When you are asked to speak to an industry group you have one of the greatest opportunities to market yourself and also one of the greatest challenges.

You have the opportunity to show your knowledge and to build rapport.

You have the challenge of speaking to a skeptical audience. No matter what the industry, your audience did not likely wake up and say:

“Oh boy, I get to listen to a lawyer this morning.”

How do you overcome their skepticism? In a nutshell, figure out what is really important to your audience and find a way to tie your presentation to that in the first 90 seconds.

You will have 90 seconds to convince a very skeptical audience that they should listen to you for the next hour. Give more thought to what you will say in those 90 seconds than what you will say in the remaining 58 minutes and 30 seconds.

I gave at least 10 presentations to contractors on compliance and ethics after Enron and Worldcom. How did I use the first 90 seconds? I will leave you with just the last line.

Compliance and ethics is as important to the survival of your company as safety is to the survival of your employees.

How will you use those 90 seconds the next time you have the opportunity to speak to your target market?

I was sitting in the barber chair and looked over and Tina Turner was on the cover of People Magazine. In the magazine was an excerpt from her autobiography that was recently published. Being a huge fan, I had to read the excerpt which was a bit challenging while my hair was being cut.

Reading reminded me of how Tina Turner influenced my presentations when I practiced law.

After I made a presentation at an ABA YLD meeting a young lawyer came up to me and asked how I learned to make presentations? I responded that Tina Turner had taught me all I needed to learn.

It was 1971, I was in my last year in law school when Nancy and I and two other couples sat in the second row to watch The Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

First, Ike and the band came out, then the Ikettes came out and sang.

Then the announcer, in a very deep voice said:

“Let’s welcome the star of the show, the hardest working girl in show biz…Ladies and Gentlemen: Tina Turner.”

Tina was unbelievable. She had the entire audience clapping and singing along to “I Want to Take You Higher.” I don’t remember many of the songs in the middle of the concert, but as it was reaching the end, she sang: “Proud Mary.”

When she finished the crowd was standing and asking to hear more from Tina. Here is a video clip from the 1971 concert tour with Tina Singing “Proud Mary.”

Fast forward to 2000. Tina Turner is live at Wembley Stadium in London. Her opening song: “I Want to Take You Higher.”

Like the concert in 1971, Tina came to the end of the Wembley Stadium concert and sang “Proud Mary.” Once again the audience clamored for more.

Other than my enjoyment of Tina Turner in concert, what is the point for you?

I suggest you take a lesson from Tina Turner when you are giving a presentation.

Start strong and end strong. You have about 90 seconds for the audience to answer the question: “What’s in this for me?” Do not end your presentation with: “Are there any questions?” Instead, as you are approaching the end, say: “Before I conclude are there any questions?” Then, conclude powerfully with a call to action.

In an interview author and expert, Nick Morgan said:

“The last thing you do with an audience is the most important and what they will remember the best. Q&A is open-ended and not in your control. A great speech can be undermined by a hostile or stupid question at the end. So save the last three minutes for a knock-them-dead wrap up that sends the audience on its way with jaws agape.”

Clearly when Tina Turner ends a concert with “Proud Mary” she knocks-them-dead and has the audience wanting to hear more. If you open strong and close strong your audience will want to hear more, and maybe they will even want to hire you.

Big wheel keeps on turning…

What are you doing to make a presentation that will give you the best chance to be hired? Here’s one key: Give the audience something you know they will find valuable.

As you might imagine, over the years I have given many presentations at ABA, State Bar, City and County Bar meetings. My presentations have ranged from career development to client development to leadership.

If I have made a presentation for your group, you know I ask for young (and sometimes experienced) lawyers to let me know the 1-3 things they want to make sure I cover, or 1-3 questions they might have. I personally respond to each email I receive.

A few years ago a young lawyer attending a Bar meeting said:

He was working the room before the room was assembled! Not bad…

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but he was correct.  I always approached my presentations to construction  associations the same way.

I frequently asked the construction association executive to let members know that I wanted to hear from them with questions or topics they wanted to make sure I answered or covered in the presentation. Then, I made sure and include the subjects or questions. I confess that I never received a question or topic that I was not planning on covering.

Why is working the room this way important and why should you do it for your presentations? It’s pretty simple: You will address what the audience is seeking to learn.

Out of curiosity, how are you preparing for your presentations? Are you getting feedback? Is someone looking at your slides and discussing the number of words you have placed on slides?



When I practiced law I quickly learned that the opportunity to make a presentation to construction industry contractors was one of the best uses of my time. I always felt that if I could get in front of a group of contractors, I could convey to them that I understood their business and the legal issues that impact them.
  1. Why is the opportunity to give a presentation to an industry such a great opportunity? 
  2. How will you determine the best topic to present?
  3. What steps will you take to get the opportunity to speak to the industry group?
  4. Why will your audience care about your presentation topic?
  5. If you get the opportunity to speak, what homework will you do before the presentation?
  6. They say, how your presentation looks is more important than what you say. How will you practice and get an idea how it looks? If given the choice, will you stand behind the podium on stage? (I never did).
  7. Why should you show up early the day of the presentation and checking out the meeting room?
  8. Will you have a handout? If so, do you know how the organization will provide it to the audience? (Hard Copy? Jump Drive?)
  9. Unless required, why is it better to not provide a hard copy of your slides to the audience before or while you are speaking?
  10. You have 90 seconds to attract your audience to your topic. What is your opening?
  11. How will you make your slides interesting with as few words as possible?
  12. Do you know that you can put what would have been bullet points on your computer screen with the audience only able to see your visual slides?
  13. I suggest you do not close your presentations by asking: “Are there any questions?” Instead I suggest you say: “Before I close, are there any questions?” Then your close should be a “call to action” based on what you told the audience. What will be a good “call to action” for your presentation?
  14. How will you follow up with those who heard your presentation? Is there something in more detail you can offer to send them if they contact you or leave their business card with you?
  15. Will you put your slides on slideshare.net and make them available to the public?
  16. Can you take the same presentation and make it a webinar?
Speaking of how it looks, I created a three-hour streaming video coaching program with a detailed workbook. You can watch module 1 here. For my blog readers I will offer the streaming video at a deep discount. Take a look and if you are interested contact Joyce at jflo@cordellparvin.com.

When you are making a presentation, the phrase “less is more” applies. What does it mean? Less rather than more slides. Less rather than more words on slides. Less rather than more bullet points (better yet, no bullet points).

A Montreal lawyer I coached shared this story with me.

I made a presentation at a conference last weekend.  I was running late putting my presentation, so I asked a junior lawyer to take my text material and create a PowerPoint slides.

She did a very good job and I thought this promised to be a classic presentation, with words and bullet points on each slide.

My Toronto office colleague, Will, was giving the English version of the presentation next door and he sent me his power point late Friday afternoon.  They looked far different than mine. His presentation was a mere 12 slides, with visuals on each slide and very few words.  Will’s made a few key points on each slide in a very attractive and visual way.  It struck me that Will (a Cordell coaching alum) had followed Cordell’s recommendations!!

I flipped it back to the junior lawyer saying I wanted something Cordell-like.  I gave her a 5-minute crash course on what I meant!  She returned later, after finding appropriate images on iStock Photo and putting them into a superb set of slides.

Both Will and my presentation were major blasts at the conference, with people telling each of us what good speakers we were!

Here is an important tip. When you take the words out of your slides, your audience will actually pay more attention to you-the speaker.

It was October 9, 2005. I gave a presentation to 225 Junior League of Dallas members. It was an awesome group of women. A Dallas lawyer had asked me to speak. There were many other lawyers in the audience, and many other young, and not so young, professionals.

I began like this:

Can any of you tell me the date today?

Several in the audience called out “October 9th.”

I continued: As you will read in the handout materials, October 9, 1978 was a defining moment in my life. My daughter, Jill was born 6 weeks prematurely that day and the Doctors didn’t know if she, or my wife Nancy, would pull through. (I think the photo below was from about Thanksgiving that year.)

Why am I telling you that? Well, one reason is that I am thinking of my daughter today.

But, more importantly for our time together, I want you to visualize why it was easier to have both a successful career and a fulfilling life then. Think about it, we had no internet, no cell phones, no ATM machines, no social media, no email. We didn’t even have computers on our desk.

It was easier then, to “be in the moment” both at work and when we were home with our families.

Now we have too much abundance, but not nearly enough time to enjoy it. We have too many choices and not nearly enough help making the right ones. We have too much technology, and not nearly enough freedom from it. We have too much focus on outward success, and not nearly enough focus on inward fulfillment.

Today, it is more important than ever to take control of your career and life. Over the next hour I will give you a roadmap on how to do it.

For the next hour the Junior League members were engaged. Most took detailed notes and many came up to me afterwards with comments and questions.

Why were they interested? In my opening I had done three things.

  1. I asked them a question.
  2. I told them a story and I tied the story to them.
  3. I was able to answer the subconscious question each member was asking: “What is in this presentation for me?”

Your audiences will ask themselves the same question. Do you have a good answer?

P.S. I wrote an article in the Texas State Bar Journal about how that October 9, 1978 caused me to become more focused on my priorities: Crossroads: Strategy for Career and Life. I hope you find valuable ideas for your own career and life.

If you have done the math, you know that Jill is 35 today. She teaches special education to some really neat, but challenged youngsters. Last week she sent me this email:

I had such a successful day today. I told the story of Gator Greg. He is an alligator that sleeps in a pond and while he is sleeping crawfish swim to lily pads. When Gator Greg wakes up he goes and eats the largest number of crawfish and his mouth turns into the greater than, or less than sign. I told this story before when we were comparing numbers.

When learning decimals we said that the whole numbers were adult crawfish, the numbers in the tenths place were the crawfish babies and the numbers in the hundredths place were the crawfish eggs before they hatched. They really got it! Kids with IQs in the 50s to 90s, supposedly on a kindergarten level, all understood 4th grade math!

Then my 3rd graders were really struggling with adding with carrying and they were getting frustrated. So I brought out the shaving cream and allowed them to write their math problems in the shaving cream. One of the kids, who normally doubts himself, proclaimed that I was the “most awesomest teacher ever” Both 3rd graders understood addition with carrying by the end of the class.

I am sure your father is proud of you. So I am sure you understand I am proud of Jill and her work with her students. I understand why she had a great day, having been honored by a third grader as the “most awesomest teacher ever.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Final thought: If Jill can find creative ways to become the “most awesomest teacher ever,”  for her special students, don’t you think you can come up with creative ways to become the “most awesomest lawyer ever” for your clients?

Most lawyer presentations are boring. The participants quickly forget them. In his book Linchpin, (A book I really like), Seth Godin may have the reason for boring lawyer presentations. He writes:

The resistance is the voice in your head telling you to use bullets in your PowerPoint slides…It’s the voice that tells you to leave controversial ideas out of the paper you’re writing, because the teacher won’t like them. The resistance pushes relentlessly for you to fit in.

Do you remember my blog about Ayse Dalli’s presentation on the Quebec new rules of civil procedure: How “Grease is the Word” made a dull presentation extraordinary? Ayse found a way to use video clips from the movie to keep her audience engaged.

I have told Ayse’s story many times. A couple of weeks ago I shared it with some Spencer Fane lawyers. When I did, they told me about a presentation on estate planning that one of their lawyers gave 12 years ago. He used video clips from the movie Body Heat. The presentation was 12 years ago and they still remembered it.

Five years ago, after the market collapse, two Looper Reed & McGraw lawyers gave a presentation on employee terminations. They found seven video clips from the television show The Office. They told me that in one presentation they gave their time was up after going through six of the video clips. The participants insisted that they show the 7th clip. I am sure those participants still remember that presentation.

Ok, I have a challenge for you. Here it is. Can you find one or more video clips from Cousin Vinny or Ally McBeal that you can include in presentation to business clients and potential clients? Share with readers the clip you would use and how you would use it in a presentation by commenting on this post.

If you want some help, I like these clips and I think I could find a way to shorten them and work them into a presentation.

Are you willing to take the chance and be creative, or will your next presentation just be a bunch of PowerPoint slides with bullet points?

Some of my blog posts are more important than other blog posts. This is one of them. I really want you to come away with a new action plan to attract clients through your presentations.

If you want a two sentence answer to my point, here it is:

Before PowerPoint good lawyers gave presentations by telling stories. Now, lawyers present bullet pointed slides. Potential clients have never dreaded lawyer presentations more than now.

So, how do you connect with potential clients? Surprise them. Tell a story and make them a main character in the story.


When I was a young lawyer the way I prepared for a presentation was writing out each word and then studying what I had written. I recently found my notes from a presentation I gave long ago.

My presentation was on the trial of a contract dispute. As you will see in these two pages, I began by putting the contractor audience in a courtroom at the beginning of the trial. When I looked at Courtroom Story on these two pages, I was surprised by the level of detail I used to describe the scene. You will see that I described the courtroom, the opponent, the judge and the jury.

Once again I believe that not having slides required me to paint a picture and let the audience use their imagination.I think I did that fairly well. It might be because as a young child, I listened to radio shows. We had to picture the scene. While, I may have been disrespectful (in my description of the judge and the jury) in a couple of instances, I had experienced judges and juries like those I described in my story.

Don’t  let PowerPoint ruin your next presentation. Can you do a presentation to a business audience today by telling a story? If you want to brainstorm your next presentation with me, I will be happy to help you create the story.

For several years I spoke at the annual Associated General Contractors Highway and Utility Contractors Annual Issues Meeting. Several contractors  told me the group liked having me as a speaker because my presentations were different than other lawyers. That was a compliment, but it also made me think about what contractors, and other businessmen and women do not like about  presentations by lawyers.

I know many lawyers who stand behind the podium on a stage. If possible, I stood on the floor with nothing blocking me from the audience.I know lawyers who put too many words and bullet points on slides. The audience strains to read what is on the slides and does not pay attention to the speaker.

In this post, I want to focus on how to start a presentation. I know lawyers who open an industry presentation with a joke. I confess, I have never laughed at a joke told by a lawyer beginning a presentation. I know other lawyers who open an industry presentation by giving a history of the legal topic they are discussing. The audience looks bored listening to the history lesson.

How should you open a presentation? Keep this idea in mind: Your audience is deciding what is in it for them in your presentation. In your opening, you must answer the why question. Why is what you are about to tell them important? When I spoke to contractors, I got them interested by:

  • Asking a question
  • Telling a story
  • Giving them a startling statistic

As many of you know, one of my favorite books on presentations is Give Your Speech, Change the World: How To Move Your Audience to Actionby Nick Morgan. In the book, Morgan says:

The best way to start a speech is to get the audience involved from the very top. Get them to do something interesting…

Another way to involve the audience from the start is to report to them about them.

If you have a presentation coming up, I urge you to read the entire book. If you think it would be helpful, share with me how you plan to open the presentation and I will give you feedback.

P.S. When your clients’ industry meets to discuss “issues,” you should be there. Their business issues all have legal implications.