Last week we had a PR company visit our offices with Plato Video to prepare us for a series of clips to be added to our website, introducing ourselves and giving an overview of what we do. The session was broken into two halves, in the first half we all assembled in our conference room and had the dubious pleasure of standing before our colleagues and doing a ‘dry run’ of our presentation. What is your name and what do you do?

While most of our staff are used to presenting to committees and groups of strangers, it added an unusual pressure when standing and introducing yourself to those that you work with day in day out.

It goes to show that we all have our comfort zone and we are used to a certain way of doing things or presenting a certain way. It was an interesting exercise because although many of us have had to talk about ourselves when making new contacts it has never been with a camera in front of our face.

Following some helpful advice, hints and tips, the second part of the session was an individual recording to see what we had learnt from our session and delivered again to the camera. Talking about what you do for two minutes may seem quite easy, but as a town planner there was an awful lot to choose from! I started with commercial work, how we help existing business to expand or improve the conditions of their existing premises. I then briefly covered residential development and the differences in that aspect of planning; think housing estates vs conservatories!

There was no time to mention the significant amounts of enforcement work that we do or how we can represent people opposed to development and how we can help to influence local policy through public consultations! Two minutes didn’t even scratch the surface and it goes to show that the life and work of a planner can be so varied.

It is then that you realised you’d forgotten the camera was there…

So, what was the purpose of our training, will these golden nuggets of video be released into the public domain… no, not yet. It was a training exercise to prepare us for when they return to do the filming proper. It was the practice of doing something new and becoming comfortable with it and knowing what to expect; that was the value of the session. When they return we will be used to the crew, we will know where to focus our eyes and will feel comfortable with the entire process. The result: a better end product.

In planning terms this is very relevant. An obvious similarity is presenting to committees, because you get a set amount of time for your deputation and you deliver it in a practised and professional way. But, there is a lot to be said for having experience in all aspects of planning, because if you want your application to go as smoothly as possible you need to have the knowledge and expertise to know what to look out for and what to expect. So my advice this week is to make sure that your application is based on a good understanding of what the Council will be looking for, because preparation and experience are important to ensure that you are prepared for your two minutes in the spotlight.