NHEH Publications

Three Tips on Presenting to Governmental Agencies and Boards

By Nick Smith

Attorney, Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss

As an attorney, I represent clients interfacing with governmental agencies and boards.  These representations can take many forms.  Often, these representations involve simply writing letters to or otherwise communicating with agency representatives about an issue.  Sometimes, a presentation may be required before a board.  I have also received numerous presentations as a city council member from attorneys, architects, engineers, and many other professionals either providing information or trying to influence decision-making.

Given my experience, I’d like to share three tips to giving an effective presentation before a governmental agency or board.

Tip 1: Be brief

Making your point briefly and concisely is most important when presenting to a governmental board.  Modern agencies and boards have significant time constraints and do not have time for each party to make lengthy presentations.  Being brief will also enhance the focus of your presentation.  Board members have a lot of information to remember and analyze during the course of a meeting and the meetings move quickly.  If you give them too much information and fail to distill it, they may not grasp your essential arguments.  

Here’s a typical example: The board has been meeting for five hours and it is now 10:00 p.m.  Your presentation came up last on the agenda.  In this situation, the shortest possible presentation that concisely makes your points will be the most effective for you. 

Tip 2: Be selective

Closely related to being brief is being selective and sharing only your most important and strongest arguments.  Presenting only your most salient points will also result in a stronger, more focused presentation.  It will also result in a shorter presentation.  It’s not about spending time arguing all of your points, it’s about spending time arguing the right points.  

Tip 3: Be respectful

In our increasingly uncivil world, it is important to be on your best behavior in presenting to boards and agencies.  Respectful people leave the impression of being more credible.  Disrespectful behavior, snarky comments or sarcastic tones of voice don’t serve you well.  A valid position asserted in a discourteous manner detracts from the positive impact you wish to have on the board.  Being polite and respectful during your presentation can increase effectiveness by leaving a good impression on the board.  Disrespectful presentations leave a bad impression and detract from your ultimate goal of persuading the Board to see the issue the way you do and to act in your favor.

© 2018, Noland, Hamerly Etienne & Hoss.

This article is intended to address topics of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice.