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Thread: Public speaking

  1. #1
         
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    Public speaking

    On average, how much public speaking is involved with being a city planner? Which area of planning involves the most public speaking? Which involves the least?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Well when I was employed as a planner I had about 5 meetings a month, then additional meetings at times such as neighborhood meetings, CDBG meetings, and other various grant meetings. Then sometimes you might get asked to speak at conferences if you have some interesting projects...

    That said each meeting might avg. 10 minutes of speaking. Short and to the point presentations. Then my motto is don't speak unless asked... Of course there is an exception, as when there is a clear misunderstanding of what I presented...

  3. #3
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    On Air

    A planner should feel comfortable speaking in front of a large group of about 200 people as well as a commmittee room of about a dozen people.

    It's really part of the make up of our profession - peddling our wares of what good planning practice is, what the law says, what a board.committee/commission wants, etc.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with Luckless Pedestrian... Some clarification as I am still employed as a planner, but in a different realm. I think majority of the time most meetings will not draw huge crowds, and me personally I do not really enjoy public speaking. That said it is part of the game. I've done well (IMO) and that is probably one of my weaker areas. Keep in mind that if you are looking into the field that public speaking is part of a lot of planning positions.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    But, I have seen many people start their careers afraid to speak in fornt of any group and, over the years, felt better about it

    The key is to know your stuff so it just rolls off - I only keep a few notes on an envelope that are there just so I don't forget a few key points - I think this comes with time, I only get nervous about speaking in public when I'm a little unsure of what I'm supposed to be talking about, but even then, you learn how to fake it in time -

  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    I think public speaking is a key part of the job. And not just presentations, you need to be able to think on your feet to answer questions clearly and efficiently. I highly recommend participating in speech and debate in high school and university... it helped me a lot.

    Edit: If you are of the older crowd (past univesity), try toastmasters. I have friends that have seen good results.

  7. #7
         
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    I'll give you an idea of what a planner who reviews current development projects in a small city has for public speaking requirements. I have between 2 and 4 public hearings a month that I have to speak at. The hearings in my current job have between 25 and zero members of the public show up. You always have the applicant and their consultants there along with the planning commission and other staff members and the occasional newspaper reporter at the hearings. I have number of informational neighborhood meetings that I have to speak at prior to these public hearings. I occasionally speak before local real estate groups of 25 to 100 persons to update them on recent development activity. I have spoken at workshops and conferences in front of 20-25 other planners and elected officials. The largest group was about 450 people who attended a public hearing on a gravel pit. This was very rare event but it was a great experience. There many planners who have many more occasions to speak in public. I don't go out and look for those opportunities but I know of some who do.

    You might attend some local planning commission hearings to see what it is all about. I sat through a bunch as an intern to get a understanding of procedure and delivery.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    One to two times a week, easy.

    You gotta be good at it. If you're not good at it, you'll need to practice. As was said above, so much of what the job is includes selling your wares, whether that be a recommendation on a development or working on policy.

    Luckless pedestrian hit the nail on the head- you have to be able to speak to groups of pretty much any size.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    and another thing then I'll shut up

    you might also be on tv as many hearings are televised now - it's amazing the number of people that watch, which is good if you are trying to get a message out - and again, you get used to it over time

    another key is to not let it show that you're nervous; otherwise, a wise applicant/attorney will take advantage of it

    it was a great idea someone had above about getting into public speaking classes or debate clubs - also think about taking a drama class, you're "on stage" alot (see above on faking it, lol)

    I wouldn't say, though, that someone who hates speaking in public shouldn't go into planning because it isn't always a natural skill, it can be acquired through osmosis and practice

  10. #10
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    Edit: If you are of the older crowd (past univesity), try toastmasters. I have friends that have seen good results.
    I am a member of one of the Toastmaster clubs in my city. I have found it has helped me in my public speaking duties. You have to give speeches (though they prefer to call them "talks"), as well as evaluate the talks of others. The Table Topics session at the meeting is good for honing your impromptu speaking abilities (which comes in handy during public meetings when someone hits you with a question you were not prepared to answer).

    Toastmasters is a wonderful group to work on your speaking skills. The environment is always helpful. They tell you what you are doing right as well as where and how you should improve. Toastmaster is a wonderful venue for practicing public speaking and getting comfortable with public speaking in a postive environment, and after you are comfortable doing that, it is a lot easier to speak where the reception isn't quite so friendly (such as a public hearing with irate neighbors or cranky commissioners)

    My club has a lot of government workers, so it has been helpful in getting new contacts.

    It is also a lot of fun.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  11. #11
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Well....

    The largest group I've spoken in front of was about 200 for long range projects, with 25 to 100 the norm in current planning meetings The committee sized group is my favorite because of the direct interaction. But there is nothing like converting a large group of residents over to your way of thinking, by providing facts and destroying nasty rumours....MAN I LOVE DOING THAT!!
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    Toastmasters is a wonderful group to work on your speaking skills. The environment is always helpful. They tell you what you are doing right as well as where and how you should improve. Toastmaster is a wonderful venue for practicing public speaking and getting comfortable with public speaking in a postive environment, and after you are comfortable doing that, it is a lot easier to speak where the reception isn't quite so friendly (such as a public hearing with irate neighbors or cranky commissioners).
    Is Toastmasters generally geared towards middle-aged people and up? I am in my early 20s but feel I could get alot of use out of it.

  13. #13

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    I will just second what everyone else is saying. In 32 years in this profession, I suspect I have made 3,000-4,000 presentations to groups ranging from a handful to 600+. Presentation/teaching/facilitation skills are essential parts of planning practice. It is true that you can learn a lot of the techniques, and that you will get better over time, but it would be hard to do this job without some natural inclination to communicating with groups of people.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    But there is nothing like converting a large group of residents over to your way of thinking, by providing facts and destroying nasty rumours....MAN I LOVE DOING THAT!!
    Here, here... This is the reason I get up in the morning man.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Public speaking is definately part of the profession like everyone has said. When I first started as a planner I was TERRIFIED of public speaking. Now I still don't like it but its not really that terrifying anymore. I know many other planners who have said similar things. You will get used to it and get better and ultimately it is a very important skill to have.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Salmissra's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by lauren.amelia
    Is Toastmasters generally geared towards middle-aged people and up? I am in my early 20s but feel I could get alot of use out of it.
    I joined my first Toastmasters club when I was 18. There are literally hundreds of clubs within 25 miles of my office, so I can pick a club that meets my personality, and my time schedule. There are clubs for singles, English as a second language, church members, retired folks, etc. You just have to find the one with the right mix for you.
    I still need to find a club here. It's been hard, because I can't do the lunch time any more.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  17. #17
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by lauren.amelia
    Is Toastmasters generally geared towards middle-aged people and up? I am in my early 20s but feel I could get alot of use out of it.
    We have members of all ages in our group, though most of us are old fogeys. As another post pointed out, you can find a club that fits you if you live in an area that has numerous clubs. Some Toastmasters groups are college-based. You can even start up your own group. Contact a local Toastmaster club. They will be glad to help you out.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  18. #18
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I personally think that public speaking is extremely important for both sides of planning. In the public sector, Maister and I have to have the confidence of a door to door sales person in that we will often go up to a door of a house that has code violations to discuss them on site. Additionally, we have court dealing with Code enforcement and having to present the case to a magistrate or testify before a judge is not uncommon.

    I was fortunate to learn to enjoy public speaking, and now, it is one of my favorite things to do.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I have no natural inclination towards public speaking but I'm surviving so far. I've been doing Toastmasters for about 6 months. It is a supportive environment to get your feet wet but its definitely different than a public meeting environment. Its almost too supportive if that makes sense. No one is yelling that you're ruining their property values.

    If you ever fear public speaking just think that the President of the United States has no public speaking skills either.

  20. #20
    You also need to master the skills of talking off the cuff and talking one-on-one with members of the public. Both of these are just as important as speaking in meetings. Further, they require a different approach. Having done speech team/debate team in high school, the best way to master these skills is simply do it. After awhile, it will become second nature.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  21. #21
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Is it possible to be a planner and never have to give presentations or interact with the public... ever?

    I honestly think I'd rather be stabbed to death than have to speak in front of a large group of people I'm also not good at "thinking on my toes" as I have to think about what I'm going to say before I say it. I communicate extremely well in writing and even in small groups, but not with many people or people I don't know.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  22. #22
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    jread - not sure if that's possible - even in academia, you have to teach -

    I suppose if you work in a big planning department or a research operation, you might get away with it - but even in research, you have to present your paper to an audience at some point

    really, in time, it just becomes part of your natural being - it takes time and energy, like any skill

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    [QUOTE=jread]Is it possible to be a planner and never have to give presentations or interact with the public... ever?
    QUOTE]

    I'll echo luckless pedestrian... its hard to get away with that anywhere.

    One way to think about it that might put a positive spin on it:

    Having strong presentation skills is something you're going to want to work hard to get good at, because that will be your chance to influence the decision makers and, as somebody else mentioned, sell your wares. And selling your wares successfully is one of the best parts of the job...

  24. #24
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
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    Ah, I see.

    I've lucked out in GIS because I usually get to sit in the very back of the office with lots of time alone to do my work (many times the full 8-hours) and I love that. I might get a phone call once in a while, but hardly ever. I mainly only interact with my supervisor and coworkers, which I don't mind at all. I'm a 100% introvert but absolutely love everything about planning. I guess that I will have to figure out a way to become more "social". Well, that is until the time comes when I have absolute power over everything and all of my ideas are implemented without question
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Ah, I see.

    I've lucked out in GIS because I usually get to sit in the very back of the office with lots of time alone to do my work (many times the full 8-hours) and I love that. I might get a phone call once in a while, but hardly ever. I mainly only interact with my supervisor and coworkers, which I don't mind at all. I'm a 100% introvert but absolutely love everything about planning. I guess that I will have to figure out a way to become more "social". Well, that is until the time comes when I have absolute power over everything and all of my ideas are implemented without question

    Just remember- one of the big reasons planning exists is to make places special for PEOPLE.

    As I've said before, one thing that can, if you let it, be one of the most rewarding aspects of your job is working with people. People will come to your office and be really upset about the way that their neighborhood is changing, and you will help empower them to become a meaningful part of the process. Or, people will come to your office and be very intimidated by the process, and you will help them understand how to navigate.

    And again, to get back to the larger topic- a big part of your job CAN become standing in front of a neighborhood group and explaining the benefits of a sensible regulation, or standing in front of a city or county commission and explaining the intricacies of a complex project, or standing in front of a group of people, both citizens and decision-makers, and explaning things like demographics and land use patterns that help form the basis of your policy recommendation.

    While I think that it certainly helps to have some extroverted qualities, introverts can most definitely pull this stuff off. You just might have to learn how to decompress afterward, which means really, really taking care of yourself.

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