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Introduction
How to Deliver Oral Testimony based on a Written Statement
Tasks for Delivering Public Testimony
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Providing Testimony:
How to Deliver Oral Testimony based on a Written Statement

Below, the goal, objective, scope, and product for a position paper are specified along with a suggested strategy for delivering oral testimony based on a written statement.

Goal

To speak authoritatively and to answer questions responsively in public deliberation.

Communication objectives

Skill of writing speakable text. Skill of speaking easily from written text. Readiness to answer anticipated and unanticipated questions.

Scope

Pinpointed on a topic pertinent to a hearing’s purpose and the witness’s role.

Products

Two communication products are expected:

a short oral summary, either a list of ‘talking points’ (outline for speaking) or a one page overview (to be read aloud)

a full written statement, possibly with appendices, to be included in the record of the hearing.

Strategy

Confident and useful public testimony results from advance preparation. Obviously, witnesses must know their subject and their message.

More importantly, witnesses must understand the purpose(s) of the hearing and their own role and purpose for testifying. Effective witnessing is achieved by presenting concisely and by responding credibly to questions.

Responding to questions effectively is most important. If you are on the witness list, you are acknowledged as having something relevant to say. You do not need to impress people by showing how much you know about the topic. Focus strongly on your purpose and your message, in relation to the hearing’s purpose.

Use these guidelines to develop your testimony:

Know the context. To what policy process does the hearing relate? To what political agenda? Who’s holding the hearing? What is the stated purpose of the hearing? What is the political purpose? Who else is on the witness list? What are their messages likely to be?

Know your message. Distill your message into one to two sentences that you can remember and can say easily. How does your message relate to purpose of the hearing? How does it relate to other witnesses’ messages? Anticipate committee members’ responses and questions. What are you likely to be asked?

Know your role. Are you speaking for an organization? Are you speaking for yourself? Why are you testifying? What do the organizers of the hearing hope your testimony will accomplish?

Know the communication situation. Will the press attend the hearing? Are you available for interviews after the hearing? Will the hearing be televised? How is the hearing room arranged? Do the arrangements allow you to use the charts, posters, or slides? Are those visual aids a good idea if the room lights cannot be dimmed (due to televising the hearing)? What is the location for the hearing? If you are using charts, posters, or slides, how will you transport them? Who will set them up in the hearing room?

Rehearse your delivery. Will you read your statement or say it? Generally, saying it is preferred. Be ready to do either, however. Rehearse by reading the full statement aloud and by speaking from an outline. You’ll discover which way is easy for you, and which you need to practice more.

 

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Example 1

Enacting the role of spokesperson for a policy analysis think tank, a student presents his own message on the importance of nutritional labeling.

Example 2

A citizen testifying before a state environmental protection agency field hearings provides a written statement for the record.