Working with Congress

A Practical Guide for Scientists and Engineers
Second Edition
William G. Wells, Jr.
American Association For The Advancement Of Science

Preparing Written Testimony

Understand the purpose ... please take same time to understand us. Keep in mind you are dealing with focused generalists, not narrow specialists; get to the point in an understandable manner.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)

Your audience doesn't have a scientific or technical background, so write for the layperson. Make it understandable ... concrete examples if possible. A bullet approach with tightly written phrases. Helps ... to understand ... quickly what you're getting at. Write concisely; give me clear, articulate analysis; put the details in attachments.

Your main message should come through early. Put the details or backup data in appendices. it is acceptable to provide a background summary, don't overdo it... make sure your vision comes through clear. where things stand; what needs improving or changing. You can be frank - but factual.

Think carefully about how best to present your sequence of your facts, suggestions, observations, and conclusions to find the most effective way to make your case. One good way is to begin with a strippeddown outline of no more than one page. Organize and reorganize this outline until it comes together.

It's important that you make clear what your priorities are. Nothing weakens a presentation more than giving the sense that a particular item is the most important thing you want - except for all the other items that are also the most important things you want.
Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-PA)

Since everyone in Congress is pressed for time, be direct and concise. Do not go into a meeting without having a clear idea of your purpose and the main message you want to convey.
Rep Rick Boucher (D-VA)

I like an enthusiastic witness - and one who gives me concrete examples. ... you must clearly state which of your points is opinion, theory, or widely accepted fact.
Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM)

Use a short, written one-page outline of your key talking points as a road-map to guide your presentation, making it seem extemporaneous. Practice this routine a number of times so as to present eloquently within your time limit. ... Be careful about going off on tangents. Think of your presentation this way: You have ten minutes to make five points, if your spend five minutes on your first one because you have gone off on a tangent, you're in trouble. .... Compromise' is a dirty word to a scientist. To an engineer it means trading off conflicting requirements. In politics, it is the only way to get anything done.
Sen. John Glenn (D-OH)

Make your points briefly and then say "I'm open to questions". ... Too often presentations are unfocused; there is not enough information on what is the problem, what is the proposed solution, and what decision is required.
Rep. George E. Brown, JR. (D-CA)

In Testifying with Impact, Lustberg skills and techniques of an effective presenter and speaker. ... staff and members made such suggestions as:

Speak clearly.
Seek eye contact.
Be direct and assertive but not overbearing; convey an air of confidence about yourself and what you are saying.
Be animated
Speak from the heart
Don't worry about your grammar
Convey your message with excitement, enthusiasm and liveliness.
Choose a style most suitable for the circumstances.

Tell a story, use examples and imagery, and strike a balance: don't be too technical but don't talk down to your audience either.
Avoid jargon.
Be relevant.

Liberate yourself from the printed page.

Be succinct, be brief, and be confident. As scientist and engineers you have the technical expertise and knowledge critical to the policy debates here in Congress.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Anticipate questions and prepare for them.
Answer questions concisely and directly
If you don't know the answer to a question, say so.