Client Presentations and Speaking Engagements
How attorneys can up their game
There are certain characteristics of being a lawyer that lend themselves to public speaking. After all, it’s part of the job, at least for trial attorneys. An attorney often has to present their case to an audience, and present it compellingly; convincing listeners with surety and authority. We’re only human, however, and when it comes to out of court speaking engagements, nerves can take over.
At other times, we may be calm but concerned about the quality of our presentation. From coping with performance anxiety to presenting top-flight content, here are some speaking tips for attorneys.
Step One: Dealing with physical nerves and recall
If your nerves are an issue with public speaking or presentations, you’re not alone. Millions of us deal with glossophobia, with 74% suffering from speech anxiety. Getting in tune with your body can be key to making a good physical impression. A few effective preparatory tips are:
- Breathe slowly and deeply and move in a relaxed manner
- Bullet point introductory, transitional and critical key words and phrases
- Utilize bold physical gestures or hold common office items like coffee or pens to mask trembling
- Wear dark colors and minimize layering if you’re prone to sweating
- Avoid any foods beforehand that may have your stomach working audibly
Outlining the key points of your presentation will reduce recall stress which can make you freeze up in front of an audience. Have a well-defined but loose guide which will take you from point to point without pages of material to memorize.
Step Two: Forget about yourself and remember the story
Your whiteboard won’t be nervous. Your marker pen could do this in its sleep. If you want an effective performance, then try classing yourself as a tool in the presentation and not the center of it. The center, after all, is your audience. Think and focus on what they want to hear, see, and learn. Storifying your presentation can be an effective approach.
“Storifying” isn’t a real word but it’s a worthwhile concept to consider. A speaker who casts themselves as a storyteller automatically:
- Renders themselves a means to an end and puts focus on the listener
- Sets in place positive audience triggers like characters, goals, risks, and morals (the takeaways for the audience)
Not only those, but treating your presentation like a story will help you add a bit of character and avoid making it a lifeless presentation of facts and figures. Alternatively, try flipping the scene and putting yourself in the audience. Be the speaker you want to witness.
Step Three: Structure towards the destination
Structure is vital in a successful presentation. Not only will it aid your recall, it will do the same thing for your audience. Starting with an overview of the subject and gradually zeroing in on your topic can be a strong opening (so can the reverse). Make a list of all the points you want to cover in a logical progression to your final statement.
Structured content is a great compliment to adding a story element. Where story is the imaginative hook that will engage your listeners, structured content is the supporting material like graphs, fact sheets, relevant individuals, and so forth.
This may seem like a common sense speaking tip but it bears repeating: If there’s any bad news in your presentation, get it out of the way at the start and structure your engagement upward toward a positive solution.
Step Four: Include your audience
Asking questions of your audience is a great way to improve a presentation, as it has multiple benefits.
First, it includes them; elevating your listeners from a passive to an interactive position. Second, this will add an organic element to your presentation as they field their queries (without which your talk may be a simple bullet-point run to the finish line). Set the tone from the beginning of your talk, though: Will it be a “questions whenever they arise” situation, or an “allotted time for questions” approach?
Remember, we’re in the Age of Interaction. Could you add a social media angle to your presentation to encourage audience participation through Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
Step Five: Brevity and levity
Even the hardest presentation topics will benefit from a little well-placed levity; especially the harder ones. Nobody wants a non-stop negative experience. Your audience is more likely to respond well if you factor in:
- Positive emotion or humor from the outset, and occasionally throughout
- High energy without compromising the gravity of your topic
- Visual aids which can add color in the form of images, animations, or short films
An issue at your firm, with a client or the world at large will vary in its degree of severity, so use your judgement on where best to inject a little laughter and color.
Step Six: Remember you’re in charge
Finally, be proud of yourself for being up there and giving the presentation in the first place! All eyes are on you to pay attention, not to judge. Center stage is a position that commands audience respect and you can draw from that. The art of the perfect presentation is attainable when you follow a few simple steps.
At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist.