Do’s and Don’ts for Speaking at Public Hearings

Construction workers at LA City Council Meeting

Developers and politicians will eventually seek your support and attendance at public meetings in order to get proposed projects passed. To make the impact needed to get the proposals from the planning stage to the building phase you will need to speak at these meetings.

Speaking at public hearings requires different etiquette than at other times. For one thing, you’ll be facing the board members and likely have your back to the audience. What you say may be broadcast on television or radio and a transcript made, so your words need to be chosen very carefully. You may be speaking simply to get support or opposition to a project on the record. It may be a good idea to read your statement in order to stay on topic. On the other hand you may be speaking on a topic you feel passionate about. When it’s personal you’ll only need a few talking points to stay on topic.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts of speaking at public hearings;

  • Do get a copy of the agenda
  • Do dress conservatively
  • Do bring community stakeholders
  • Do turn in a Request to Speak Card
  • Do use an address closest to affected area
  • Do hyphenate your name if it’s difficult to pronounce
  • Do show proper respect to all the speakers
  • Don’t go over your allotted time
  • Don’t engage in cross talk with the audience
  • Don’t raise your voice or get carried away
  • Don’t come unprepared

Some meetings will incorporate a light to indicate the speaker’s time is up. Take a moment to time yourself before you get up before the group so you can properly conclude your dialogue.

Decide whether to use your official title or to speak as a member of your organization or community. Choose a specific item to speak on. If the topic you wish to speak about is not found on the agenda, speak under a loosely related topic. In many cases this will be tolerated as long as you are brief and to the point.

Like anything, practice makes perfect. Take the opportunity to speak at the next public hearing and enjoy the process.

Bob Oedy helps union organizers succeed in the construction industry by providing solutions to dramatically increase their level of performance and productivity without burning out. For free information on how you can recruit more members, sign contractors and gain jobs for your union go to =>