, and your lobbying team will be a key resource. They can explain who is supportive, who is antagonistic, and who is indifferent. In fact, they can contact congressional staff in advance to learn exactly where lawmakers stand. Knowing the landscape will help you write testimony, identify tough lines of questioning, and develop solid responses.
  • Choose Your Messenger. In some cases, committees will invite a specific person to testify, like a CEO. In other cases, organizations have some say over who they send. The committee is looking for a point of view and the organization can suggest who should appear. Who you send to testify is very important and should be considered carefully. Top executives and spokespeople may be the everyday face of your organization, but that does not mean they will perform well in a committee room. Often, a member of the public affairs team or a subject matter expert with solid credentials is a better choice. No matter who you choose, they should be a solid public speaker who is confident in a role that requires delivering an argument and then defending it.
  • Assemble a Team. Create a team with experts from legal, policy, government affairs, communications, and any other department that may be helpful. This team can not only vet and polish testimony after it is written, but they can prepare the person testifying for questions they are likely to encounter and how they can best respond.
  • Practice in Advance. There’s a reason that most U.S. presidents practice their State of the Union speech. They want to be well prepared and comfortable when they face Congress. Your organization should too. Whomever is set to testify should practice delivering their testimony before your team and then answer questions as though they were before the committee. This will get them used to taking tough queries and help them create solid answers. It’s a good way to work out language that addresses questions fully while also advancing your organization’s point of view.
  • Include Personal Stories. A lot of wonky stuff happens in Congress and lawmakers can be forgiven for occasionally glazing over. But you don’t want them to do that during your testimony. One way to make it compelling is to deliver personal stories from real people. Many organizations collect these stories through advocacy campaigns, and then use them when the time is right. Congressional testimony is a good time to do so because anecdotes humanize your argument and make it relatable.
  • Use Statistics Correctly. Data too should be compelling. While every organization has statistics, unleashing a torrent of numbers is rarely helpful. Often, the points get lost. A better approach is to use your organization’s data to uncover the high-impact numbers that best tell your story, and then repeat those to punch home the central points that you want lawmakers to retain.
  • Don’t Forget Communications. There is much your organization can do to communicate around an appearance on Capitol Hill. If the issue is important, you can get your narrative and the accompanying data points to news outlets in advance. Then, notify reporters that your organization is testifying and provide the written testimony. After the hearing, you can put out a release with salient quotes, release video clips and make your expert available for interviews. The same approach can be taken on your own channels. Let your audience know that your organization testified before Congress and tell them what was said, with photos and video. Post the testimony on your site, so it can be quoted by others.

Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when testifying before Congress:
  • Disrespect and Condescension. While Congress is much maligned, it is still the highest deliberative body in the land and respect for both the committee and the proceeding is important. Make sure that testimony is not condescending or overly aggressive.
  • Inconsistency. Be sure that messaging used in communications outside the hearing room matches the testimony delivered to lawmakers, both in substance and tone. Using one approach when talking to lawmakers and another when talking about lawmakers could lead to problems.
  • Guessing. Do not answer a question unless you know the answer to be true. If you do not know the answer, say so and promise to get the information to the committee after the hearing.
  • Deception. Never lie or mislead members of Congress or their staff. Every organization is expected to deliver its spin on an issue, but it is not acceptable to cross the line into deception. Organizations that do so suffer reputational damage that often cannot be repaired. It can also lead to legal trouble, especially in the case of an investigation. Providing a false statement to Congress can be a crime

Preparing for a Hostile Hearing

Hostile hearings are part of the political process. If your organization has been invited to testify in an environment where you may be questioned aggressively, special preparation is required. In these situations, political intelligence in advance of the hearing will be crucial in order to determine what line of questioning your organization will face and where that scrutiny will arise. Knowing where key committee members stand, and what they are likely to do in the hearing, will be vital. Preparing your witness is also far more important in a hostile hearing. Your team must anticipate tough questions; formulate responses to convey your organization’s position; and then practice using mock exercises until your witness is comfortable. If you think the hearing will be covered by news outlets, preparing a media response plan may be prudent, along with a plan to communicate directly with your own audience.

The Day of the Hearing

There may be nerves on the day of the hearing. Here are some tips to ensure testimony goes smoothly:
  • Arrive Early. Check in with committee staff, ask for the agenda and see if there are any changes. Your testimony will be sent in advance, but make sure you have copies available.
  • Listen to the Proceedings. You will want to know what the witnesses before you have said.
  • Check the Mic. Make sure that it is the right height and that you can be heard without booming.
  • Avoid Repetition. If those who came before you made your same points, you can concur and expound, highlighting information that only your organization can provide.
  • Do Not Argue. Do not clash with lawmakers or fellow witnesses. You can disagree, but do so without direct argument.

After the Hearing

When the hearing closes, it is important to follow up properly. Make sure you have a post-hearing plan. This may include:
  • Committee Members. Outreach to relevant committee members is essential to ascertain how your testimony was received and how it may have changed the legislative landscape. Your lobbyists will be central to this effort.
  • News Media. Your organization may want to do some communication around the testimony, such as publishing a release and the testimony or offering interview opportunities.
  • Internal Communications. It is often useful to update employees on the testimony and how it was received. Anyone who will get questions from outside the organization should be briefed.
  • External Communication. Testifying before Congress show’s your organization's influence and expertise. That may be worth sharing with your audience, whether they are members, supporters, customers or partners.
  • Postgame Analysis. After the hearing, your team will want to gather to discuss high points, low points, next steps and what can improve next time.

Prepare for Congressional Testimony With Quorum

Quorum can help your team prepare to testify. Legislative tracking software can monitor bills as they move through the system. It can also provide insight into committee members such as how they have voted, which bills they co-sponsored, and what they are saying on social media. Many organizations also append their own data, such as notes from lawmaker meetings, talking points, action alerts, and other information that documents your interaction with the committee and its members. All of your interactions with the committee can be documented, all in one place. [post_title] => Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => congressional-testimony [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-23 21:15:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/?post_type=resources&p=8546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 1 [max_num_pages] => 0 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => 1 [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_privacy_policy] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => 1 [is_robots] => [is_favicon] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 5f4ad672bb2c952e906f75fdf374c827 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [allow_query_attachment_by_filename:protected] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
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Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony

Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony

Americans have been treated to a lot of televised testimony in recent years as Congress investigated everything from social media platforms to post-election mayhem. It has yielded some very dramatic moments.

In the last five years, we have seen Mark Zuckerberg explain how Facebook works, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh defend his teenage conduct, Twitter executives explain censorship, and a slew of former White House aides discuss the final days of the Trump administration.

Yet, the truth is that most testimony before Congress is far more mundane, and hearings often represent an opportunity for public affairs teams. While investigations do happen and testifying under those circumstances can be a white-knuckle experience, the mission of most hearings is to gather information and hear expertise on a bill or an issue. When you’re called as the expert, it can give you a great opportunity to present the perspective of your organization and its stakeholders.

What is Congressional Testimony?

Congressional testimony is information shared at a congressional committee hearing by an issue expert in order to inform legislative action. Committees in Congress (and state legislatures, too) work on a staggering number of issues. Calling witnesses and gathering testimony allows lawmakers to explore issues, collect data, argue their positions, and hear input from different points of view. Witnesses can include academics, government officials, advocacy organizations, subject-matter experts, constituents, and just about anyone else lawmakers want to hear from. In some cases, witnesses are asked to submit testimony in writing. In others, they are asked to appear. The result is a Q&A session with a witness giving a statement and then taking questions—sometimes tough questions—from lawmakers.

For public affairs teams, congressional testimony can be an opportunity as it offers the chance to highlight your organization’s expertise, defend your position on an issue, and make that case directly to a committee or subcommittee. While there is always risk in appearing before Congress and taking questions, with every word recorded and transcribed, careful preparation can minimize problems.

Types of Congressional Hearings

Hearings can vary a great deal depending on the topic, the political environment and whether they take place before the House, the Senate, or a joint committee, but they do fit into several basic categories:

  • Legislative Hearings. These are held to collect input on policy, often as a prelude to legislation.
  • Oversight Hearings. These exercise the supervisory role of Congress, often focusing on the performance of federal programs or government officials.
  • Investigative Hearings. These are the hearings where many would prefer to avoid the witness table. Congress has broad authority to investigate government and private-sector activity, including the power to subpoena records and testimony. These probes sometimes unveil wrongdoing, which can lead to referral to the Department of Justice for criminal charges or to legislation.
  • Confirmation Hearings. These are held in the Senate to confirm presidential nominees such as cabinet secretaries and Supreme Court justices. Most are routine, though some recent instances have generated controversy, like Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearing.
  • Field Hearings. These are hearings held outside Washington DC, often in locations where the policy under consideration has a heavy impact.

How to Write Testimony for a Bill

Committees solicit testimony for a reason. Congressional staff spend a great deal of time preparing for hearings (for a sense of the time, take a look at procedures in the Senate) and are usually clear about the role they want your organization to play. Often, it is to provide informed expertise from a certain point of view, and your organization should strive to give the committee what it wants to hear.

While every appearance before Congress is different, there are some common features. Written testimony should be 3-5 minutes when spoken aloud, unless otherwise specified. When preparing testimony, consider these steps:

  1. Greet the committee and identify yourself, your organization and your credentials, if appropriate.
  2.  Summarize your position on the issue under discussion.
  3. Make your argument succinctly and support it with facts and data.
  4. Introduce anecdotes and personal stories to support your argument.
  5. Summarize your position.
  6. Thank the committee and take questions.

Remember that this is a speech and it should be written as such. Read it aloud with a timer on and revise until you have language that can be delivered smoothly. Reading congressional testimony samples from your organization or others may help. Templates, such as this guide by the Community Associations Institute, can also help.

The Dos and Don’ts of Testifying Before Congress

The goal is to recite a speech largely from memory, referring to notes only when you need a specific quote or data point. Simply reading a written speech will feel dull and scripted. Instead, the goal is to speak to the committee, delivering authentic and compelling testimony. As in all of advocacy, there are some best practices and some things to avoid.

Dos

Here are some considerations to successfully testify before Congress:

  • Understand the Environment. Some lawmakers will support your position and others will stand in opposition. Knowing who is who is important, and your lobbying team will be a key resource. They can explain who is supportive, who is antagonistic, and who is indifferent. In fact, they can contact congressional staff in advance to learn exactly where lawmakers stand. Knowing the landscape will help you write testimony, identify tough lines of questioning, and develop solid responses.
  • Choose Your Messenger. In some cases, committees will invite a specific person to testify, like a CEO. In other cases, organizations have some say over who they send. The committee is looking for a point of view and the organization can suggest who should appear. Who you send to testify is very important and should be considered carefully. Top executives and spokespeople may be the everyday face of your organization, but that does not mean they will perform well in a committee room. Often, a member of the public affairs team or a subject matter expert with solid credentials is a better choice. No matter who you choose, they should be a solid public speaker who is confident in a role that requires delivering an argument and then defending it.
  • Assemble a Team. Create a team with experts from legal, policy, government affairs, communications, and any other department that may be helpful. This team can not only vet and polish testimony after it is written, but they can prepare the person testifying for questions they are likely to encounter and how they can best respond.
  • Practice in Advance. There’s a reason that most U.S. presidents practice their State of the Union speech. They want to be well prepared and comfortable when they face Congress. Your organization should too. Whomever is set to testify should practice delivering their testimony before your team and then answer questions as though they were before the committee. This will get them used to taking tough queries and help them create solid answers. It’s a good way to work out language that addresses questions fully while also advancing your organization’s point of view.
  • Include Personal Stories. A lot of wonky stuff happens in Congress and lawmakers can be forgiven for occasionally glazing over. But you don’t want them to do that during your testimony. One way to make it compelling is to deliver personal stories from real people. Many organizations collect these stories through advocacy campaigns, and then use them when the time is right. Congressional testimony is a good time to do so because anecdotes humanize your argument and make it relatable.
  • Use Statistics Correctly. Data too should be compelling. While every organization has statistics, unleashing a torrent of numbers is rarely helpful. Often, the points get lost. A better approach is to use your organization’s data to uncover the high-impact numbers that best tell your story, and then repeat those to punch home the central points that you want lawmakers to retain.
  • Don’t Forget Communications. There is much your organization can do to communicate around an appearance on Capitol Hill. If the issue is important, you can get your narrative and the accompanying data points to news outlets in advance. Then, notify reporters that your organization is testifying and provide the written testimony. After the hearing, you can put out a release with salient quotes, release video clips and make your expert available for interviews. The same approach can be taken on your own channels. Let your audience know that your organization testified before Congress and tell them what was said, with photos and video. Post the testimony on your site, so it can be quoted by others.

Don’ts

Here are some things to avoid when testifying before Congress:

  • Disrespect and Condescension. While Congress is much maligned, it is still the highest deliberative body in the land and respect for both the committee and the proceeding is important. Make sure that testimony is not condescending or overly aggressive.
  • Inconsistency. Be sure that messaging used in communications outside the hearing room matches the testimony delivered to lawmakers, both in substance and tone. Using one approach when talking to lawmakers and another when talking about lawmakers could lead to problems.
  • Guessing. Do not answer a question unless you know the answer to be true. If you do not know the answer, say so and promise to get the information to the committee after the hearing.
  • Deception. Never lie or mislead members of Congress or their staff. Every organization is expected to deliver its spin on an issue, but it is not acceptable to cross the line into deception. Organizations that do so suffer reputational damage that often cannot be repaired. It can also lead to legal trouble, especially in the case of an investigation. Providing a false statement to Congress can be a crime

Preparing for a Hostile Hearing

Hostile hearings are part of the political process. If your organization has been invited to testify in an environment where you may be questioned aggressively, special preparation is required.

In these situations, political intelligence in advance of the hearing will be crucial in order to determine what line of questioning your organization will face and where that scrutiny will arise. Knowing where key committee members stand, and what they are likely to do in the hearing, will be vital.

Preparing your witness is also far more important in a hostile hearing. Your team must anticipate tough questions; formulate responses to convey your organization’s position; and then practice using mock exercises until your witness is comfortable.

If you think the hearing will be covered by news outlets, preparing a media response plan may be prudent, along with a plan to communicate directly with your own audience.

The Day of the Hearing

There may be nerves on the day of the hearing. Here are some tips to ensure testimony goes smoothly:

  • Arrive Early. Check in with committee staff, ask for the agenda and see if there are any changes. Your testimony will be sent in advance, but make sure you have copies available.
  • Listen to the Proceedings. You will want to know what the witnesses before you have said.
  • Check the Mic. Make sure that it is the right height and that you can be heard without booming.
  • Avoid Repetition. If those who came before you made your same points, you can concur and expound, highlighting information that only your organization can provide.
  • Do Not Argue. Do not clash with lawmakers or fellow witnesses. You can disagree, but do so without direct argument.

After the Hearing

When the hearing closes, it is important to follow up properly. Make sure you have a post-hearing plan. This may include:

  • Committee Members. Outreach to relevant committee members is essential to ascertain how your testimony was received and how it may have changed the legislative landscape. Your lobbyists will be central to this effort.
  • News Media. Your organization may want to do some communication around the testimony, such as publishing a release and the testimony or offering interview opportunities.
  • Internal Communications. It is often useful to update employees on the testimony and how it was received. Anyone who will get questions from outside the organization should be briefed.
  • External Communication. Testifying before Congress show’s your organization’s influence and expertise. That may be worth sharing with your audience, whether they are members, supporters, customers or partners.
  • Postgame Analysis. After the hearing, your team will want to gather to discuss high points, low points, next steps and what can improve next time.

Prepare for Congressional Testimony With Quorum

Quorum can help your team prepare to testify. Legislative tracking software can monitor bills as they move through the system. It can also provide insight into committee members such as how they have voted, which bills they co-sponsored, and what they are saying on social media. Many organizations also append their own data, such as notes from lawmaker meetings, talking points, action alerts, and other information that documents your interaction with the committee and its members. All of your interactions with the committee can be documented, all in one place.