Everyone knows that the most people rank public speaking right up there with root canals or at least something to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, attorneys also know that being an effective speaker, whether it be in Court or in a Seminar, is a great benefit to their profession.

Although there is not enough space here to go into details, I wanted to open up a conversation to explore why it is so scary and how attorneys can work towards feeling more comfortable in speaking.

  • Let’s first look at why this topic causes so much fear. Are you afraid you will make a mistake? You have no idea what to speak about? Do you think everyone will walk out when you start speaking? Do you feel it will open you up to criticism? The reasons go on and on. See if you can identify yours.
  • Next thing to do is to refute the idea that you can’t do it. This means you have to change your mind as well as your behavior. If you can identify your reason as really ridiculous (everyone will walk out), then you can start to dig your way out of your negative thoughts. Take a look at what might disprove your thoughts. If you can’t find something to speak about, look at the needs of your target audience. You can even ask them what they would like to find out about. You will make less mistakes if you are thoroughly prepared and have rehearsed.
    If all else fails, think about joining a Toastmaster’s Group where you can get some support and practice.

So, you have made up your mind that if other attorneys can do it, so can you. Where do you start? First, you will need to find an audience. This should be people in your “target market”. That means people who have the ability to become clients or refer to you. Also you will want people or a group where you can get some publicity and help in branding yourself as a competent and knowledgeable attorney.

For instance, if you are a family law attorney, Marriage and Family Therapists(MFCCs) might be part of your target market. They often need to refer clients to family law attorneys. What do these therapists need to know about the law? Is it about adoption? Is it about family support? Is it about bankruptcy? Is it about the rights of parents? The list goes on and on. Here you might want to run any ideas by a family law attorney that you know and find out what is of interest.

Next you will need to find out where these groups meet. Do they have an organization that you can approach for speaking? If so, prepare a few topics and write up a proposal allowing them to pick from it a topic that they want to hear about. If you can’t find a group, it might be possible to form your own little seminar by inviting all of the MFCCs in your area to a free seminar. Sometimes libraries will have free facilities to do this or you may have to use someone’s large conference room or even rent a space.

Next you will have to PREPARE, PREPARE AND PREPARE some more. Research and have a “core” of information that you are going to concentrate on. This will make you less nervous because you have facts, opinions and ideas that you are going to give to your audience. You will also need a beginning and an ending. If you aren’t a good joke teller, forget that. Often times you can start with a scary story about how a MFCC got in trouble for not knowing the law. You need something up front to grab the attention of the audience immediately.

Last, know your venue. Arrive early to set things up. Coordinate with the sponsor (if there is one) so you know the time allotted for your talk. Leave time for questions or tell your audience up front that you welcome comments and questions during your presentation. Be sure you have a microphone available if you need it. Also it is very important to have hand outs so you can put your contact information on it.

So I have skimmed the surface of public speaking. Hopefully, I may have calmed some of your fears about trying it to increase your marketing. Have a lot of your friends in the first audience. That always helps and get their reviews.


Please don’t think your marketing is over simply because you finally gave a speech.  There are several more tasks that need to be done after the big day is over.

1.  Collect as many names from the attendees as you can.  If the sponsor won’t give you names and email addresses, have a raffle and ask all participants to put in their business cards.  Starbucks gift cards are always great raffle gifts.  In this way, you can get a list of everyone who was there.

2. Put those names into your contacts in Outlook.  If you had a conversation with any of the people, note that.  Note what they do.

3. Enter those names in your general Constant Contact list so they can receive your eblasts and newsletters, etc.

4. Ask the Sponsors of the event for any feedback they have about the event.

5. Ask the Sponsors if they might like another talk in the future.  Note their response.

6. If you had a friend attend, get feedback from him or her.

7. Calendar to follow up to give another talk at that venue.

The follow up is where most attorneys fail to get the most marketing results.  So do your due diligence and find out how good your talk was, and how it might be improved.  Most important, keep in touch with all the people involved in the event.

Now you have all the hints you need to prepare for your next public speaking event.  When will that be?  The sooner you get known for your expertise and ability to help clients, the sooner new clients will come rolling in.


You are giving a bang up, value filled speech and Henry in the first row blurts out “Just where do you get these ideas? They sound groundless to me”.   What do you do after recovering from your nausea?   Again this comes down to being prepared for these instances whenever you are presenting.  The first key is to know as much about your audience as you can beforehand.

What kind of a background, in general, does your audience have?  Are they a homogenous group?  Can you relate and understand your audience and their needs?  You did this before when you were preparing your talk.  The most difficult audience is one that is filled with a lot of divergent people who needs are vastly different.  This is your classic politician’s struggle.  Everybody seems to want something different.

Also its important to understand your purpose.  Do you want to persuade? Do you want to inform? Do you want the audience to take a particular action?  Do you want the audience to become your client?  to refer you? Don’t be afraid to admit exactly why you are taking the time and trouble to give this speech.  In this way, you can be more focused on what you want to accomplish and hecklers are less able to get you off the track.

Next, prepare for the hostile or just irritating participant.  Many times you will want interaction with your audience because it makes for a much more dynamic presentation.  However, when you open it up to others talking sometimes they can go on and on. Be prepared to say something like” Joe, I really like what you are saying, can you and I continue this after we are finished here?’ or “Joe, let’s give some others a chance to comment”.  Be prepared also to actually interpret Joe in his wanderings.  The audience will appreciate it.

Because you will have researched your subject well, you probably won’t have any trouble with fact based questions or comments. Sometimes these questions can seem biting or have an edge to them (especially if the person is unhappy or angry). Usually, these people can be calmed by the fact that you respond in a confident manner and accurately answer their questions.

The really hard stuff comes when you get a hostile or just plain obnoxious person.  The best place to get some clues about how to handle this kind of situation is to watch really fine politicians like Obama and Clinton  handle their audiences.  When the hostile person is clearly off the subject and can be really annoying, sometimes it is better to start off by agreeing with them on some minor point and then get back on track. The problem is that you don’t want to “sour” your audience with needless heckling and waste their time.  So you have to short circuit this time of interchange as quickly as possible.

THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO KEEP CONTROL OF THE SITUATION. Never show anger.  Never make fun of the person.  Always show confidence.  Always remember that you are there to serve and take care of the remaining audience.  They and you don’t deserve having the program disrupted.

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas about how to handle that difficult person in your audience. It is never pleasant but should be expected…..unfortunately.  And a last word about reviews and exit surveys.  Don’t let them make you never want to do another talk.  Audiences, especially attorneys,  can be very picky and when they don’t have to sign their names, they can be downright cruel.  Just remember, these are the people that are too scared to give a talk themselves and start right in preparing your next one. Any idea what we should talk about next? Any burning problems?  Please put them in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.


Some of these ideas may not seem useful to you because you don’t have a desire to give a speech any time soon.  However, I would suggest that you cut these hints out and keep them for the time when you do decide to add public speaking to your marketing tools.  Every solo should be giving talks as well as attorneys in large firms. Attorneys in Public Practice can also get ahead sooner by becoming a public speaker.  This is one of the ways of branding yourself as a expert or someone very knowledgeable in an area of the law. So if you are not doing this, think about adding public speaking to your “tool kit”.

OK, now you are ready to prepare that topic and get ready to PERFORM.  Make sure, before you begin, that you know the size of the audience and what kind of set up will there be for your talk.  Don’t arrive with a power point and no place to show it.  Also you need to know how many hand outs to prepare.  Identify the person who will be helping you set up and who will be introducing you. You will need to prepare a short biography of yourself for the person introducing you to read.  Also attach a lengthier one with contact information to the back of your hand outs.  Always have hand outs even if you have a power point.  People need to take home information about the talk and you.

Be sure you know how long your talk should be.  You don’t want people walking out part way through because you didn’t know the timing of your presentation.

Now begins the work on the actual substance of your talk.  Let’s go back to the CPA example.  Say they picked the subject of “What every CPA needs to know about the new business law” from your list of possibilities.  You have researched and found several cases worth talking about.  So that will be the core of your talk.  But you also need a beginning and and bang up ending.

How then do you start your speech?  Some people like to start with a joke or a quote.  There are lots of jokes and quotes on the internet.  Be sure your joke is not demeaning to your audience.  Do not make fun of CPAs.  I think, in this case, it might be better to start with a hypothetical case where the CPA got in trouble for not knowing the current law.  This will certainly get their attention.

Then you need an ending.  Leave your audience with perhaps three things they can think about.  This would be related to your talk but put out in cautionary language.  Something like:  “Don’t be afraid to contact a business attorney if you think that there might be a law your don’t understand”.  Tell them upfront that you are giving them hints to live by and will make their life easier.

Always give value to to your audience and you can’t go wrong. Next week we can talk about how to handle questions and unruly people in the audience and other delightful tidbits to help make you a famous speaker.


I have been gone for a couple of weeks recovering from the lawyer’s curse, Bronchitis.   I could hardly speak and then I sounded like Lauren Bacall (remember her?).  Deep sexy voice.

So let’s turn to what you can speak about.  This is sometimes the landmine that stops people from ever getting up to speak.  If you are asked to speak on a particular subject, then you have it easy.  More difficult is putting together proposals and selling those to groups you want to speak to.  So let’s talk about that form of marketing yourself.

First you have to go back to identifying your target audience.  What information do they need?  What are their problems and concerns?  Where do they group together?  Is it the Rotary? Is it the Bar? Is it in Associations?  Take for instance that you have decided that your possible “gatekeepers” as a business lawyer are CPAs in your community.

Find out what CPAs read and then get those publications and see what they are interested in.  Next find out if there is an association of CPAs in your community.  Do they meet regularly?  Can you join?  do they have speakers? Who are the movers and shakers in the group? What kind of value are they trying to offer their clients?  How can you help them do that?

OK, now you have identified a group of CPAs in an Association.  You have found out who plans the meetings and that they do have speakers from time to time.  First ask that person what he or she would need to allow you to speak.  Also see if you can find out what prior speakers and topics they have used.  Then once you get the OK, you can begin to find several topics you can present as a proposal.

You might want to speak to a friend who is a CPA and find out what legal concerns are hot topics right now.  You can google information about what CPAs are facing in this economy.  What is their need?  Do they need to know the latest law? Or do they need more information about what to do for clients who are in legal trouble? Do they need to know factors which can keep clients out of legal trouble?

Now you have come up with 2 or 3 topics.  Put them together with a short description.  Indicate how long the presentation will be.  Add your resume with a picture so the person has a lot of good information to present to the powers that be who have to approve you.  Always think about how you can add value to the CPAs’ business.

Next time we’ll talk about what happens after you get accepted to present a speech.  Now comes the scary part!!!!


Ah, the most feared thing for humans!!!  and all attorneys need to face the reality that they will be called upon to do some of it throughout their career.  Even transactional attorneys may need to present a program or at least do a YOU TUBE to promote business.  Public Attorneys who are trial lawyers need to ace public speaking. Public attorneys who want to get ahead in their firm, need to present ideas and thoughts at meetings.

So why is this so scarey for most adults?  True, extroverts have a lot less fear than introverts, although they are prone to talking too much or being off point and boring.  But what are the reasons for the fear?  Obviously one is that the public speaker is exposed. He or she is standing there commanding the audience’s attention.  Fear of being judged badly is certainly a foremost fear for Speakers.

Will the audience think I’m stupid? boring? or awkward.  What overcomes this?  CONFIDENCE.  Confidence in public speaking comes from basically knowing that you have something of value to give to your audience.  This, of course, comes down preparing the material to be informative but even more so, to be logical and simple enough for the audience to follow.  Too many times the speaker aims the material to the top 20% of the audience that may understand his or her ideas quickly but forgets about the 80% that could be interested if the material were presented in a simpler fashion.

So Confidence will  likely  be available to the speaker if the speaker finds out what are the needs of the audience.  Say for instance you are presenting a program on marketing for lawyers.  If you are presenting this to a group of lawyers in a small town in Wisconsin your material will be quite different than if you were presenting the same subject in Chicago.  In reality, the distant may not be that much between the two venues in which you are speaking but the obvious information that will be of useful interest to each group is vastly different.

The presentation in Kenosha ( I lived there for two years)would probably still include advertising in the yellow pages, knowing the mayor, sitting on the Board of various organizations and some Linkedin presence.  On the other hand, this same presentation would stink if it were presented to a Chicago audience.  There you would want to talk about the new use of all the mobile apps, strong website and Linkedin presence and lots of work with the ABA (which is housed in Chicago) and the State and Local Bar Associations. There will be networking and membership in organizations but they will be different.  The lawyer’s time and energy needs to be focus in a much different manner than the small town lawyer.

This kind of talk is also tricky because you will have some really new and some really older lawyers.  Here you then need to figure out how to get to that 80% who need more solid direction than the top 20% who can take your instructions and implement them right away.  Sometimes offering follow up or resources is a good idea so that you don’t bore the top 20% with too many basic principals of marketing.

So you get the idea.  We’ll talk more about this subject in coming weeks because it is so important for attorneys to get comfortable with speaking when the opportunity arises.

Click here to enjoy a Ted Talk on Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking.