Tips for Writing and Delivering Testimony

The most effective method for testimony is to both speak in front of the committee, and submit copies of your comments in writing. Legislators will then have your comments in their files, and your comments will also be part of the written record (available online) for that bill.

  • Speak from the heart! Give a local or personal example illustrating why you’ve taken a position on a bill. Try to be specific about the benefits/threats to lake values like wildlife habitat, economic/spiritual/recreational resources, beauty, aesthetics, etc.
  • Never overstate or exaggerate; it undermines your credibility. Telling personal stories and sharing experiences can be more effective than all the data and graphs in the world.
  • Keep it short. You generally have less than three minutes to get your message across. Limiting your focus to one or two main points for your testimony is best.
  • Include your name and where you live in the first sentence, as well the position you’re taking (support/oppose/neither for nor against) and the name and number of the bill.
  • If you are part of a group like a Lake Association, Land Trust or Alliance, or you volunteer for a lake group or relevant town committee, be sure to include that in your introduction.
  • Spoken testimony does not have to match verbatim what you submit in writing. If you find your testimony repeating points others have made in detail, do your best to edit your spoken comments so they reflect your concern but perhaps without lengthy repeats in explanations. Legislators appreciate efficiency!
  • Submit supporting materials.You are allowed to submit written materials (which can include additional comments, charts, maps or information prepared by you or other experts) to help make your case. Make sure to bring 20 copies for committee members.
  • Taking notes on the testimony submitted by others can help you track points that need reiteration, further clarification, or rebuttal when you speak. You may address these issues during your oral testimony or through additional written comments submitted after the hearing.
  • Be polite. Public hearings can become very emotionally charged. You may hear some things that you strongly oppose, or things that you absolutely agree with. It is important to keep your emotions under control and your statement focused on points that will advance your position. Expressing your frustration about someone else’s testimony cuts into the limited time you have to address your important arguments and make your case.

Logistics: Plan to arrive at the State House 15 minutes early. It is best to park in the brick garage at the corner of Capitol and Sewall Streets where duration is unlimited and you won’t be ticketed if you have to stay longer than two hours. A good map and directions are here.

When you reach the Hearing Room: Check in with the Clerk of the Committee and ask if there is a place to sign in. Bring 20 copies of your written statement with you. You can also bring copies of supporting materials like newsletters or articles.

The hearing will start with a bill introduction by the bill sponsor(s). Make your way to the podium when the committee chairs ask for testimony either for or against the bill.

Greet the two committee chairs by name (“Good afternoon Chair  X, Chair Y, and Distinguished Members of the Z Committee”).

Close your spoken comments by thanking the committee for the opportunity to address them.

The legislators may have questions for you when you finish. Answer them forthrightly. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.