How to be an Effective Communicator During a Public Forum
Since the start of 2017, we have been on the road conducting 10 service hearings throughout the state, hearing from hundreds of consumers about their utilities' request for rate changes.
As you can imagine, most comments include a heartfelt appeal for no rate increase. One thing that has really left an impression on me is how prepared customers have been.
Given the amount of customer meetings we have had over a short period of time, I thought I'd share some of the best tips I observed from our speakers that I believe relay how to be an
effective communicator during a public forum.
Tip 1: Gather Your Facts
Keep current on issues of interest to you and your community. Review any minutes or materials from recent public meetings to stay up-to-date on your topic of interest.
Consumers who were familiar with the docket and the PSC's website, some of whom even made references during their comments, really left an impression that they were informed and had
the most current information available.
Tip 2: Know How to Participate in Public Meetings
The first step toward presenting your views with elected or appointed officials is to understand the process about participating in upcoming public meetings. Read your local newspaper
and any information provided by your utility so that you can learn as much as possible about the issues you will present. It is also important to find out, logistically, how you will
provide comments at the public hearing.
Tip 3: Prepare Your Comments
Organize your thoughts before making a presentation. I have found that notecards can be helpful in staying concise and to the point, which are key to being an effective communicator.
Many customers at our hearings also presented data or evidence for us to consider.
Tip 4: Make Sure to Fill Out a Speaker Card or Sign Up Sheet
When you arrive at a public meeting, look for copies of the agenda or handouts. Any customer who wants to speak will be asked to sign up to speak in advance or fill out a speaker card.
As time permits, customers who haven't signed up might be invited to speak. State and local governments have their own procedures about how meetings are run, which are usually found
on the governmental agency's website. At the PSC, it is customary to have a speaker first state his or her name and address prior to delivering public comments.
Tip 5: Use Your Time Wisely at the Podium
When it's your time to speak, please remember to state your points clearly. Please be cognizant of the amount of time you have so that you can provide all the points you want
to make in the time that is given. There is nothing to be nervous about - these public meetings are designed to hear from you - so stay calm, speak clearly into the microphone, and be yourself.
Tip 6: Be Professional
Many state and local agencies use speaker timers on the podium (usually set at 3 minutes). This encourages speakers to stay focused, while also allowing more people to testify.
Be mindful of your time and conclude when indicated. Be factual and rely on personal experience. It is important to remain professional and courteous to those attending and listening to your comments.
I believe that a customer's message will be conveyed more effectively if he or she is not shouting.
Tip 7: Be Mindful of Your Fellow Speakers
When you're at a public meeting, listen to others' concerns. If they make your points before you speak, you should try to adjust your comments. Or, you can simply state that you agree with the preceding speaker(s). There is no need to repeat verbatim what other previous speakers have stated. Respect all the speakers - booing, talking over speakers or applauding are not appropriate during public meetings because they are being recorded, plus that behavior lacks decorum and is disrespectful to all of the other speakers.
If you have additional comments, after you speak, you can submit them in writing or by e-mail. The PSC strives to reinforce this point at its public meetings so that you are aware that you may have additional public input. Also be aware that governmental agencies usually have a clerk or designated staff member who collects documents presented by consumers at their public meetings, so just mention that during your remarks and someone will provide assistance.
I greatly appreciate those customers who came out to attend our service hearings, especially those who were respectful and professional to everyone who was in attendance.
Hearing customer input is an integral part of our role as Commissioners and to the overall process of rate-making. I have enjoyed meeting so many of you and learning about your area in the state.
Please make sure to look for us on the road again, soon. In the meantime, if you ever need assistance, please call our toll-free number (1-800-342-3552), or contact us via
Electric Industry Docket No. 20170028 01/31/2017 - Petition for recovery of costs associated with named tropical systems during the 2015 and 2016 hurricane seasons, by Tampa Electric Company.
Docket No. 20170030 02/02/2017 - Petition for limited proceeding for approval to include in base rates the revenue requirement for the Hines chillers uprate project, by Duke Energy Florida, LLC.
Docket No. 20170033 02/14/2017 - Petition for approval of electric reliability infrastructure program and associated recovery mechanism, by Florida Public Utilities Company.
Docket No. 20170034 02/15/2017 - Proposed amendment of Rule 25-6.0345, F.A.C., Safety Standards for Construction of New Transmission and Distribution Facilities.
Gas Industry Docket No. 20170036 02/16/2017 - Joint petition for approval of territorial agreement in DeSoto County by Florida Division of Chesapeake Utilities Corporation and Sebring Gas System, Inc.
Telecommunications Industry Docket No. 20170027 01/30/2017 - Request for approval of interconnection, unbundling, resale, and collocation agreement between Embarq Florida, Inc. d/b/a CenturyLink and Southern Light, LLC.
January / February Notable FPSC Orders
Electric Industry Order No. PSC-2017-0039-PAA-EU
♦ Docket No:
01/31/2017 - PAA Order PSC-17-0039-PAA-EU approving the territorial agreement between Suwannee Valley and Duke Energy; order to become final and effective on issuance of CO; if no timely protest, docket shall be closed; protest due 2/21/17.
Telecommunications Industry Order No. PSC-2017-0052-PAA-TC
♦ Docket No:
02/15/2017 - PAA Order PSC-17-0052-PAA-TC granting Certificate No. 8903 to provide pay telephone services to Legacy Long Distance, International, Inc.; order shall serve as Legacy's certificate and should be retained by Legacy as proof of certification; if no protest, order to become effective and final upon the issuance of CO; protest due 3/8/17.
Water and Wastewater Industry Order No. PSC-2017-0040-FOF-WS
♦ Docket No:
01/31/2017 - Order PSC-17-0040-FOF-WS noticing adoption of Rules 25-30.425 and 25-30.455 FAC; rules were filed with DOS on 1/30/17 and will be effective on 2/19/17; closes docket.
Water Industry Order No. PSC-2017-0042-PAA-WU
♦ Docket No:
02/01/2017 - PAA Order PSC-17-0042-PAA-WU approving Phase II rate increase for Crestridge and establishing temporary rates subject to refund; if no protest, order to become final and effective upon issuance of CO; docket to remain open for staff's verification that the revised tariff sheets and customer notices have been filed by Crestridge and approved by staff and Phase II rates have been properly implemented; protest due 2/22/17.