By Nick Smith
Attorney, Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss
Mr. Smith is both an attorney and a member of the Pacific Grove City Council. Here are some practical tips on how to present effectively to a government agency or board.
Recently, I wrote an article called, “Three Tips on Presenting to Governmental Agencies and Boards,” which stressed brevity, precision in arguments, and appropriate decorum when appearing before an agency or board. Here are three additional tips to assist in effectively presenting to governmental agencies and boards.
Tip 1: Know Your Audience
It never hurts to know a little something about the people that make up the board you are addressing. Go to the board’s website and read about the individuals who sit on the board. The more you know about the background of individual board members, the better you will understand how they might make decisions and how to craft arguments that will persuade them.
Tip 2: Be Prepared
There is nothing more important when presenting to a board than being well prepared. Do your homework and know the issues before you appear. Before the meeting, the board will have received briefing from its staff and will know the issues for discussion. If you miss the mark on the issues, you will have totally lost the board. Understanding that time is the board’s most important commodity, focus your arguments on the most important issues and do not try to uncover every stone. The board will appreciate your level of preparation and focus.
Tip 3: Be Professional
There is nothing worse you can do for your position than to go before a board and be fumbling over papers or try to read verbatim from a lengthy script. You only have a few minutes so you should rehearse your presentation preferably with another person prior to the board meeting. This will allow you to appear composed and persuasive in advancing your position. Remember to speak clearly, slowly, and loud enough so people will hear and understand you. While this seems basic, I see people regularly violate these principles.
Further, you should have a very good idea of what you want to say well before the appearance. If you bring notes, bring a small “crib sheet” with succinct phrases and not a large document or script. This helps you in two ways: (1) you won’t be overly dependent on your notes; and (2) you will be far more relaxed and confident in front of the board.
Avoid throat-clearing phrases such as asking if you have three minutes to speak or any other preliminary commentary. State your name, deliver your points, and move on. This will leave the impression that your position is worthy of serious consideration by the board.
This article is intended to address topics of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice.
© 2019 Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss