Essential Elements of Effective Congressional Testimony

There are several essential features common to effective congressional testimony. These elements include a well-prepared witness, a well-written statement and oral testimony that is delivered in a manner that is clear, concise and articulate.

Louisville District gives testimony on navigation
Creative Commons License photo credit: LouisvilleUSACE

When preparing to testify before Congress, what the committee expects from the witness should be kept in mind. Once you understand what the committee expects from you as a witness, you will be able to prepare your testimony in a more effective manner.

Generally, the committee expects the witness to provide a statement for the record that is comprehensive and well-written. The witness is expected to be both professionally and personally prepared, forthright in their testimony and courteous at all times. In addition, the witness is expected to enlighten and educate the committee by providing information that was not previously known by the committee. The witness should be responsive to all questions and provide materials that may be requested during follow-up by the committee.

It is also important for the witness to be prepared to adhere to the rules and regulations of the committee regarding deadlines for the submission of documents and statements, both before as well as after the actual hearing. Time limits may also apply to the oral testimony – check with committee staff if you are uncertain of the limit.

The ultimate goal of the witness is to assist the committee in understanding the the topic of the hearing. Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge The entire purpose of the Congressional hearing is for the committee to elicit more information than was previously known on a particular issue. Effective witness testimony helps provide this.

Not only must the witness be prepared to educate the committee regarding the subject of the hearing, but she must also advocate for their position or the position of their organization in a clear and articulate manner. All of these elements combined can help the well prepared witness to deliver testimony that is effective and compelling.

To learn more about providing effective testimony before Congress, consider our 1-day course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony. We also offer custom, on-site testifying training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Sections 2.18-2.20, The Essential Elements of Effective Congressional Testimony

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