Testify at a Public Hearing
NCCS organizes educational sessions with Hill staffers – the aides and assistants who work in the offices of each member of Congress – to inform them about cancer survivorship issues and pending legislation related to these issues. Hill staffers – even though they seem young – are extremely influential. They are a legislator’s eyes and ears, gathering information and advising the legislator on how to vote on a particular bill. We ask advocates to join us for these briefings in Washington, D.C. to share their personal stories and explain how a particular bill would help or harm them.
As a bill moves through Congress, it is first researched in a Committee. Committees examine the legal ins and outs of a particular piece of legislation, the potential cost, and the impact it will have in addressing a particular problem. Part of this process involves holding committee hearings where they invite representatives to speak on how they might be impacted by the bill. NCCS asks its advocates to participate in these hearings by coming to Washington, D.C. and sharing their stories before the committees.
Tips for Successful Testimony
- Provide a written copy of your testimony to each member of the committee – but try not to read from it when you present.
- Dress conservatively, as you would for a job interview.
- Identify yourself and where you are from. Mention if you are constituent in one of the committee member’s district.
- Tell your real life story. Testify about what you really know – that is your own experience with the issue and how it affected you. Legislators respond to human interest stories.
- Tell the committee what you want them to do. If you want them to pass a bill, say so.
- Stay on message. Don’t stray off onto side issues.
- Keep it simple and short. Usually each person is asked to speak for about 3 to 5 minutes. Practice your testimony and make sure it conforms to that time frame.
- Be polite. Never show anger or get into an argument with the legislators.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Just tell them, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you on that question.”
- Follow-up. If you promised to provide a committee member with follow-up information or an answer to a question, do so promptly. Send the additional information to the legislator or his or her staff as soon as possible, along with a note referencing the hearing.