15 Ways To Kick Ass When Testifying

If you are victimized by corporate behavior and asked to testify before a legislative body in order to tell your story and help get a pro-consumer bill passed, it can be really scary. You only have a few minutes to make your case. Are you gonna choke it, or clinch it? Just follow these 15 tips I just learned in a Consumers Union Activist Summit workshop:

1. Tell people where you’re coming from “I stand before you as a ______________”
2. Tell a personal story and connect with audience.
3. You don’t need a tragedy, you just need passion.
4. You want to be punchy and gripping, but it’s not a therapist couch. Stay focused on the issue.
5. Nothing extraneous, not how it makes you feel, just tell your story.
6. Pick the 3 most important things you want to say and come back to them over and over.

“Here’s the 3 things I’m gonna say:”
“Here’s the 3 things I say:”
“Here’s the 3 things I said:”
“Thank you, now what did I say?”

7. Play it like you’re talking to grandma. Keep it super simple. Lose the jargon and reams of stats.
8. Know what your money line is. You might get cut off at any time, have your time shortened, or just forget your place. Have your 30 second elevator pitch practiced and prepared so you can whip it out on demand. It’s a mini drama and sudden death could happen at any moment.
9. Bring props! Kids count.
10. Tell your story, and what you want them to do, which is pass this bill.
11. Bear in mind, the busy and harried legislators may have not even read the bill they’re about to pass. Your job is to break through in a clear and concise way.
12. It’s a game. There are rules and you don’t know all of them. So keep your passion for your story, but contain your emotions during the rest of the process.
13. Even if it feels like it’s going poorly, you never know who’s in the room. Reporters or bloggers in the room might be influenced by what you say.
14. Keep it on the issue. Even if you’re frustrated, never attack the people in the room personally. No ad hominem.
15. Every activist should take at least one improv class.

And even if you don’t testify before Congress, these tips are good for just about any presentation you might make, even if it has Powerpoint in it.

For more info, check out @CUSummit’s live tweets of the workshop.