Testimony is one form of formal, strategic communication. You have already prepared your key messages as you developed your advocacy campaign.  Draw your testimony from your key messages. Make your testimony clear, brief, and compelling. Use real life stories to make complex issues meaningful and personal. Here are some tips for testifying.

Prepare a formal statement of your position. Explain your position clearly. Offer a one-page handout that is a direct statement of your position that can include quotes, excerpts from press clippings, or photographs if they support your position.

Learn everything possible about the decision makers. It is important to know the audience. Everyone is always pleased to be addressed by name.

Choose a person to provide your primary testimony. Choose someone who is articulate and convincing and has status within your organization or coalition. Your board chair, executive director, or the staff person with the highest level of expertise may be chosen for this role.

Provide an additional person or two to testify. Choose people who can state why they support your position and how they expect it to impact their lives or communities. If time is limited, include their stories in written form.

Respect committee protocols. Address the group correctly and respect time constraints.

Anticipate questions and opposition. Research who opposes your position, why, and what they are saying about the issue. Assume that opponents, too, will have contacted decision makers and their staff. Assume that you will get requests to explain your facts. Also be prepared for questions driven by a different position or perspective on the issue. You and your supporters should identify these potential questions and how you will address them. Write out the questions and answers to the best of your ability.

Rehearse.  Critique.  Revise.

Relax. Remember that you know more about your issue than almost anyone else in the process and you are prepared to make a case for something that matters. Square your shoulders, take a deep breath, and do your best.

Ask the decision makers to support your position.

Adapted from
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Lobbying and Advocacy Handbook