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You, Too, Can Speak So People Will Listen!

Read an excerpt from this article below. You can download the full article by using the link at the end of the excerpt.

If you are fearful of giving a talk, think again. No one can be more effective than a citizen planning commissioner when presenting information about planning to a group of citizens. You, and your message, are less suspect than the "professional bureaucrats," competent though they are, and you should welcome presentation opportunities. On the other hand, you may want to bring along staff to answer tough technical questions.

You can overcome stage fright and assuage your doubts by following these precepts.

It is not pandering but common sense to tailor your presentation to the specific needs of each group of listeners.

Analyze the needs of your audience. Too many speakers fail because they tell people what they want to tell them rather than what people want to hear. It is not pandering but common sense to tailor your presentation to the specific needs of each group of listeners. The members of the homebuilders association are interested in far different matters than the senior citizens, or parents of grade schoolers, or the League of Women Voters. Whatever your subject, it is important to couch the message in terms to which each particular audience will relate. Try to give specific examples whenever possible.

Speak in well understood words and phrases. Even lay planning commissioners -- if they have been around any length of time -- can start talking in "plannerese." That's alright if your audience is staff or other commissioners. It is not alright when talking to the public. Avoid jargon whenever you can, but if you must use words such as infill, density, and setback, acronyms such as ISTEA, HUD and any others particular to your location, explain what they mean. ...

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

Cogan’s 52-page booklet, Now that You’re on Board: How to Survive … and Thrive … as a Planning Commissioner is available to PlannersWeb members to download at no extra charge (sorry, but it is not currently available in print).

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