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The 3 C’s of Testifying: Be Clear, Concise and Compelling

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Presentation on theme: "The 3 C’s of Testifying: Be Clear, Concise and Compelling"— Presentation transcript:

1 The 3 C’s of Testifying: Be Clear, Concise and Compelling
Marie Sullivan, Director of Governmental Relations NOVEMBER 21, 2013

2 The Legislature: Hearings
A bill requires a public hearing before a Senate or House committee Rules can be suspended Anyone can provide input by live testimony or in writing Hearings are informal – rules set by the body and the chair Televised and taped by TVW Bills need to have a public hearing – for the most part. There are always exceptions, but most bills will be scheduled for a hearing. As part of the democratic process, you can provide input on a bill by testifying in front of the committee or in writing. Usually, in person is best – if you need to be on record. These aren’t court hearings. No one swears you in. And the rules are set by the legislative body and the chair. This includes time limits, order of testimony, etc. TVW tapes all hearings and work sessions, and the most interesting are televised live. And the legislative web site links committee hearings to bill reports so it’s easier to find.

3 The Legislature: Hearings (cont.)
The issues that compel us to testify are diverse The same goes for the way individuals choose to testify However, it is critical that the information offered in your testimony is accurate, consistent, clear and relevant Important to know whether policy or fiscal issues, committees When you are thinking about testifying on a bill, ask yourself why you are doing it. Sometimes it’s because it is expected. Sometimes because you have something to say. If you have a concern and need something fixed in the bill, it is important to speak up. Whatever compels you to testify, make sure that you are using accurate data, and that the information is Clear, concise and relevant. Pause on relevant. Explain difference between policy and fiscal.

4 The First ‘C’: Clear Clear means simple, easy to understand language
Avoid jargon or acronyms, or internal organizational, operation or technical language NEVER read your testimony, particularly if you are going to hand out prepared remarks So what is clear … in education, we have a whole different language. Clear means something that everyone understands No jargon or acronyms Stay away from insider type of language or technical language Keep your tone respectful. No finger wagging. And nothing will turn a committee off more than someone reading their testimony. If you have written comments, tell them you’ll be submitting written comments but summarize your main points.

5 The First ‘C’: Clear (cont.)
Clear includes an opening, a few key points, and a close Opening Addresses the Committee Chair and members State your name and school district. “I am here to speak (in favor or opposition) on (the bill number and subject).” Just like a presentation, testimony starts with an opening, middle and end. There is some formality here … to testify, always state your name, who would are representing, your position on the bill and then state your argument. You address the chair, usually a: Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the committee … I’m Marie Sullivan, representing the Washington State School Directors Association, speaking in favor of HB We support this bill for the following three reasons …”

6 The First ‘C’: Clear (cont.)
Key Points The most important bits of information State your position Why you hold the position Then you state your main points. This is a great place to use examples and data to illustrate your point. Limit the amount of information you are providing to just the key points. Example: if the bill is adding requirements for access to school campuses, and you oppose the requirement, explain why you hold that position – what is the cost, the impact, the unintended consequence. The point of testifying is to make them think about something you are bringing forward.

7 The First ‘C’: Clear (cont.)
Ending Always has a clear statement of what you want Committee to do or know Always offer to answer questions BUT … be prepared to say you don’t know and follow up Your ending always has a clear statement of what you want them to do. In sales and marketing, this is the close. Don’t leave without asking them to: Support the bill Support it with the following changes Hold the bill until more work is done Not move the bill forward and restate your reasoning. It is important to stay at the table until you are dismissed and answer questions if asked. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and then follow-up

8 When using a PowerPoint…
Typically only use PowerPoints when presenting or part of a panel. More than just words on a page. Reserve it for information that will help illustrate your key points. Not the time to use 6 pt font It should be easy to understand when someone is looking at it, with good-sized fonts, charts, etc. Posting something no one can read except in a handout isn’t useful.

9 The Second ‘C’: Concise
The best testimony is brief and to the point Testimony is frequently limited to 3 minutes or less Be ready to revise for less time – 30 seconds! With presentations, verify how much time you’ll have to speak Cut that in half Use Power Point slides to show data and illustrate a point if necessary The Second C is concise. Be brief, but don’t rush. Remember that you have been given the time to talk, and make the most of it. As the hearing moves along, be revising your testimony to meet a time crunch, if necessary. And don’t be afraid of gimmicks, but use sparingly. Always honor the chairs request to keep it short. e.g., consolidation bill and Jim “stand up” And if you are asked to do a presentation or participate in a panel, make sure you know how much time, reconfirm it a day before, and then plan for less.

10 The Second ‘C’: Concise (cont.)
If you need to get on the record, be brief and let them know you’ll be following up with written testimony The reason you follow up is to get something in the bill report that committee staff are writing If you find that time is limited – the chair says you have 30 seconds – always be polite, use the opener, make your points quickly, and say you will follow up with written testimony. Then confirm with staff they received it. This is for the bill report. And you have to send to the members if following up – staff won’t. Always read the bill report after it’s been posted to make sure you were quoted accurately. E.g., of Marcia Fromhold and impact fees last year.

11 The Second ‘C’: Concise (cont.)
Don’t repeat what someone else has said BUT … You can say you agree with previous testimony and add anything new if necessary If 10 people have said the same thing, don’t repeat it. However, you can say, I agree with what has been said regarding X, and want to make this one additional point OR I would like to add this additional piece of data on this subject. You will win brownie points for not repeating what others have said.

12 The Second ‘C’: Concise (cont.)
If you’re asked a question, answer it quickly and clearly If you don’t know, say you don’t know but will get back to them Make sure to follow up It is usually best to send the information to staff. They will share with committee members Being concise applies to answers to questions. Their time is limited, so don’t go on and on – be concise, brief and to the point, and use data or real world examples when you can. And if you don’t know, don’t make it up. If you are answering a question in a follow up, this is different than testifying and submitting formal comments. This does get sent to staff for them to distribute. Watch your audience. If you get the sense that someone is confused, needs more information, or is really engaged in what you’re saying – follow up with them.

13 The Third ‘C’: Compelling
The point is to make the testimony “real” to the legislators, staff and audience hearing you Localize and humanize issues Be prepared to give an example from the chair’s district or, From the district of a legislator who is opposed to your issue The last point is to be compelling. Legislators are swimming in a sea of information – they are listening or doing or writing their own speeches … you need to break through the clutter and grab their attention. Know your audience, and play to them. If someone on the committee is from your district, make sure you are using an example they can relate to. Targeting the chair is also a useful tactic, as is comparing two legislators’ school districts for impact. The point is, make it real to them, not just about dollars and cents.

14 The Third ‘C’: Compelling (cont.)
Use stories of staff, teachers and students to illustrate your point or emphasize testimony Know your audience and recognize what others might be saying Be prepared to diplomatically answer questions about testimony that might be in conflict with yours, or opinions that might be different In this budget environment, talk in terms of service and students, not line items on a budget. There is a huge difference between saying, loss of LEA to our district means $1 million or loss of LEA to our district means we will have to put 32 kids in our kindergarten class, cut all middle and high school sports, and stop offering all AP classes in chemistry and math. And anticipate what others might say or be prepared to answer questions from those who have a different opinion. And never, never argue with or contradict a legislator during a hearing.

15 The Third ‘C’: Compelling (cont.)
Be visual when appropriate Charts, graphs, maps, etc. are great – as long as they don’t need thousands of words of explanation The picture should tell the story, quickly and clearly A prop can help you make your case Use humor judiciously Again, be visual when you can. This applies to handouts, which you can refer to during your testimony. Call ahead and know how many copies to bring. Give to staff right before testimony or have a colleague take to staff as you walk up to the table. Visuals are very effective – e.g., of Mary and the common schools procedures book e.g., of handing out the CR 102 to committee for a point e.g., of Farm Bureau and the ear of corn Be careful with humor. Can backfire.

16 Finally… When testifying against a bill or with concerns, always make time to check in with the bill sponsor BEFORE the hearing. The cardinal sin is to testify against a bill without giving the bill sponsor notice. This really applies more to me than you, but if you have a relationship with the bill sponsor or the committee chair, it is really a good idea to check in before hand to make sure they understand why you hold the position you do. Now, we’re going to do a little practice. Please pull out your buff-colored paper for a little “testimony” project.

17 Preparing Testimony Project
Testimony work sheet (8 minutes) Read HB 1412 – Community Service Jot down notes based on the questions in the worksheet Pick a position and draft your supporting arguments or evidence Table discussion (10 minutes) Discuss the bill, your responses, arguments Pick 2 volunteers to offer testimony to our panel Plan for no more than 2 minutes of testimony Write testimony (10 minutes) Working together, draft the testimony Remember 3 Cs – Clear, Concise, Compelling

18 WSSDA Advocacy Contacts
Marie Sullivan, Governmental Relations Director cell; desk Nan Laughton, Administrative Assistant desk

19 Legislative Conference
Save the Date! January 26-27, 2014 Legislative Conference Day on the Hill Registration Open Now! Sponsored by: WSSDA/WASA/WASBO

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