Tips for Lawyers to Improve Their Public Speaking

Many of the attorneys who hire me to help them with legal business development efforts are struggling with how to get better results with their public speaking.

I hear things like, “I’m speaking all the time and getting nothing out of it.” Or, “Everyone loves my presentation but it’s not translating to actual business.” Whatever the case, there are always opportunities to improve how you prepare, present and follow through to obtain the best results possible from the valuable time invested. The easiest way to explain this is by breaking each presentation down into three key segments. Follow these guidelines and watch as your brand gets built, while also bringing in actual business!

 Guideline #1. Preparation–If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. 

  • Right topic and right audience: The first and most important element to effective speaking is to make sure that your topic is something that people want to hear about. Look to the future and what’s coming up the road, not what’s been blogged over 100 times this year. Additionally, think about your audience. Is it a room full of competitors in your space or are you presenting to CEOs, GCs and others who may be able to actually hire you? Be sure to partner with the right group or association to obtain the audience you want.
  • Prepare the presentation to include three core elements that will help you drive conversions. First off, be sure to include a solid infomercial that demonstrates you’re an expert, without having to say so. Then, include “pain points” in your presentation to connect with the audience who may be having those same struggles. For example, if you are speaking on new employment laws, pain points might include employee law suites, sexual harassment concerns and improper firing processes. These pain points can get the attention of the audience–with elbows on table waiting to hear your solutions. The third part is to tell stories and educate the audience on best practices. While you want to give them a solid education, hold back on the elements that you would deliver. This will help ensure that they have questions or want to talk to you after the fact. Providing too much free advice can actually hurt your results and getting prospective clients to take-action at the end.
  • One of the least utilized preparation elements is the use of a survey for participants to complete before leaving the room. Unfortunately, even the CLE survey doesn’t accomplish what I am suggesting here. The main goal of handing out your own survey is to get feedback on your presentation for improvements AND to see if there are participants that would appreciate your services after the fact. Having a question at the end of the survey that asks, “Based on my presentation today, would you have interest in learning more or meeting to discuss solutions for your company?” Getting a “yes” or “no” answer on this question can be critical to obtaining results for your time invested. While this might seem a little forward, you are only asking for them to check a box and help you follow up more effectively.

Guideline #2.  Execution–Don’t bore them, engage them!

I’m positive that you have had the displeasure of attending presentations where the speaker bored you to tears. You look around the room and every head is buried in a smart phone. I hope this hasn’t happened to you, but it demonstrates the importance of connecting with your audience. In addition to having a really strong topic, here are a few additional points to follow:

  • As I mentioned previously, be prepared with a solid infomercial about you, your firm and the kinds of issues you deal with every day. It’s important for the audience to buy into you as an expert early on in the program. Additionally, be sure to repeat your value proposition at the end of the presentation to ensure the audience is still on your team. Let them know there will be a survey and that it plays a key role in the continual improvement of your presentation; ask them to complete it before leaving the room. Without doing this, no one will complete it and your ability to follow up is limited.
  • Be over-prepared to speak on your subject. As you can see from watching TED Talks, don’t simply read the bullet points up on the screen. Rather, tell interesting stories and share analogies that connect with your audience. This will make the presentation entertaining as well as educational.
  • Regularly interact with the audience with polls, quizzing and questions to engage them in the conversation. This breaks up the monotony of just speaking AT the group for 60 minutes. If the group is stale and unresponsive, I will bring giveaways (bribes) to get them to engage. For example, I have three published books. People love winning books or gift cards. Bring whatever you think will get them interacting. Lastly, I will break the group up into two teams and have them compete to answer my questions and engage with me. People love competition and hate losing, so it may get them to open up and talk.

Guideline #3.  Follow through– Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect.

Have you ever heard that before? It’s true and I can prove it. I was on the driving range 2 weeks ago “practicing” my golf swing. I hit a bucket of balls and then I went out to play a round of golf. The next week I did the same thing again. Have I gotten better from this practice? Of course not!  The reason my game doesn’t improve is that I’m practicing the same bad habits and swing every week. Here are some ideas for improving your follow through.

  • Always review your performance in your head directly after you’ve completed your presentation. Ask yourself:
    • “What did you like about the presentation?”
    • “What was the audience involvement or attention span like?”
    • “Did I catch myself saying “um” or “uh” too many times?”
    • “Did I improve from my last presentation?”
    • “What could have been done better?”
  • Be sure to review your surveys directly after your presentation to debrief what happened and to look for constructive feedback to make immediate improvements. Additionally, be sure to follow up with everyone who identified needing your services or wanting to chat with you. This MUST happen within 24-48 hours of your presentation to ensure successful follow through.
  • Another idea might be to use the attendee list to increase your email database or connections on LinkedIn. As an authority on your subject, you should consider the importance of growing your audience this way. Between your social media posting and upcoming events, you might be able to touch someone a second or third time, which continually gets them closer to doing business with you.

For most attorneys, speaking is just something that’s done, while for others it’s the center of their law practice business development platform. My goal in working with attorneys on speaking is to drive a return on investment of time. If you’ve found yourself speaking on the wrong subject, in front of the wrong audience, or not getting the desired results, it might be time for a change. Try to fuse the planning, execution or follow-through strategies outlined here for a better result and a happier overall experience when speaking.

For more information on professional coaching for lawyers, please email me directly at [email protected] or call my cell direct at 847-602-6911.