Testifying Tips & Guidelines

Your elected state legislators need to know what you think of proposed legislation before they vote on it. You may telephone them, write them letters, fax them or e-mail them to express your position on specific legislation. Another effective way of getting your point across is speaking at a public hearing.

Download a PDF of “Your Voice Matters” published by the Maine Farm Bureau to learn about testifying.

Tips on Testifying
Testifying before a committee is a very effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative matter. It is an opportunity to influence public policy and make your views part of the public record. Below are some important guidelines to follow when presenting your views on a bill before your lawmakers. For assistance in preparing your testimony, please contact Alicyn Smart at (207)-622-4111 or email at asmart@mainefarmbureau.com.

Things to Remember
• Always bring 20 copies of your testimony with you and hand them to the clerk who will distribute the copies to all the committee members.
• Get to the hearing early. Be patient if delayed.
• Deliver your testimony; don’t just read from the text.
• Keep your comments short and concise (3 minutes maximum) and try not to ramble.
• Be pleasant, interesting, and energetic.
• Include visual aids such as charts and graphs to emphasize your position.
• Consider this opportunity a privilege, not a chore.
• Practice breathing and relaxing. Don’t be intimidated.
• It is acceptable to disagree, but do not get cornered into an argument with the committee or the opposition. Avoid being confrontational or using foul language.
• If you don’t know the answer to a follow-up question, “I don’t know” is an appropriate answer, rather than risking your credibility or getting maneuvered into saying something contradictory.
• Congratulate yourself on a job well done.

Writing Your Testimony
• Identify yourself (name, town, describe your farm).
• Simply state your position on the issue, and then summarize the main reasons for your position. Give specific examples about the proposal’s impact on your farm.
• Try to say something positive in your BRIEF remarks. For example, tell how your farm contributes to producing food, open spaces, money for economy, etc.
• Conclude by summarizing the importance of the issue to your farm.
• Thank the committee for the opportunity to testify and for considering the issue and your position in its deliberations. Simply end your remarks by saying, “Thank you for your time. I’d be happy to answer any questions.”
• If there is a question, you cannot answer during the hearing, offer to find out and follow up with your lawmaker promptly.

Maine Farm Bureau is here to work with you to coordinate and formulate testimony. If you would like to get involved in making your voice heard, we want to hear from you. You can let us know if you are available to testify on specific issue or if you would be willing to come to the Statehouse and show your support by attending a public hearing. Both methods are very important to our legislative success. Email Julie Smith and sign up to testify today.