A Councillor's Perspective on Verbal Submissions

Hot tips for verbal submissions from a pro-walking and cycling City Councillor's perspective

Your presentation to Council is an important part of advocating for walking & cycling.

All Councillors may not have read your written submission – though staff will have done so. Always ask to speak to your submission. This is when you will have Councillors’ attention and can make an impact.

Think long term about submissions. You may not get all of what you want this year – but keep coming and making the same credible case. Councillors will then get to know that you mean business, have support, and won’t go away.

Your ongoing relationships with staff are important in making progress.

Be organised, articulate, and committed.

Make it clear what you are asking Council to do, especially around funding, which is what they will be focused on.

Prepare a one page handout to reinforce these points with copies for Councillors, staff, and reporter(s).

Pictures are powerful - liaise with committee staff if using Powerpoint. Is a laser pointer available? etc.

Practise what you plan to say – for timing and fluency. If at all possible speak to the Councillors rather than read. Reading loses eye contact and impact.

Be cordial, constructive, concise, and clear. Answer Councillor's questions in a positive manner. A touch of appropriate humour can help. Over-statement can weaken a case.

On the day
Come early if possible so you can sense the atmosphere, hear previous speakers, and settle down before it is your turn.

Bring supporters if available - sometimes a tag team of two speakers works well. This is also a good opportunity to upskill another member, with support.

Sometimes earlier submitters don’t show and Councillors are delighted if you are able to present sooner than scheduled. Some councils schedule similar submitters together.

It may be appropriate to show support by numbers attending.

A good submission could include:

  1. Thanks for the opportunity to submit on the Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP)/Annual Plan (AP)/ Regional Land Transport Programme (RLTP) etc.

  2. I am representing …. With me is …..

  3. Our group advocates for …. We are…

  4. If possible, find something positive to say about what Council has done/intends to do for walking/cycling and about staff (while remaining credible).

  5. But opportunities for improvement are …. We are still very concerned about …. Be precise (pictures as appropriate) We would like to see the LTCCP/AP changed by ….

  6. Finish with a strong/memorable statement and leave time for questions.

If for some reason, your experience in submitting is not positive, please tell someone, such as a supportive Councillor, so that we can make the experience better next time round.

What’s not hot

  1. Submitters who only berate us (especially if we are trying to improve)

  2. Submitters who lack humour or perspective (in our view)

  3. Submitters who read countless pages in a monotonous mumble

  4. Submitters where it is hard to know what they would like us to do

See Presenting Submissions in Person

Nov 2009 www.can.org.nz