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.

Public Speaking and Stage FrightAlthough 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.