Welcome to the first in a series of excerpts from my just-published research report, Thrill on the Hill: How to Turn Congressional Testimony into Public Policy Success. Look for more excerpts in coming weeks.
It’s the most important business meeting you’ll ever have.
Done right, five minutes spent testifying before a Congressional committee means attaining your public policy goals, pushing legislation that can make billions for your company, and burnishing your reputation—both organizationally and personally.
Done wrong, you are in a world of hurt. Think of all the corporate and government officials who have been trotted before Congress, filleted, and left with a never-to-be rehabilitated name.
How can you place yourself as a winner when petitioning your government officials? That is what this research report intends to reveal. I surveyed some really smart people—government relations (GR) experts who counsel executives on best testimony practices on a regular basis. I’ve overlaid some of my own experiences, too.
The findings revolve around a series of essential questions that must be considered by any organization that plans to take a seat at the witness table. This research attempts to tease out answers to such riddles as:
- What traits do successful witnesses share?
- What can be done to mentally prepare witnesses to avoid intimidation?
- What are the major differences between the oral statement and the written testimony?
- What procedures do you follow in drafting the oral statement?
- What steps do you take to prepare a witness for delivering the oral statement and the Q&A?
- How important is Congressional staff?
- How do you organize the training session to prepare your witnesses to deliver the oral testimony?
- What about follow up steps?
- What methods do you use to debrief your witness?
- How do you use today’s testimony to get better when testifying the next time?
These last two questions bear particular examination. It is one of my longstanding frustrations as a communications strategy consultant that so few organizations and executives heed the need to improve over time. They neglect opportunities capable of advancing their careers and causes. My humble hope is that this report can help to open eyes to the fact that sharpening one’s communications edge is a lifetime endeavor, not one to be revisited only when an important opportunity—such as testifying before Congress—looms.
Before delving into these questions in subsequent issues of The Media Training Blog, I invite you to chime in with your favorite techniques and words of wisdom in the Comments section below. I look forward to the dialogue.