Three Cs of Classy {Public} Comments

June 29, 2020 By

If you haven’t already, somewhere along your political journey there will be an opportunity to give public comment at a government or community meeting. Whether the idea of public speaking fills you with excitement or terrifies you to the point of hiding under your desk, it is a critical tool for making your voice heard and supporting your community. We’ve put together our top three tips to help you deliver a classy public comment that makes an impact.

Keep it clear

First, your top priority needs to be clarity so that your comments are easy to understand and follow. This means a solid overview of the problem and a clear ask for their action. If your comments lack clarity, your audience might not understand the problem or realize that you are asking them to take action. And with a long meeting before them or behind them, an unclear public comment won’t be memorable.

How to fix it: The best way to ensure your comments are clear is to make a plan, spend the time preparing your presentation, and then practicing it. It’s even better if you can get feedback throughout the process because what may be clear to you might not be to someone else, especially if they aren’t as familiar with the material.

Keep it concise

Once your comments are clear, it’s important to make sure they are concise. Not only do many boards have strict time limits for public comment, nothing can lose an audience quicker than an unnecessary detour in your presentation, and no one likes comments that drag on, covering every last detail.

How to fix it: Make an outline and ask yourself on every item if it is necessary to get your point across, then take your notes to the microphone. While you’re preparing, you might feel like you could never use the whole time limit, but you’ll be surprised how quickly it can fly by if you end up on an unnecessary tangent that causes you to have to cut your comments short and possibly miss your ask.

Keep it centered

Finally, when you’re preparing your public comment, make sure to keep your message centered on the topic you’re speaking about, rather than sprawling across multiple issues. You want your comment to be memorable, and if it is too broad or cumbersome, it will be difficult to remember later.

How to fix it: Spend some time with the meeting agenda and strategize how best to deliver your message. If you’re speaking about a topic that isn’t on the agenda, be careful not to bury it in a speech that covers every item, and if you’re speaking on many items, ask yourself if your message will be diluted rather than focusing on fewer, more critical issues.

Public comment is a central part of engaging in your community and a critical skill to practice. If you make a point to make your comments clear, concise and centered, you can change the course of public policy and raise awareness of critical community problems.