12 Tips for Getting the Most Business Out of Speaking Events
Speaking provides credibility and visibility, both of which are very helpful in terms of acquiring new clients. Yet, despite the significant time and effort that it takes to prepare presentations, many attorneys find that speaking events are not producing as much business as they had hoped. The following tips are intended to help lawyers identify areas to fine-tune their approach, in order to produce better results going forward.
- Find the Best Audience – Speaking to a wide range of groups just to get experience can be a very good idea. However, once an attorney becomes more comfortable and skilled at communicating to groups and managing the dynamics of a room, it is important to start actively seeking the ideal audience. This may take some trial and error. The best organizations for reaching a particular niche may not be as obvious as one might think. If you are not getting the business you want, this is the first place to look.
- Choose a Critically Important Topic – Even if you are speaking to an ideal audience, you may not be addressing an issue that would inspire them to hire you. They may attend simply because they are curious about the subject and want to be prepared for the future, rather than because they view the issue as a serious concern on which they are willing to spend money. It may take some experimentation in order to identify topics that hit the sweet spot, both resonating with the audience, and showcasing your passion and expertise.
- Choose an Enticing Title – A well-crafted title increases attendance and enthusiasm for the topic dramatically. On one hand, this could be seen as superficial; but on the other hand, if a speaker goes out of her way to choose an amusing or compelling title, it is reasonable to assume that she made similar effort with the entire presentation.
- Make Sure the Description Accurately Represents the Content of the Presentation – There are two major ways this can go awry. First, sometimes an event organizer will write the program description for you. If you do not control the way the program is being advertised, it is very likely that the “wrong” people will attend or that they will come with expectations that are at odds with what you actually provide. This can lead to a confused or disappointed audience and a lot of frustration for the speaker. The second common way this happens is when the speaker writes a program description before designing the presentation. While content may evolve through the preparation process, it is important to keep the program in alignment with the description.
- Come Across as Personable – While an attorney’s experience and expertise are important, clients are a lot more interested in doing business with those whom they like. Public speaking does not come naturally to everyone, and even people who are usually genuine and charming may not come across as their usual likeable selves, due to nervousness, a believe that they “should” act a certain way in front of a group, etc. Some of this comes with practice, but getting feedback and simply putting greater attention on connecting with the audience can be immensely helpful.
- Put Aside the Perfectionism – There are a lot of variables at play when speaking to a group, and circumstance will not always go as planned. If you are at a conference, the previous breakout session can run late, cutting into your perfectly timed presentation. The audience may turn out to have a dramatically different level of knowledge about the subject than you expected. There could be an unusually difficult audience member who won’t shut up about his own agenda. You could fall suddenly ill and have intense nausea or a hoarse voice. The list of unexpected challenges is long. Flexibility is your friend.
- Make Sure Your Biographical Descriptions are Consistent – If your biographical descriptions say different things about your expertise, you may be inadvertently undermining your credibility. Audience members frequently research speakers on the Internet and through social media to determine whether or not to attend a presentation, or to evaluate a speaker’s level of expertise. Thus, it is important that your law firm biography, speaker’s biography, and LinkedIn and other social media profiles all send a consistent message.
- Tell Them the Types of Law You Practice – Based on your presentation topic, audiences often make inaccurate assumptions about the scope of work that you do. If you offer a presentation about regulation of the electric grid, they may not realize that you also work on other types of energy or regulatory issues. Simply telling them at some point in your presentation, or using a range or examples, helps people recognize opportunities for working with you.
- Have a Structure for Gathering Contact Information – Asking for business cards from those who wish to receive client alerts, or offering to send out slides or other supplementary materials related to your topic is a great way to gather contact information from audience members. It is important to know the policies and procedures for the particular host organization, as some provide materials to participants electronically, others will offer the speaker a list of attendees, etc. Once you know the particulars, you can make a plan for how to request contact information from participants in way that is both inviting and appropriate.
- Follow up – The people who attend your program are leads, and turning them into clients generally requires follow-up. While some people who attend your presentation may immediately express interest in hiring you, most will not be shopping for an attorney right away. However, that could easily change down the line, and you want to still be in contact when it does. Therefore, it is important to have a good system in place for following up and staying in touch.
- Offer Insights as Well as Information – Lawyers are great at providing information on developments in the law and other technical details, but often do not offer the type of insights and generalizations that audiences find most valuable. Such comments may require caveats, but this is where your expertise becomes most evident. In a world where it’s not that hard to look up regulations, it is the context and broader implications for which clients are paying you.
- Make Content as Engaging as Possible – It is not always obvious how to liven up a presentation on a dry legal topic. However, one of the best ways is to use stories. Every case has a story behind it, and although the exact details may not be relevant to your audience, simply fleshing out the situation, and explaining a little bit about the characters, groups or context helps people to process and later recall the information. Don’t be scared to err on the side of being a little too interesting. If the audience can’t stay awake, they are a lot less likely to remember, let alone hire you.
Even highly effective and experienced speakers will likely be able to identify areas for improvement. Becoming truly great at anything, from football to parenting to business development, requires constant practice, evaluation and adjustment. The key is to just choose one or two areas to focus on at time. Progress in any of these areas is likely to increase the number or quality of your prospects.