How to Survive a Congressional Hearing

In recent months, we’ve seen CEOs marched before Congress to explain their roles in the housing crisis, the auto crisis, the Wall Street crisis and – now – the oil spill crisis. Some have performed better than others, but most have made mistakes that tarnished their reputations or created political fallout for their companies.

Not that testifying before Congress is easy. In fact, it can be one of the most difficult public appearances a CEO will ever make. “Lawmakers walk into hearing rooms with a distinct home field advantage,” notes Jim Abrams of the Associated Press. “Every committee member gets a shot at the witness, who often are given no time to answer questions or are cut off midway through their replies. Members sitting up on their dais are free to hurl charges and insults, but witnesses are supposed to be deferential.”

“I think of these as passion plays and witnesses as supporting characters,” says Matt Stearns of Ketchum. “What Congress does best is ‘harrumph’ in the spotlight, and it’s important to let them do that, and to accept it and survive it.”

When executives are in the middle of a crisis – such as the three energy industry leaders who appeared on Capitol Hill last week – it’s especially difficult to survive these encounters. Political leaders and the news media have been brutal in their assessment of the oil-spill hearing. President Obama, saying he “did not appreciate what I considered to be a ridiculous spectacle,” accused the executives of trying “to point the finger of blame at somebody else.” Members of Congress, from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), piled on. Menendez called the performance a “liability chase.”

How to Survive a Congressional Hearing
Coming this summer:
Testifying Before Congress: A Practical Guide to Preparing and Delivering Testimony before Congress and Congressional Hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs, and State and Local Officials

Testifying Before Congress
Testifying Before Congress

Testifying Before Congress
A Practical Guide to Preparing and Delivering Testimony before Congress and Congressional Hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs, and State and Local Officials

By William N. LaForge

    As a practical guide to assist witnesses and their organizations in preparing and delivering Congressional testimony, this book is designed for use by anyone or any organization called upon to testify before a committee of the United States Congress, and for those who are providing assistance in preparing the testimony and the witness. This book can serve as a guide through the unique maze of the Congressional hearings process for virtually any witness or organization, including especially federal departments and agencies, the federal judiciary, members and staff of the legislative branch itself, associations, corporations, the military service branches, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private and voluntary organizations (PVOs), public interest entities, state and local governmental officials and institutions, and individuals who are chosen to appear as a witness before Congress for any reason on any topic.

2010, 475-plus pages
Hardbound, $77
ISBN 10: 158733-172-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-172-5
Softcover, $67
ISBN 10: 158733-163-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-58733-163-3
For more information, see

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For over 30 years, TheCapitol.Net and its predecessor, Congressional Quarterly Executive Conferences, have been training professionals from government, military, business, and NGOs on the dynamics and operations of the legislative and executive branches and how to work with them.
Our training and publications include congressional operations, legislative and budget process, communication and advocacy, media and public relations, testifying before Congress, research skills, legislative drafting, critical thinking and writing, and more.
TheCapitol.Net is a non-partisan firm.

Posted in: Caught Our Eye

Post a Comment