Writing and delivering testimony

A. Think sales
You want to sell the LMSA assembly your position. Think about what would be most likely to draw someone’s opinion over to your side. Vague statements (“Sharing this vaccine with the public is a good step for public health”) are not nearly as effective as powerful research findings ( “According to a study by the University of Michigan Law Review, panels of physicians are actually more likely to rule against physicians in malpractice cases than panels collected from the general population”) and personal examples (“My nephew is a 6-year old boy with autism in the Washington, D.C., area. Their idea of ‘adequate special education’ is to put him in a daycare program with 17 other children and two adults who have no specialized training in mental health or special needs”). With that in mind, the most important items to consider are:

  • Keep it short – Conciseness is much more effective than long drawn out speeches full of endless amounts of background information. Reference committee members and the MSS Assembly can have short attention spans, especially after the first few resolutions.
  • Write it down – You can fall into two traps when giving oral testimony – testimony may become rambling and unfocused or you may freeze up in the middle of giving testimony and forget what you want to say. To avoid these traps, write down what you want to say and simply read it aloud at the reference committee hearing. Always remember to rehearse your testimony before giving it out to make sure it sounds just as effective when spoken as it does on paper.

B. Sample testimony template
Here is a format in giving oral testimony. It is very important that these points are included in the initial oral testimony that you give (rebuttal testimony can take other forms, but should still be concise, well organized and written down):

  1. “Thank you Mr./Madam Policy Chair.”
  2. “Xaviar Rodriguez, speaking on behalf of <myself/school/state> as author of this resolution.”
  3. Brief summary of the issue.
  4. List arguments for support to the resolution – limit to 3 separate arguments.
  5. Finish with concluding sentence.

C. Conclude well
The conclusion of a statement is often overlooked but can have great impact. It affects the taste people have of your resolution. If, for example, you spend your statement disparaging alternative healthcare, but end it with something like “We want to emphasize that we are not against use of alternative healthcare as part of the complete care of a patient. However, it is inappropriate for patients to rely solely on alternative healthcare without the opportunity to know and understand all of their options”, you can convert someone from thinking “I like alternative healthcare; therefore I disagree” to “OK, that makes sense.”

D. Anticipate counterarguments
It is important to anticipate counterarguments and prepare effective rebuttals ahead of time. When responding to counterarguments, it is essential to maintain a level of professionalism. A mistake a lot of students make is considering the counterargument a personal attack against them or their resolution; in those cases, a rebuttal ends up being poorly delivered and doesn’t address the counterargument as efficiently and successfully as it needs to.

E. Virtual Reference Committee

The virtual reference committee will be the first place where submitted resolutions will be shared with the LMSA community for review and discussion.  We encourage you to review all the submitted resolutions and ask any questions pertaining to the supporting evidence, possible positive or negative effects of implementation, cost of implementation and review of effectiveness.

F. Congress of Delegates

Resolution writers, policy chairs and representatives of chapters or regions are invited to give testimony on presented resolutions.  Testimony given at the Congress of Delegates should represent a refined version of previous debates on the virtual reference committee.  Many students come with prepared, written testimony that highlights supporting evidence and positive outcomes, while other students provide more spontaneous testimony, driven by personal convictions or those of the school or region they represent.  Below are some tips to give a professional presentation before your colleagues.

1. When you approach a microphone to speak, be sure to acknowledge the Reference Committee Chair and to introduce yourself properly. A typical introduction is: “Thank you Mr. (Madam) Chair. I am (student name) from the University of (blank). I am speaking on behalf of myself as author of this resolution.” It is very important to say who you are speaking on behalf of (if your resolution has been endorsed by your school, state, or region, then please make sure to state that). The Reference Committee makes its recommendation based on the support/opposition they hear, and a support statement coming from a Region holds a lot more weight than a support statement coming from one individual.

  • Be dressed nicely.
  • Do not speak until explicitly recognized, and do not violate the instructions of the policy chairs running the assembly.
  • Also, if the policy chair makes a motion that you have X minutes left, you are speaking for way too long.
    Look directly at the national board. This conveys to the board that you are speaking to them directly and are recognizing their authority. Additionally, it allows you to read them, and to see if they are finding your personal example interesting or boring.

2. Have a seat after your statement.  If clarification is needed or you would like to make a counterpoint, feel free to do so, but use your time at the microphone judiciously. It is essential to not become overly defensive but rather open to the thoughts and perspectives of your peers. Most importantly, authors should remain professional throughout the hearing.