By John Remsen, Jr.
Study after study says that public speaking is among the most effective business development activities for lawyers. Yet, many lawyers are often disappointed that public speaking rarely results in new business for them. By following some of the suggestions outlined in this checklist, you can significantly increase the marketing effectiveness of your speaking engagements.
Think about your upcoming speaking engagement as rare opportunity to accomplish several very important marketing objectives — all in one swoop. Through it, you can:
- Build relationships with people who can hire or refer you;
- Enhance your reputation as an expert in a particular area of law; and
- Increase your visibility among key target audiences.
However, if you merely give your presentation to an organization never to be heard from again (which is what most lawyers do), you are likely to be disappointed with the results. To get the most from the activity, you must take the time to properly prepare and, more importantly, follow up.
Because of the time necessary to make speeches work effectively from a business development perspective, you should be selective about the speaking opportunities you pursue and/or accept. Here is a checklist of items you should consider to capitalize on your upcoming speaking engagement.
BEFORE YOUR PRESENTATION
Be Clear About Your Purpose
Of course, the ultimate objective of your presentation is to generate business for you and your firm. But, give some thought to your primary purpose for each particular presentation. Is your primary purpose to build relationships with people you already know, build your reputation as an expert in an area of law, or increase overall visibility with a key audience? Once you determine your primary purpose, you can then incorporate some of the ideas presented here into your strategy.
Learn About Your Audience
Talk to a few of the key players in the organization at which you will be a speaker. Ask questions about their industry and its current issues. Get a feel for the role your audience members have at their companies. Determine the degree to which they have the authority to hire or influence the decision to hire outside counsel. By talking to these folks, you are also building important relationships with them. Consider sending a questionnaire before your presentation to learn about topics of interest and get your name in front of them.
Know the Format for Your Presentation
Are you the only speaker or is it a panel discussion? What other topics and speakers will be presented at the meeting or conference? Is there an opportunity to invite a key client or referral source to “partner” with you for this presentation?
Take Full Advantage of Relationship Building Opportunities
Call the president of the group and take him/her to lunch to talk about issues important to the organization. Get to know staff as they are in a key position to get you and other lawyers at your firm more speaking and writing opportunities down the road. See if you can arrange a few complimentary registrations for an important client or two. Perhaps there are others at your firm who should attend.
IMPORTANT: Request a list of registrants a few days before the meeting. Review and make note of at least two or three people you want to get to know better. These are the people you will seek out on the day of your presentation and for whom you will develop a personal follow up plan.
Develop Good Handout Materials
Not a document the size of a telephone book….but a smart, concise set of materials. Here, less is more. Give members of the audience a reason to call you after the presentation if they have specific questions or want additional information on the topic. An outline of your talk (little more), an article or two on a topic of interest to the group (hopefully something that you or a member of your firm has written), and information about you and your firm. Don’t forget to include a business card and keep in mind the rules imposed by the Bar in certain jurisdictions.
Generate Some Pre-Event Publicity
Ask if you can submit information about you and your firm for publication in the organization’s newsletter or meeting notice. Let everyone at your firm know what you are doing. Consider sending a press release to key local newspapers and trade publications.
Clarify Who Pays What up Front
Be certain to discuss any speaker’s fee and other expenses (such as travel and accommodations) up front. Have a clear understanding of who pays what. And it’s not a bad idea to get it in writing. It can save a lot of embarrassment and misunderstanding later on.
AT YOUR PRESENTATION
Arrive Early and Stay Late
Among your purposes for the presentation is to enhance your relationships with clients, prospective clients and referral sources. The best time to do this is the half-hour or so before your presentation and immediately after your presentation. This is an ideal time to “work the crowd” and it’s almost as important as the talk itself. You should try to be there at least an hour before your session is scheduled to begin.
Check the Room and Your Presentation Materials
Familiarize yourself with room and lighting. Make certain the A/V equipment is in proper working order. Distribute your handout materials. Do this first thing when you arrive so it does not interfere with your time to “meet and greet.”
Meet the Key Players
Seek out the people you identified on the registration list ahead of time and make it a point to introduce yourself to them. Find the leaders of the organization to thank them for inviting you to speak.
Collect Business Cards
Pass around a fish bowl asking audience members to deposit a business card. Raffle off an item that relates to your talk, like a book, or something clever and different. Let folks know that if they deposit a card in the bowl, they will be added the firm’s mailing lists. This little trick may allow you and your firm to send future marling material to audience members without filing it for review because they have now requested it. Florida, for example, allows law firms to send marketing material, such as seminar invitations and newsletters, to existing clients and upon request without filing them for review and approval by The Florida Bar. Unsolicited direct mail, however, is subject to a myriad of requirements (such as disclaimer language or the word “Advertisement” in red on the envelope) which significantly reduce the effectiveness of your marketing effort. Get folks to “opt-in” to receive future communications from you and firm.
Make Your Presentation Memorable
Try to make your presentation as lively and entertaining as possible. Make it interactive by involving your audience in your talk and encouraging them to interrupt you if they have any questions. Get out from behind the podium and walk among the audience. This technique works amazingly well to make people perceive you as personable and easy-to-approach. Always allow time for questions and answers at the end of your talk.
Leave Them Wanting More
If your objective includes developing relationships with key people, you can do that most effectively by not giving away all the answers. Give people a reason to call you later. For example, refer to articles and additional information not included in the handout materials. You can send it to those who leave a business card. A follow up phone call to those people you want to know better (remember the ones you identified on the pre-conference registration list?) is a natural next step and presents another great relationship building opportunity. Ask audience members with specific questions to speak to you one-on-one after your presentation. You do not have to give out all the answers and cover all the issues to give an effective presentation.
AFTER YOUR PRESENTATION
The Importance of Follow up
If, after your presentation, you go away never to be heard from again you have wasted your time. Do not even think about taking the time to prepare and deliver a presentation unless you plan to dedicate time and resources necessary to follow up effectively.
Notes and Letters
At the very least, take the time to send a hand-written thank you note to the leadership of the organization and to the person responsible for inviting you to speak. In addition, consider writing a note to other speakers and key audience members. You may even want to send follow up letters to everyone who heard your talk. If your firm has a newsletter, add certain individuals to its mailing list.
Circulate the Registration List at Your Firm
Share the registration list with others at your firm. Maybe, just maybe, some business development opportunities become evident.
Go After Your Key Targets
This is the most important aspect of turning your speaking engagement into a meaningful and effective business development strategy. Personally follow up with a phone call to the two or three individuals you identified to specifically target. If you spent a few minutes with them at the presentation, they would likely welcome a telephone call and would be interested in getting to know you better. For starters, consider inviting them to lunch or an upcoming sporting event. Your objective at this point is start building relationships with them.
Future Speaking and Writing Opportunities
Work with the organization to identify topics for future programs. Ask about opportunities to write articles for the organization’s newsletter. If the group includes decision-makers and represents an industry group important to you and your firm, you should consider joining the organization and becoming an active member.
Play it Again, Sam
Chances are there are other organizations that would like to hear the same presentation. Promote yourself and you might be surprised by the result. Also, consider converting your speech into an article on the topic.
Generate Some Post-Event Publicity
Just as before the speech, consider any publicity opportunities, both within the firm and externally. Maybe it’s something you should add to your resume or biographical profile.
Strive to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Review the evaluation forms that the audience filled out after our talk. They usually contain some insightful information. And if you really want to become an effective speaker and make it an important part of your marketing plan, join a Toastmasters group in your area or consider a course in public speaking.
By following some of the ideas and suggestions set forth in this checklist, you can start to realize the full benefit of public speaking to accomplish your marketing goals and objectives.
About the Author
John Remsen, Jr. is President of TheRemsenGroup, a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively with law firms to help them attract and retain the clients they want. He is Past President of the Southeastern Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association and is a frequent speaker and author on law firm marketing topics. He can be reach at 404.885.9100 or JRemsen@TheRemsenGroup.com