The Effective Planning Commissioner

Learn to Speak So People Will Listen

July 31st, 2009
Article #433

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

There are many benefits when you seek and welcome opportunities to give speeches and presentations.

Have you spoken to a community group or organization lately? There are many benefits when you seek and welcome opportunities to give speeches and presentations.

First, you are honing a skill that will hold you in good stead in many other business and professional endeavors. Second, you will get away from the confining environment of the board room and out to where the people meet and congregate. Third, you can make friends for community planning that may carry over later into public acceptance of specific policies or projects.

Ask your staff to get out the word that planning commissioners are available and you will find local service, professional, and citizen organizations are hungry for speakers. With the right approach, you can make planning an appealing subject.

Generally, it is best not to focus presentations on burning issues on which people already are taking sides. You need to be especially careful if the issues relate to projects or applications before your commission. A well prepared talk on the value of planning for your community, with specific examples of its efficacy, can be enlightening and interesting. Staff can help you with details, but the style and content should be yours.

The following tips can help assuage anxiety and give you the tools you need to be an effective speaker.

Know your audience. Parents of school-age children at a PTA meeting have different concerns about planning issues than businesspeople at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon; likewise seniors' interests may differ from those of environmentalists. For each presentation, ask your host beforehand what aspects of planning are most likely to interest that specific group and tailor your remarks appropriately.

Choose and use visual aids carefully. Among planners, alas, Powerpoint presentations are ubiquitous and often misused. They can be helpful at commission meetings when staff are explaining a report or recommendation, but inappropriate and boring when the focal point of a speech to a group of citizens. If you do use them, make sure to eliminate or explain all the planning jargon. When referring to boards or charts, never turn your back on the audience.

End of excerpt

... article continues with six additional tips.

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.

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