The legislative session is a little different than we are used to, but that doesn’t mean hunters and anglers still cannot make their voices heard for conservation in Wyoming. We aren’t going to be hosting our usual Camo at the Capitol event this year, but luckily, meetings streaming online and the advent of Zoom testimony means that you can now speak with your lawmakers in Cheyenne from anywhere in the state. In light of that opportunity, we want to give a rundown of how best to talk to lawmakers from a distance about the issues that are important to you.
To contact your legislators individually, you can use the “Find My Legislator” tool on Wyoleg.gov. Their profile will have both their phone number and email available. When a bill is being debated on the house or senate floor, it is most helpful to call or email your legislator about the issue. When a bill is being heard in its house or senate committee, you can sign up to testify in committee via Zoom by going to the “Legislative Meetings” and clicking on the “Testify” button for the meeting that interests you.
For more information about the steps of the legislative process, check out our quick breakdown of how a bill becomes a law.
We know that speaking in front of a committee can sometimes be daunting, but here in Wyoming, individual voices are powerful. If you have the time to speak to lawmakers while they discuss a bill, it says a lot about the importance of that bill to Wyoming’s citizens. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of tips that we use to provide polished testimony in front of decision-makers, with some special adjustments for speaking online.
Here are 7 Tips for Providing Public Testimony:
Know Your Audience:
To whom are you speaking? Who are you trying to influence? The answer to these questions may not always be the decision-maker directly. A decision-maker might already be solidly on one side of an issue and you need to help sway members of your community to build power or get a journalist in the room to quote you in their next piece about the issue.
It is also up to you to learn the audience’s lifestyle and motivation, what influences them, what they want and what they need. A common mistake is to think about what you want to say instead of what your audience needs to hear to be swayed and to relate to you. Focus on your audience and their values, not yours.
Focus on Delivery
Research shows that the overwhelming majority of communications isn’t what you say, it’s how you say it. That can be challenging to deal with when talking to people online, but it’s still important to first introduce yourself, make eye contact (look at your camera) and watch your voice tone & speed (don’t talk too fast). Then, do not be afraid to pause; when you need a moment to think or gather your thoughts, silence can be powerful. Consider your body language and try to sit as if you are in the room. Lastly, pay attention to how you have yourself framed on your screen and consider your background. If you need to, move to somewhere with a plain or clean backdrop behind you.
Open with Agreement
Many people are skeptical of advertising claims, even if the “advertising” is advocacy for a cause. Your goal is to connect and persuade. If you start with what you think the audience should do or care for, they will tune you out. The way to get past skepticism is to invite people into the conversation, by offering a values statement that they already agree with. After your audience is listening, then you can go into details about the issues and what you’re asking them to do.
Use Values and Emotion
Start with why you do the work you do. What brought you to this work and why do you care about it? Connect your “why” to broadly held values like freedom, opportunity, protecting wildlife, and ensuring future generations of Wyomingites will have the opportunity to hunt and fish. Do not be afraid of moral absolutes. For example: “We should manage wildlife based on facts, data, and science, not political platitudes.” Use your “why” to illuminate the facts so that they stand out.
Tell Your Story
Advocating is an art, not a science. Use your instincts and what you know in your gut to be true. Experiment while you are at it. Explain why you care about the issue in plain language, and make sure your story has a point that will stick with the audience. Refine and revise based on what works with your audience – toss out whatever isn’t connecting, and repeat whatever works.
Make Your Case
A strong personal story is necessary but not sufficient to make your case. Your story is a way to bring a large issue down to ground level where people can get their minds and hearts around them. But after you have told your story, you must back it up with the facts and rationale that prove you have more than one story to tell. Do not go too deep, though. Picking three things or less to focus on is always a helpful standard.
Close Out Strong
Repeat your main takeaways and ask rhetorical questions that make your audience members consider their personal relationship to the subject. Again, be very clear with your opinion simple reasons why. Do not be afraid to tell them what you already told them so it sticks in their brains. Finally, thank them for their time, every time.
While there is no guarantee you will always get the policy “win” you are hoping for when you advocate, with these tips and tactics, there is a much higher likelihood you will make a positive impact for your cause as a whole, while also maintaining respect from your elected officials.
If you would like to get involved with Wyoming’s legislature, and WWF’s mission to keep Wyoming wild, be sure to sign up for our action alerts here.
Here are important bills the Federation is watching this session: