Do you have a presentation coming up? If so, I invite you to search for the several blog posts I have done over the last several months on how to make presentations valuable to an audience.

Speaking is a Tremendous Opportunity to Attract Clients

A lawyer I coached asked what the most important client development activity was for me. I quickly replied that speaking to groups of contractors was by far the most important activity.

I remember my first presentation to a group of over 100 Virginia construction contractors. I was focused like a laser beam on:

Convincing the contractors in the room that I understood them, their business, and their industry, and as a result I was the lawyer to hire.

I remember that I began by creating a detailed outline. I remember writing every word I planned to say as a way of practicing the flow of the presentation. (I kept my notes. Here is part of the first page.)


I remember practicing the presentation over and over until I was confident I could give it with no notes. I worked on the flow, the tone and my body language.

I remember visualizing presenting to the audience. I remember being unable to sleep the night before because I was nervous, like an athlete about to play in a big game. I remember being confident as I was introduced and stood before the 100 plus contractors with no podium and no notes. Finally, I remember the exhilaration I felt when I finished and knew I had scored a great success.

That November 7, 1981 presentation launched my career. An executive from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association heard me speak and invited me to make the presentation to the national group of contractors at their meeting in August of 1982. (I still have those notes also.)

Common Lawyer Presenter Mistakes 

How many really awesome presentations by lawyers have you seen? I hate to say it, but I have seen very few. I am always surprised because I feel the lawyer presenter has squandered an opportunity.

What is the problem? Many lawyers are not well prepared. They wait until the last minute to prepare and then they do not practice. Their lack of preparation leads to these mistakes:

  1. They pick a topic that interests them rather than one that addresses what the audience needs to know.
  2. They present without a purpose. (See Seth Godin’s blog: Every presentation worth doing has just one purpose)
  3. They do not research their audience.
  4. They do not plan and rehearse/practice their presentation in advance.
  5. They do not spend enough time in the actual room checking out the layout, and time with the IT staff to make sure the technology will work.
  6. They stand behind the podium, which blocks them from their audience.
  7. They do not spend the first 90 seconds answering the most basic audience question: “What’s in this for me?”
  8. They tell lame jokes that no one cares about.
  9. They load their PowerPoint slides with words and bullet points which they use as a life preserver to make sure they remember what they want to say.
  10. They have too many PowerPoint slides.
  11. They do not make good eye contact.
  12. They do not engage the audience.
  13. They use the word “uh,” or other crutch words, without even knowing they are doing it.
  14. They are not finished when their time is up.
  15. They weakly close by asking if there are any questions or by saying: “in conclusion.”
What is the remedy? Plan your presentation based on your purpose in giving it, and then Practice, Practice, Practice.