Cordell Parvin Blog Developing the Next Generation of Rainmakers

Use Stories to Make Your Presentations to Industry Associations More Interesting

Posted in Client Development

Lawyers frequently ask me to critique their PowerPoint presentation materials. Most often when they send me their first draft, there are few or no visuals, bullet points and too many words on a page.

The slides also progress linearly beginning with the statute or regulation and discussing the history of the law or rule. I tell lawyers I am coaching that clients and potential clients are not interested in the history of Swiss watch making, they just want to know the time and they for sure do not want to sit and listen to a speaker reading her bullet points off a slide.

Presentations, even presentations on legal topics, should tell a story. Let me share an example with you. On July 17, 1981 one of the greatest disasters in American construction history occurred. On that night the walkways at the Kansas City Hyatt Regency Hotel collapsed killing over 100 people and injuring an additional 200 people.

Everyone in the construction industry was aware of the tragic accident. It became known as The Hyatt Disaster. It is included in this list of Top 10 Worst Engineering Disasters. It provided the perfect back-drop for me to discuss the duties owed by architects, engineers and contractors. I made at least five presentations in 1982. At the time there was no PowerPoint, which probably made the presentation more interesting.

Take a look at the first page of my Outline of Remarks to Roanoke ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). There you will see that I began the presentation by telling those who attended that they would learn legal points that may directly influence their pocketbook. Then I presented the legal points in the context of the Hyatt Disaster story.

I will leave you with this thought: Think about the difference between two potential announcements the ASCE might have done to encourage their members to attend my presentation. If the presentation was not in a story format, the announcement might have been:

Duties, Responsibilities and Liabilities for Civil Engineers

Because the context of my presentation was the Hyatt Disaster, the announcement might have been:

What every civil engineer needs to learn from the Hyatt Disaster

Which program announcement would have created the most interest?