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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.
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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