You are trying to build your book of business. With the competition getting nimbler and more aggressive, it hasn’t been easy. Clients are unfaithful yet they’re demanding more of your time. You have tried to be a consultative business developer, working on building relationships. You’ve been trying to do as much as you can with limited time.
One way to become a proven winner in business development -- for yourself, the firm and your colleagues -- is to get out there and give a talk to a roomful of people. Presenting your positions shows you as an expert, or better, THE expert, in your area of specialty. Speaking to a captive audience allows you to make your points and deliver your strongest messages. The crowd will hang on your every word. You are the authority everyone came to see and hear. If you do it well, you’ll find this form of business development is incredibly successful. It attracts new clients. You become a people magnet. They’ll walk up to you, engage you in conversation, slip you their business cards and say, “Please call me.” Translation: “I like your message and think you are the type of lawyer with whom I want to do business.” The calls and emails will continue for several weeks as word of mouth spreads through the business community.
Sadly, most speaking opportunities for lawyers end up wasted. All that worry about the presentation, the pressure of the prep work and, at last, the performance, result in an empty-handed return to the office. What if you could come back with a list of potential clients who are excited about working with you and your firm?
As a professional speaker and presentation skills coach, I have seen lawyers speak in front of audiences over and over. Most have no clue how to give their audiences a motivating and memorable experience.
A Golden Opportunity Wasted
I recently gave a keynote address in Los Angeles and, prior to my talk; the association had a lawyer give the membership a legal update. His thirty-minute monologue of facts and figures, presented in a droning, monotone voice while leaning on the podium, was a disaster. I watched in disbelief as a golden opportunity to connect with the audience slipped away, second by second. Every two or three minutes, groups of people got up and walked out.
Flabbergasted, I watched an audience of over 500 people, previously excited to be there, shrink by about 50%. When the speaker finally finished, he garnered a smattering of half-hearted applause – mostly because he had finished. The emcee thanked him and asked, diplomatically, if we could all take a 10-minute break -- so they could regroup everyone for the next presentation – mine.
This is one of many sad examples of lawyers wasting not only their own valuable time, but also the audience’s valuable time while leaving a bad impression in the minds of 500 potential clients. When I talk with lawyers who have just given a presentation, they usually think they have done a tremendous job. Yet, no one comes up afterward or they never receive any calls or emails from the members of the audience. They then tell me, “Speaking is a waste of time and it just doesn’t generate business.” My answer to these lawyers is very simple and straightforward: “If you give a great speech, business will follow.”
The Key to Success
If you are going to be a presenter, the expert, the font of wisdom, you must remember one central fact. It’s not about you. It’s about them, the audience, the listeners and people who are investing their precious morning, afternoon or evening time to hear and see you.
They listen intently with one question in mind: what’s in it for me? As well, they want to be engaged by your personality and passion for your subject matter. If you are passionate about your topic, your listeners will become excited about it too. If you deliver your message with enthusiasm, voice variance and convincing inflections, staying clear of the podium and employing dramatic body language, you will become a people magnet.
That podium puts a wall between you and the audience. Ditch it and connect with the people you want to win over. Don’t let the podium be a barrier – that just tells those folks you’re nervous and uncertain. Remember, you’re the expert. You know your material frontwards, backwards and inside-out. Come out in the open and be open. Stand tall and confident. Connect. Smile and use a tone of voice that makes people feel good.
Here’s something to take to heart. A famous study on communication found that:
55% of communication is body language
38% is tone of voice
7% is the actual word
A Success Story
Last year I spoke at an event attended by over 700 people from companies large and small. After my speech I sat in on a couple of workshops. One was a presentation by an attorney to about 75 people. A podium stood at the front of the room but she didn’t go near it. Instead she walked from side to side and up and down a few rows. Why? To connect with her audience. She carried herself with poise and dignity and was passionate about her subject, corporate tax law. Everyone could see that she knew her stuff and was well-prepared.
She gave her talk with energy, passion and style. When it was over I counted 25 people who came up to her and handed her their cards, saying they were interested in speaking further with her. I heard them say so. After the room emptied, and while she was packing up her things, I walked up to her and introduced myself. We talked about how her presentations were generating new business for her firm and self-evident benefits for herself.
She said she had been doing approximately eight to 10 presentations a year. Each year, her speaking had led to increased revenues. We shared a knowing laugh when I told her our consulting firm has seen the same results. When I asked her what the key to her success was, she said, “Most lawyers think it is a waste of time to speak because they don’t want to make the effort to practice. Most of my colleagues have the attitude that it is always about them but, in the real world outside of law, it is all about the needs of the audience. That’s why I continue to speak and keep growing my practice at an unbelievable rate each year.”
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