Congressional Testimony: The Seven Deadly Signs

In last week’s column (“Your C-suite Is Playing a High-stakes Game”), I mentioned in passing the Seven Deadly Signs that indicate a need for added Congressional testimony preparation. It occurs to me that these need more definition, so here goes. Granted, some are tongue-in-cheek. That aside, I think you’ll find some kernels of truth — perhaps even some witnesses you’ll recognize from your experiences (and remember to share your stories in the “Leave a Reply” box below).


Testifying before Congress or your state legislature is a daunting challenge that requires maximum preparation. Those who persuade lawmakers to accept their point of view work hard to do so. Experience and expertise at the “legislative dance” is crucial, as is planning and preparation. Moreover, development and effective use of your company’s message is an absolute must.

Winning enterprises realize they need special expertise to help them craft successful testimony. How can you tell if you need outside assistance? If you find yourself facing one of these Seven Deadly Signs, you’d better reach for the phone right now:

  1. The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee says it has “a few small matters” it would like you to address.
  2. Your CEO’s lone experience as a witness was in traffic court.
  3. Your government affairs team keeps using the word “punt” when advising on testimony strategy.
  4. The witness for the opposition is so smooth his nickname is “Silk.”
  5. You have never once viewed a Congressional or legislative hearing.
  6. The opposition hires numerous ex-members of Congress as “technical advisors.”
  7. Your research department assures you it will be “no problem” to churn out 100 pages of dense, technical testimony (better suited for use as a paperweight).

If you see your company and its witnesses in these profiles, it’s time to tighten up your preparation efforts before your next round of testimony.

I hope you gained some beneficial ideas in 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:

What types of public policy advocacy campaigns should you undertake?

Ignore this question at your peril. Kicking around potential answers as you develop your advocacy strategy puts you ahead of your rivals.

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