Legal professional Public Talking & Instructing


If you feel comfortable on stage (or are ready to improve your skills – more on that later), speaking publicly can be a great way to establish your expertise in an area and expand your reach to a new audience.

Like every aspect of your strategic marketing plan, your public speaking strategy should be strategic. You should understand who you want to speak with and how the speech fits into your overall marketing plan.

For example, teaching a CLE to lawyers could be a way to connect to new referral sources. When you have a lunch-in-learn at a local community center, you can connect with potential customers who need your services. Whenever possible, consider how this fits into your overall marketing strategy.

How to prepare for the presentation

Pick a topic (and make it good)

An audience is more likely to show up and be excited to attend or speak to your CLE if it is an interesting topic. How your framework frames your presentation is crucial.

An exaggerated and everyday way to formulate your CLE topic would be, for example, "Hot Trends in the Personal Injury Act". This is not specific enough to be tempting. A better choice would be "Three new areas of the Personal Injury Act that every lawyer needs to know in 5 years." Instead of a "Beginner's Guide to Writing a Will", try something more catchy like "Do you want a good will?" Here is the 10-point checklist that every lawyer uses for estate planning. "

Take the opportunity to learn about an essential area of ​​the law

Talk about topics that you know well or be ready to quickly familiarize yourself with the topic. If your strategy includes teaching CLEs to lawyers, look for teaching opportunities that match your current number of cases. Are you working on a case of excessive violence?

Now is the time to register to teach a qualified immunity CLE. The advantage of this method is that you improve your skills in an important area and motivate you to create the best possible CLE materials, as these can serve as case research.

Make an outline

As with a good letter, the key to an effective presentation is organization. Nobody wants to listen to someone jumping from one topic to another. This is why an outline is important.

If you start with an outline, the overall picture is easy to see. You will understand how the topics should pass and fit together. An outline can also make it clear where there is a gap in your presentation and highlight repetitive parts of your presentation.

Spend time putting together high quality materials

Preparing materials doesn't just mean printing out a series of statutes or old articles you've written. Instead, consider your audience and what materials they find most helpful after the presentation. Regardless, your content should be direct, easy to track, and current.

When you present to lawyers, you create materials that are useful and can be used later for reference. Mark important cases or recent laws so that even veterans in the field may discover something new.

Ideally, quote all important cases in your field of activity and address topics that are peripheral but interesting. If there is a legal review article or book that is helpful, quote it as well.

If you can convert your presentation into a short manual, the participants will keep it, which will allow recommendations to be made in the future. It's also a clear sign that you've put serious effort into your presentation – great for your reputation!

When presenting to potential customers, you probably don't have to leave a treatise. The goal is to put together checklists, forms and other useful materials that people can use after their departure.

Let viewers work through worksheets or questionnaires during the presentation. Make sure your materials are branded and have contact information so that users can easily contact you later.

To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint?

After you've created an outline and materials, you need to decide whether you should use slides to improve your presentation. First, make sure the facility can view a slideshow. Suppose you need a PowerPoint or just think you need it because everyone else is using it.

Participants almost always expect a slide show when attending a presentation. Without them, they may think you forgot it or were just too lazy to put it together. Nevertheless, there is endless advice on the Internet whether slideshows are the best or worst tool ever made for speech.

If you choose a slideshow, use it as a guide. The slides should be the starting point for a conversation. This will help you shape your topic and remind people where you are.

And follow some simple rules. Guy Kawasaki asks the moderators to use no more than ten slides and only use 30 point fonts or more. Your presentation may be so complex that ten slides are too few. However, you should try to use as little as possible.

The audience is there to hear you and not read the entire presentation of slides. Keep the information on the slides limited and make sure you are the one who teaches the lesson, not the slides.

Finally, you have a backup plan. Computers crash. Flash drives will be damaged. Your presentation may not work. That means you have to be ready to roll without the help of a PowerPoint slideshow.

Practice your speech

Do not write down your entire speech. If you do, you will probably only read it and you will sound formal and stiff. However, do not memorize your speech, as you will then spend most of your energy on reciting instead of connecting with your audience. However, you should practice your speech.

Every time you create or revise a presentation, you should practice. You should know if parts of your presentation are not flowing long in front of an audience. You should work on what to say, how to say it, and what to leave out.

But the most important thing to focus on is the pace. You need to know how long your presentation will run if you don't have an audience. For an audience, your presentation can be faster (because you speak faster) or slower (if there is a lively discussion).

Schedule presentations in ten-minute blocks. If you plan an hour, divide it into six blocks. As you approach the end of your first planned block and you have three minutes left, tell a story that you weren't sure you would have time for. If you fill the time temporarily in ten-minute increments, it is much less noticeable than filling fifteen minutes at the end of the hour.

Prepare your body

Yes, you need to prepare your notes, but you also need to make sure that your body works together on the day of.

A few basic physical tips to prepare for the presentation:

  • Get enough sleep. Even if you've written the best presentation in the world and practiced to the point where you know how long it will take, it doesn't matter if you show up with two hours of sleep when you're usually seven years old. Everyone uses different techniques to ensure a good night's sleep, but does everything to be rested.
  • Eat properly. This is not about telling you what to eat on the day of your presentation. It's more about telling you what not to eat: something new. The day you are presenting is not the time to try a new recipe for a kale / calamari / pomegranate omelet that you have heard of. Eat only foods that your body is familiar with before presenting them. The day of a speech is not the right time to start a new diet. You and your stomach want familiarity.
  • Wear something you have worn before. It's great if you want to get new clothes before a presentation, but you should test the new outfit before the presentation so it feels comfortable and familiar. Shoes are a different matter. It may take some time for new shoes to feel right. Try not to use this opportunity as a good excuse to put on uncomfortable new footwear.

Just before the speech

You have made it to date! Let's make sure you're prepared.

Here's a quick checklist of what you need to cover the day you're presenting – but before you start talking.

Do you know the room

Some people will advise you to see a room the day before (or even earlier) to get a feel for how your presentation will work. If possible, do that! If not, arrive early enough to spend a few minutes before looking around the room. It is always useful to view the views (especially the screen when PowerPoint is present) from multiple locations.

Check the tech

Make sure the technology you want to use works, is not frozen and is ready for use. You shouldn't do this during your speech. Check the technology before being introduced.

Know the audience

If possible, look at the list of participants before going on stage. You may know someone in the audience who has insight into one aspect of your presentation. Talk to them before the presentation to make sure it's okay to select them for a question or comment.

Bring water

Never assume that the host will provide water or other beverages during your presentation. You must have this if your throat gets dry.

Be an effective speaker / moderator

And when it's time to speak, how can you excite the crowd? Here are some tips to help you be the best speaker you can be.

Do it from someone

You don't have to find a colleague to do this. The further someone is from the actual target group to whom you are sending your message, the better. Openness and honesty span all areas. It is therefore productive to test your story on your significant other, your friend or colleague.

Have them repeat what you told them. Did what they say sound like you said it or did you want them to hear it? If not, you need to sharpen and clarify your content.

Ask them if you looked nervous, if they believed what you said, and if they were distracted from what you said or how you said it. Use these comments to focus your samples.


Most people accelerate when they face a crowd. It is often a combination of nerves and enthusiasm. Younger lawyers can be particularly prone to speaking too quickly.

This problem is exacerbated when you read from a prepared text. For example, cold text appears in CLEs when you want to read a quote from a case or part of a regulation. Try to slow down when you encounter cold text.

Also write SLOW DOWN over the top of your presentation sketch to remind you to keep a constant eye on your speed.

Be real

Any kind of audience demands authenticity from a speaker. If a speaker wants to communicate or convince, he has to make sure that the presentation is as real as possible. That means connecting and engaging with your audience by informing, entertaining or inspiring them.

The more focused a speaker is on the topic – both its emotional and factual components – the more acceptance the audience will find.


Not every presentation is personal. In fact, more and more are being done online, which has its own advantages and challenges.

Your audience is online in a webinar. The webinar usually includes a slideshow and may show the speaker in a tiny box above or below the screen.

Your preparation and presentation of webinars should differ from that of a live presentation. Even if you have given a lot of live presentations and are comfortable, preparing for this type of recorded presentation is not very helpful.

Get ready to not see faces

To start preparing, find out exactly what the audience will see. Some webinars don't show the speaker at all, just the slides. Others only show you from the neck. If you know this, you can decide how you want to present.

Since you don't have a physical audience, you lack the immediate feedback that the live presentation offers. In a personal presentation, you can see the faces of the audience. You can feel if they are bored or excited or if they can follow what you say. None of this works in a webinar.

With a webinar, you are the only person who controls the emotions for the entire presentation. Even if live questions are emailed during the presentation, they are likely to be asked only about certain points and will not really come to the tone of your presentation or give you a sense of whether you are connecting with your audience.

Practice your webinar many times

The first step to making the presentation effective is to practice it extensively in advance. Lack of preparation for the webinar can hardly be hidden on the screen with a charming person. Where you might be able to blow through a personal CLE by being charming and connecting with your audience – you just look unprepared in a webinar.

Preparation is all the more important if your presentation will be available in an on-demand format in the long term. Your lack of preparation can be visible for years. Practicing the presentation several times is an absolute necessity.

A good example: news anchor

At a webinar, a good goal should be to make your presentation a more convincing news anchor. Here are four keys:

Use your visual aids, but don't read them aloud

Just like a personal presentation, using a slideshow is fine as long as you don't read the words on the slides. The slides are meant to give your readers something to focus on while listening to you. You can also add what you say. If you want to quote a full case, feel free to paste it on a slide. Just don't read it literally.

You are better off with a script than with ad libbing

With a live presentation, reading from a script is a bad idea. They can appear robotic and uninterested. At a webinar, however, it is better to read verbatim from a page than to be underprepared.

This is especially true if the audience cannot see you or your picture is so small that it doesn't matter that you read from one side. As long as you practice the presentation sufficiently, a fully written presentation can be an effective approach to a webinar.

However, you have to sound like you're not just reading. If you watch a professional news anchor, you'll learn how. You need to pause occasionally, with different pause lengths, to have an effect. It is also useful to modulate your voice when you ask a rhetorical question or enter an important point. Avoid a monotonous delivery and schedule an important point about every five minutes.

Timing is everything

If you promise your audience a ninety-minute presentation, you owe them ninety minutes. You should assume that there are no questions.

As with personal presentations, you should follow the ten-minute rule and split your presentation into several ten-minute blocks. If you plan your exercise presentations in advance, you should know if you have enough material. Keep in mind that most people are at least ten percent faster with the actual presentation than with their rehearsals.

Audience questions? Trust your assistant

Most live webinars allow the audience to email questions while the presentation is being recorded. Before you give your presentation, talk to someone who will help you deal with these questions.

Watch enough webinars and you will find that the mere possibility of an emailed question easily distracts speakers. It's their only real interaction with the audience, and some will just end their presentation and bluntly ask, "Is that a question?" This can affect the rhythm of the presentation.

Trust that the person who receives the questions knows whether or not to pass them on to you. Some questions have already been answered when they reach you, so they should be ignored.

Some are nonsensical or even mini-presentations that may not be related to your topic. Some are just technical questions about watching the webinar. Trust that your assistant can tell the difference between a good question and a bad question.

Do not think about what your target audience is doing while watching your presentation

At webinars, the audience must always be on their honor. But we all know that some people are likely to multitask while watching these online presentations. Some may review emails or review a brief description while viewing them. Some may be at home and still wearing their pajamas. Some may be working on an elliptical trainer.

It is no use to you to compete with one of these options. The best thing you can do is create and deliver a professional presentation. Expect your audience to realize at the beginning of the presentation that it's worth watching. Hopefully if you convince them early you will have their attention for the rest of the presentation.


For each presentation you want to give, make sure you have a solid plan to promote the event before and after.

Marketing channels

Here are some marketing channels you should consider:

Social media. Create a Facebook page or event for the presentation. List the presentation on LinkedIn Events. Send notifications to your Twitter community and create a specific hashtag that users can follow. Create a short promotional video and publish it on YouTube.

Advertising with associations and legal blogs that serve your target group. The revenue-to-impression ratio will likely be low, but you will also build relationships, recognition, and trust.

Mail and email. The old-fashioned way is still effective to reach a target group. This requires some analysis and evaluation, aside from buying large email lists.

Should you pay to present?

Many CLEs and events don't pay speakers. Exceptions are (sometimes) nationally known speakers, experts in a certain field with considerable recognition and keynote speakers at conferences.

Most other lectures, including the bar's typical CLEs, don't pay for the speakers. However, some organizations actually ask speakers to pay for the presentation.

One reason vendors charge speakers is that they get access to a new audience. The host sells the opportunity to speak to try your sales pitch and face an audience full of potential customers and referral sources. If you end up with a few paying customers, the price of speaking might be worth it. If speaking is seen as advertising for your company, a speaker's fee may appear reasonable.

At the same time, the idea of ​​paying for a presentation is somewhat offensive, especially if the host already benefits from the participants. The audience receives information and possibly CLE credits. The speaker only gets an invoice.

If you are a speaker who uses presentations to open up new areas of business, it can be worth paying to speak. But you might want to look elsewhere for a cost-benefit analysis.

No matter, go for speaking opportunities. You not only establish yourself as an expert in your field, but also get your name, your company and your brand. It is worth it.

And hey – you're not alone. That is exactly what we deal with in our coaching communities. Do you want additional help? Set up a time to learn more.

Stephanie Everett

last update May 14, 2020.



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