In your communications lifetime, you may never prepare a client or executive for congressional testimony. Yet some of the tips from Widmeyer Communications senior VP Dwayne Lawler can be adapted to any speaking situation. In any case, it’s the little things that count.
• Be organized. “Put your typed-up version of your oral statement and other notes in a three-ring binder,” says Lawler. “That way you’re not shuffling papers in front of Congress and C-SPAN.”
• Pick a focal point. “Your goal of a smooth presentation is hampered by a battalion of still photographers, staff aides walking in and out of the room, and the threat of a bell that indicates a vote coming up in the House or Senate,” explains Lawler. “So pick a point straight ahead to look at and deliver your remarks to that point.”
• Know the lighting system. Green means you’re recognized to speak for five minutes; yellow means you have one minute left; and red means you’re out of time. “You must avoid getting the gavel at all costs,” says Lawler.
• End it gracefully. Thank the chairman and committee members. Even if you’ve been grilled beyond belief, have a sense of politeness, says Lawler. “You’ll never win an argument while testifying, so make your points in a thoughtful way, and at the end thank them for inviting you,” he concludes.
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