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Law Firm PR and Speaking Engagements: How to Get Them

published November 05, 2007

Paramjit Mahli
( 19 votes, average: 3.9 out of 5)
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<<Well-known marketers such as Dan Kennedy and countless others agree that speaking engagements are one of the fastest ways to get new clients. Firms need to expose their areas of expertise to prospective clients. By speaking at conferences and forums put together by professional and industry trade groups, attorneys can increase their firm's visibility and, consequently, its prospects for attracting new business.

What speaking does is give the speaker special status, making it easier for him or her to meet prospects. Attendees expect speakers to reach out to the audience; in turn, they give speakers respect and credibility. According to the American Society of Association Executives, the conference and meeting industry is a $56 billion market.


However, a word of caution: if you are expecting overnight success, think twice. Public relations, like gardening, requires nurturing, pruning, and weeding out. So how and where do you begin?
  • In most cases, speaking can be a waste of time. Do some strategic thinking. Target the associations you would like to get in front of. Who do you want your audience to be? For example, if your firm specializes in personal injury law, you may want to speak in front of a group of human resource managers about preventing hazardous conditions in the workplace. For bankruptcies, attorneys/financial planners/accounting associations might be a good fit. Start locally, and build up a portfolio. Bottom line: you must identify the speaking opportunities that will let you reach your intended audience. If you want to improve your skills, start with Toastmasters International (click here for an article on Toastmasters), which has chapters in most cities. Members generally meet once a week, presenting impromptu and prepared speeches and receiving feedback.
     
  • Designate a speaker for the firm. This can get a bit tricky depending on the size of the firm and which areas the firm wishes to focus on. It is best to start small and build a strong foundation. The designated speaker should have speaking experience. For small to medium-sized firms, the best choice would be a senior or managing partner.
     
  • From time to time, attorneys do get invited to speak in front of groups. Don't wait for this to happen. Have someone in the firm or a marketing public relations firm actively working on targeting opportunities. This person or firm should be responsible for developing relationships with event and industry associations, submitting proposals, and, most importantly, staying in touch with contacts. It is always a good idea to get yourself on a group's backup list of speakers. Stay on the right side of event organizers.
     
  • It is crucial to tailor the speaker proposals you submit to event organizers. You want to make their lives easy. Ask them whether they prefer email, hard copy, or fax for submissions. Make sure you meet all deadlines and that all appropriate material, such as bios, previous speaking engagements, etc., is sent together. Do not send information in bits and pieces. Chances are materials will get lost in the clutter.
     
  • If you are targeting a particular group and it is not giving your firm the time of day, offer to write for the group's newsletter. This will go a long way toward building a relationship and demonstrating to the organization that your firm is very serious.
     
  • Finally, follow up, follow up, follow up. Being persistent in a non-obtrusive way goes a long way toward helping your firm stand above the crowd.
Publicizing and marketing the event is only one component of ensuring a successful presentation; equally important is the talk itself. Aside from generating new business, an effective speech can result in the organization inviting the speaker back or the attendees recommending the speaker to other groups.

Here are a few things to bear in mind:
  • Know why you are giving the presentation.
  • Know whom you will be addressing.
  • Know where you are speaking.
  • Know what you are going to say and how you will say it.
Once you are clear on this, put all the themes in a logical order, jot down notes, prepare visuals, and memorize the introduction.

Keep your structure simple: thank the attendees and give an itinerary for your presentation; indicate what topics will be discussed and when questions can be asked. Bottom line: set the agenda up front. The middle part of the presentation should basically keep true to the agenda. Ensure that the order is logical and inform the audience when you are moving on to the next theme. The conclusion should summarize your presentation and open the floor to questions.

Although most of the preparations will have been completed beforehand, there are more logistics to take care of on the day of the presentation. Taking care of these logistics will ensure the smooth flow of the presentation. They include:
  • Familiarizing yourself with the room and having all the audiovisuals working properly. Technical hiccups can make the difference between a mediocre and a superior presentation.
     
  • Speaking slowly, clearly, and confidently and adding color to the presentation by relating personal experiences and giving case histories and examples.
     
  • Realizing that if you stumble, miss a word, or have a long pregnant pause, you shouldn't apologize. Long pauses are good for building up drama, and they provide the listener with variety.
As long as you have done all the preparatory work and are confident that you are giving the audience useful information, your presentation will be successful. The more speaking engagements you have, the more comfortable you will become. In the meantime, joining an organization such as Toastmasters International will provide the opportunity to give presentations regularly and build up your speaking skills.

This article originally appeared on Women in Law. Reproduced with permission.

About the Author

Paramjit Mahli of Sun Communications Group is a former journalist who has worked with international news organizations, including CNN Business News, and who now helps small to mid-sized law firms get in front of their target markets effectively, efficiently, and expeditiously. Her job is to let lawyers do what they do best—practice law—while she takes care of their communications and marketing programs.

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