If your business is typical, you and your C-suite influencers need occasional help preparing to testify before lawmakers. In fact, you owe it to yourself and your company to seek it out if you want to emerge a winner. But where to turn? First, find an advisor who can offer a healthy dose of experience and expertise; someone who has been through the fire of tough legislative and regulatory battles.
Second, you need an expert on your side who has the knowledge to assemble and shape the facts so that your viewpoint flashes in big, bold letters. This is crucial, for witnesses who develop and use an effective message stand a far better chance of winning the grand prize. Be sure your consultant has the knowledge to help you craft a sharply-honed opening statement that sets forth a road map for the hearing, and to prepare you for a no-holds-barred question and answer session.
Third, how you look, how you speak, how you sit – even how you organize your words on the printed page – are critical factors for success. Find someone who understands these realities and who can turn them to your advantage.
Fourth, find an expert who will give you the guidance you need to improve your testimony skills. I have seen, and have helped prepare, some very good witnesses who carried the day before Congressional committees. Sad to say, I have seen many other witnesses who fell victim to one or more of the Seven Deadly Signs, embarrassing themselves and their business.
Fifth, seek out an expert who believes in preparation with regard to these basic questions:
- Who will testify on your behalf? Perhaps your President or CEO is the best choice, perhaps not. Whatever your decision, be sure you give it due consideration. Also, who is your audience? Gain a firm understanding of which members of Congress and which other players are important and why.
- What is your message? Work to assemble and deliver a clear, concise, and magnetic message.
- When will your campaign begin? Sure, the hearing date is set by the committee, but you must decide when to launch other outreach efforts to the media, your community, and shareholders or members.
- Where will you make your stand? Should you limit your efforts to the hearing itself or should you, for example, coordinate a news conference prior to the hearing?
- Why are you testifying? If you cannot come up with a compelling answer to this question, it might be best to decline the invitation, if possible, especially when you expect a no-win, adversarial atmosphere or you lack time to prepare. In those instances, furnish a written statement for the record.
An added thought about researching your elected officials from the American Bar Association publication “All Politics Is Local: A Practical Guide to Effective Advocacy for State and Local Bars.” Dig into their motivations. Do they have an inherent interest in your issue? Specifically, how does it impact their district (never ignore pork barrel politics)? Do they have some sort of connection to your industry? Are they in the midst of a tough re-election battle? Do they have an eye on higher office? How do they get along with their legislative leadership?
I hope you gained some actionable ideas from this excerpt from my new book, A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications: Turning Today’s Leaders into Tomorrow’s Influencers. You can get your copy here or from your favorite bookseller.
At the end of each chapter, you’ll find “Five for the Future” questions designed to spur sustained improvement. One of the queries from Chapter Five about your advocacy strategy is this:
If Congress or a state legislature called your business to testify today, are you ready? Or do you need to schedule a testimony training workshop now as a first step?