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Speaking at a Public Meeting: A Guide for Engaged Citizens

April 29, 2014
by Jacque Porte

Speak clearly and loud enough for everyone to hear. You may be nervous so try taking a deep breath before speaking and during pauses. Your message will be lost if you speak too quickly or mumble your words.

Use your own words as much as possible. Preparing your statement ahead of time will be helpful for practicing and may allow you to use your notes as talking points, but don’t be afraid to read aloud if you feel the need.

Be simple and direct, and consider repeating what you want to ensure the board gets your message.

Be ready for questions, which may come from the board members or from staff. Speak sincerely, and remain calm especially with those who have differing opinions.

If the issue isn’t decided or resolved at the meeting, follow up with a letter or e-mail to the board thanking them for the opportunity to speak. Restate your position and offer board members the opportunity to ask you questions.

Try to ensure the decision is as specific as possible. If the decision goes against your position, you want to ensure you will be able to address the issue again in another forum or meeting with the argument that no true precedent was set.

Once the decision is made, if the result is not in your favor, ask board members to elaborate on their positions. If the decision is made in your favor, stay humble and show gratitude by either sending a letter or publicly thanking the board members at the next meeting.

Tune in for our next article where we’ll cover speaking at a public meeting for presenters.

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