A young lawyer once asked me to share what I thought was the most important client development skill I learned during my legal career. I quickly answered:

Public Speaking

I have written about the first time I gave a presentation to a group of potential clients. I owe my career success to that one opportunity. I prepared and prepared. I wrote and my secretary typed each word I planned to say. I had it memorized by the time I made the presentation. I virtually got no sleep the night before the presentation. I can’t remember ever being that nervous.

I still have the typed memorized presentation.

My presentation was well received and it kicked-off my career and the rest is history.

I believe that in 2020 becoming an effective public speaker in person or on camera may be more important than ever before.

Many of you are very authentic and comfortable when meeting one-on-one and with a small group. Yet, put you on a stage and you change. Put you on a camera and you feel very uncomfortable. As a result, your  facial expressions change, your gestures change and your breathing changes. You know why all of this happens. It is because you are nervous. Believe me you are not alone. Some of the most outstanding lawyers I have ever coached are nervous speaking in public.

If you are nervous, there is one sure way to get over it. Practice, practice, practice. Speaking in front of a group will build your self confidence and allow you to be more natural.

I became a better speaker by teaching Senior High Sunday School in my church for over 20 years. Each week I had to connect with a very skeptical audience who likely showed up for Sunday School because their parents made them. Practicing speaking in the Sunday School class made speaking to a group of skeptical contractors less intimidating.
Two lawyers with whom I worked years ago found Toastmasters to be a great opportunity to both practice speaking and to learn from speakers who are more experienced. Here is what one of those lawyers shared with other lawyers I coach:
Yes, Toastmaster’s has improved my public speaking skills.  When you sign up, you’ll receive a packet with suggested speaking topics, but at our club, folks rarely use those suggestions.  Most people want to talk about something unique to their life/career and want to test it out on a safe audience before making a presentation to a “real” audience.
Depending on the number of club members, you’ll get a chance to make a speech every four to six weeks.  If you want to speak more often, just offer to serve as a substitute speaker.  At every club meeting, members are assigned different roles (meeting host, speech evaluator, table topics, etc.).  Every member with a designated role also has the opportunity to speak.  The entire meeting is designed to have every member stand up and speak, if only for a minute or two.
I was fortunate to find a club that has three really good, trial lawyers.  (They’ve been Toastmasters for 10+ years.)  I learn a lot about public speaking by watching them, plus they often provide great feedback in their critiques of my speeches.
There are other opportunities to practice your public speaking. Take advantage of them.