Posts tagged ‘congressional testimony’

Alternatives to Traditional Congressional Hearing Formats

When invited to testify before Congress, you might expect a formal hearing atmosphere. Most people are familiar with the traditional hearing format that involves a single committee conducting a formal hearing. However, there are several other hearing formats that are used by congressional committees.

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One of the most often used non-traditional formats is the joint hearing. The joint hearing involves two or more committees or sub-committees that collaborate in conducting a hearing involving the same subject. This collaboration makes it possible to pool resources, interests and legislative powers. In most cases, a joint hearing takes place when two or more committees have either joint or sequential jurisdiction over a bill that has been introduced.

In some instances, a joint hearing might occur when the subject matter of a hearing falls under the purview of more than one committee. In this type of hearing, committee members sit together in a combined manner on the dais. Committee staff works together throughout the hearing. In essence, witnesses appear before multiple committees at once when presenting their testimony.

Some committees have also experimented with the use of Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgehigh-tech hearings. Through such methods, witnesses from practically anywhere in the world can be connected to the committee room through the use of either audio or audio and video combined. The benefits of such a remote form of hearing include the alleviation of problems associated with cost and distance. In one instance, such a hearing involved the testimony of an astronaut who was in space at the time of the hearing.

Other congressional committees have also experimented with informal formats, including round tables. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee utilizes this type of format, holding round-table discussions with committee members and witnesses, or visitors, interspersed around the table to create a more casual environment. The Senate Finance Committee also used round table discussions while preparing for the 2009 debate on health-care reform. Such informal discussions made it possible for more witnesses to participate. The lack of formalities and adherence to time limits also made it possible for more discussion and dialogue to take place between committee members and witnesses. While such round table formats have been used only on a limited basis thus far, they may well be used more frequently in the future.

To learn more about testifying before Congress, consider attending TheCapitol.Net’s workshop Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony, also available for custom, on-site training.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Section 2.114 Alterantives to Traditional Hearing Formats


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The Role of the Briefing Book in Congressional Testimony

Researching and preparing to deliver testimony before Congress is a process that takes quite a bit of time and groundwork. There are many elements that can assist you in the process, including preparing a briefing book. A briefing book commonly is comprised of research materials, documents and other materials that assist you during the hearing. It can be particularly helpful when used as a quick reference tool when you are questioned by the committee.

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Along with basic documents and research, the briefing book should contain prepared answers to potential questions that may be asked of you during the hearing. You might include other resources that you might need to quickly access during the hearing, such as relevant statistics and lists.

Other items in the briefing book can include a copy of your testimony, an executive summary, background materials and research and committee information. Some people also choose to include a copy of the invitation to testify from the committee and handouts such as charts and graphs, biographies of committee members, and travel itinerary and scheduling information for the witness. To make the briefing book more accessible and helpful, you can use tabs for easy reference.

If you opt to use a briefing book during the hearing, place it on the table in front of you or slightly to the side. Include the use of the Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForgematerials in your witness rehearsal to ensure you are completely familiar with the briefing book ahead of time. As a prospective witness, practice locating and referring to the contents of your briefing book during your rehearsal. This allows you to develop the ability to use your briefing book naturally, with speed and ease during the actual hearing.

Your rehearsals should include the use of the briefing book while delivering oral testimony and while answering questions that might be posed by the committee.

For more information on preparing effective Congressional testimony, 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, Section 3.19 Important Documents: Drafting the Statement and Making the Record-The Briefing Book; Section 4.23 Witness Rehearsal of Oral Testimony and Answers to Questions-Operating with the Use of a Briefing Book

For detailed information about testifying before Congress, see these resources form TheCapitol.Net:

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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.

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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.

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

Also see Section 8.40 “Committee Hearings” in Congressional Deskbook, by Micheal Koempel and Judy Schneider, and our Tips for Visual Layout of Oral Statement when Testifying Before Congress.

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