How to write and deliver testimony at a public hearing

Giving a public testimony is an opportunity to speak in front of a governing body on a specific topic or piece of legislation. Testifying is a powerful form of advocacy and allows you to get your message out to a wider audience. Few things are more impactful than telling your story in person to your elected officials.

If you are unable to attend a hearing in person, you can ask if they will consider allowing virtual testimony. Check with the chair of the governing body to find out your options.

Important things to remember when attending a public hearing:

  1. Time. There is often a cap on how much time an individual can speak. Make sure you check with the chair of the governing body (the mayor, common council president, etc.) to find out how much time you will have to speak.
  2. Register. You’ll probably have to sign up to speak. There is often a sign-up sheet at public hearings. When you first arrive check in with the chair to see what you need to do in order to give your testimony.
  3. Share your story and end with an “ask.” The most effective testimony is personal. This is an opportunity for you to share your “why.” Make sure you have an “ask” or call to action at the end that you want the governing body to take.
  4. Public hearings can be long depending on the purpose of the hearing. You can check your municipal or state website to get a time estimate of how long the public hearing is expected to last.

How to craft your testimony: Testimonies can be done without notes or written out beforehand. It never hurts to write your testimony down, just in case you need it for reference. Practicing your testimony beforehand will also give you an opportunity to time the length of your testimony and to feel more comfortable when sharing.

  • Introduce yourself and your purpose for speaking. Let your elected officials know who you are and what issue you will be speaking on.
    • Example: My name is Ariana Hones and I am here tonight in support of increased funding for the lead pipe remediation.
  • Tell your story. This is an opportunity to be personal and specific about your concerns. You do not have to share something deeply personal for it to be meaningful. Share why you are passionate about the issue and why you are going to hold the representatives accountable to take action.
    • Example: Across Milwaukee children and families are experiencing a lead poisoning crisis. Lead poisoning can have lifelong health and learning impacts on children. The City of Milwaukee must take action on protecting young people and pregnant people. Replacing lead lateral pipes is not the complete solution, but it is an important step forward in lessening exposure to toxic lead.
  • End with a strong statement asking the committee to take action. After sharing your story, you want to end with an action the elected officials can take. The most effective “asks” are ones that require a simple action, like voting “yes” or “no” to a bill or funding a solar panel. Tailor your ask to what makes the most sense for your cause. When in doubt, connect with Wisconsin Conservation Voters organizers or other local partners to ask them how they are advocating for issues that you care about.
    • Example: I ask that the committee vote in favor of $X funding for lead pipe removal in the 2022 budget.

Here is a sample testimony to get you started:

Hello, my name is Ariana Hones and I am here today as a concerned citizen to testify in support of [piece of legislation or issue name].

[1-2 paragraphs explaining your why and sharing your story]

We need to take action on this issue and you all have the opportunity to do so today. This environmental issue is urgent and your leadership is a necessary component to protecting our community. Can we count on your support for [piece of legislation or issue name]?

Thank you for your leadership and the opportunity to speak.