14 Tips on Appearing Before a Parliamentary Committee
An effective presentation before a committee requires good planning and preparation. But what about the meeting itself? Here are some quick tips on how to conduct yourself when testifying before a parliamentary committee.
1. Confirm logistics with the Clerk, either the day before or earlier in the day for an afternoon or evening appearance. Are there any substitutions to the membership? Are any other witnesses appearing? Confirm the time and location of meeting. Has your written brief been circulated? Also confirm how much time you have for opening remarks and questions and answers.
2. Arrive early. Make sure you leave enough time to clear security and arrive in the Committee room.
3. Introduce yourself to the Clerk of the Committee and get settled. You may be appearing with other groups on a panel or may be appearing before or after other witnesses. Introduce yourself to other panel members.
4. If there is time before the meeting begins, introduce yourself to members of the Committee.
5. Pause and take a deep breath before you begin speaking to relax.
6. Keep your opening remarks short and convey your key messages. Members are usually anxious for the question and answer section. Your written brief should have been sent to the Clerk in advance so that it could be translated and circulated before the meeting. Make sure the brief contains an Executive Summary and a clear list of your key messages/recommendations.
7. Pause and look up from your remarks when speaking, making eye contact and conveying your expertise and conviction. Speak clearly and not too quickly, particularly as at the federal level your words are being simultaneously translated. If possible, at a parliamentary committee make some of your remarks in both official languages.
8. Use the proper form of address and show appropriate respect to Committee members, even if they do not agree with your position. Keep a positive attitude and approach the meeting as one where you are helping others to understand your position. Do not be confrontational.
9. Answer questions honestly and respectfully. In your preparation before the meeting you should anticipate questions which may be asked or have been asked of other witnesses and be prepared to answer. Make sure you are clear on your key messages/recommendations. Offer to provide a follow up written response for questions that require a more thoughtful answer or additional information not on hand.
10. If a member becomes confrontational or wanders too far off topic, you may need to look to the Chair for guidance. Remain respectful.
11. Avoid fidgeting, excessive flipping through materials, mumbling, or other distracting habits. The meeting may be televised, so be sure your dress and behaviour are appropriate.
12. At the end of your allotted time, thank the Chair and the Committee for the opportunity to appear.
13. If there is a break between witnesses or the meeting adjourns, speak to members individually to thank them for the opportunity or answer additional questions.
14. Follow up with additional written information to the Committee after the meeting. Share your messages with other parliamentarians and the media as appropriate.