A simple way to dramatically improve your next presentation

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In any presentation, you want to engage your audience. You want them to think about and remember your words and feel an emotional connection to your message.

What’s the best way to accomplish this?

Carmine Gallo studied 500 of the most popular TED Talks and found a pattern:

  • 65 percent personal stories
  • 25 percent facts and figures
  • 10 percent information to back up the speaker’s credibility on the subject

In short, the key factor for better presentations is something I’ve been telling you since day one: stories.

But note that Gallo said “personal” stories, meaning stories that involve the speaker. Since you want your audience to know what you do and how you help people, when you tell stories in your presentations, articles, blog posts, or anything else, look for ways to include yourself in those stories.

Here’s a template for a client story you might use that shows you doing what you do:

A client had a problem and came to you. Opposing forces (other parties, the law, factual issues, etc.) worsened the problem and/or made it more difficult to resolve. You worked hard, overcame difficulties, and solved the problem.

As you tell the story, turn up the heat by describing the client’s pain–how the problem affected them emotionally, financially, or physically–and the relief they felt when you eventually solved the problem.

If possible, also describe how you felt. Show your empathy for the client’s situation. Mention how you struggled with some aspect of the case before you conquered it.

Yes, this type of story is easier to tell when you’re dealing with litigation but with a little effort, you can also tell an effective story about a simple transactional matter.

If a client wanted you to review the lease for their new business, for example, you can talk about the problems they might have encountered if they hadn’t had you review the lease, and the excitement they felt about their new business, which you helped them start.

Make sure your presentations include stories. Because facts tell but stories sell.

Need more referrals? This will help

 

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What vs. How

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In a “how to” article, report, or post, you describe the problem and present the various solutions you offer, but you should also tell the reader what they can do without you.

Tell them how they can avoid the problem in the first place. Tell them how to mitigate damages. Tell them how to protect themselves in the future.

The question is, having told them what to do, should you also tell them how to do it?

If you say that filing a quit claim deed is an option, should you tell them where to get the form and how to fill it out? If they can file for a simple divorce on their own will you tell them how to do it?

These are things you need to think about.

You want to provide value to readers and that usually means telling them more rather than less. More information shows them you know what you’re doing and builds trust. Being generous with your knowledge and advice endears them to you, making it more likely that if they hire any attorney, you’re the one they will choose.

But the choice isn’t always simple. If you tell them how to do something and they mess up, you may lose credibility and expose yourself to liability. If they follow your instructions successfully, they may decide they don’t need you for anything else.

Should you tell them all of the “whats” but none of the “hows”? Should you tell them all of the “hows” but encourage them to contact you to look it over?

Decisions, decisions.

My advice? Err on the side of too much rather than too little. Add your “on the other hands,” cover your backside, and encourage them to contact you to learn more. But don’t hide from telling them what to do and how to do it. Remember, you’re writing a “how to” not a “what to”.

Marketing legal services successfully starts with successful philosophies

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Feel the fear and DON’T do it

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Many say that the way to overcome fear is to face it head on. Do what you fear long enough, they tell us, and you will eventually conquer that fear.

There are others who say otherwise.

One group of philosophers say that instead of making ourselves do something that makes us uncomfortable, we should heed the feeling. “Never move forward in fear,” they say.

Who’s right?

Should we brace ourselves in the face of fear and soldier on? We know this works. If you fear public speaking, for example, but force yourself to do it enough, you often overcome the fear and are better for it.

But facing your fears can also make you miserable. For every one time we think, “I’m glad I stuck with it,” there might be three times when we think, “I never want to do that again!” Isn’t there a way to accomplish the deed without the pain?

The folks who say, “Never move forward in fear,” say there is. They say we can (and should) eliminate the fear first, or at least dilute it enough so that we aren’t bothered by it, and then take action. They also say that doing it this way will allow you to do the task more easily and get better results. You can speak without trembling knees and sweat dripping down your face.

Sounds good to me. But how? How do we dissipate the fear?

Therapy? Hypnosis? A stiff drink or two?

The philosophers who recommend this path suggest that you guide how you feel about the activity by changing your thoughts about it. “Reach for a thought that feels better,” they say. Keep doing that until the fear is all but gone.

So maybe you think, “I’m not going to have a heart attack and die on stage”. Marginally better thought, yes?

Then you think, “It’s only twenty minutes. I can get through this.” Relaxing a little. Feeling a little better.

“I have something worthwhile to say.” Yes, you do. And the audience wants to hear it.

“Actually, it’s a friendly crowd.” Feeling better and better.

“Once I get past the first few words, I’ll be okay”. That’s the ticket.

And so on. Little by little, thought by thought, you think your way to feeling better and better until the fear is all but gone.

I’ve done this before and it works. It takes a little practice, but it’s not difficult.

Anyway, you don’t have to feel the fear and do it anyway, you can remove the fear and feel good about it.

Try it. Find something you know would be good for you but you’ve been putting off because of fear. Change your thoughts about it, little by little, until the fear is gone or at least completely under control. And then do it.

Your mind is powerful. It created your fears and it can be used to eliminate them.

Afraid to ask for referrals? This shows you how to get them without asking

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Selling ice to eskimos

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I took a speech class in college. When it was time to deliver my presentation, I talked about insurance and retirement planning. Yep, to a bunch of 18-year olds.

A friend was selling insurance and provided me with information I could use in the presentation. I made the case for buying insurance when you’re young and the insurance is cheap. I told them I had purchased a policy for that reason and encouraged them to do the same. I offered to introduce them to my friend who could tell them more.

As you might have guessed, despite doing a good presentation (according to my teacher), there were no takers.

I had a good message (arguably) but delivered it to the wrong audience.

If my audience had been a group of newly married young people or young couples who had just had a child, I might have gotten better results.

There are many elements that go into crafting a marketing message but none is more important than your audience. If your audience doesn’t have the legal problem you’re talking about, for example, and believes they are unlikely to ever have it, your message will fall on deaf ears.

A well-crafted message with a crazy-good offer heard by the wrong audience will fail. A mediocre message and offer delivered to the right audience, however, might do just fine.

Before you do any presentation, write a blog post or article, record a video, send mail or email to a list, or run an ad, the first question you must ask is, “Who is the audience?”

If you have the wrong audience for your message, you either need to change the audience or change the message.

If you’re a personal injury lawyer and you’re addressing a group of people who have never been in an accident, don’t talk to them about how to get the highest settlement, talk to them about what to do when they do have an accident.

Sales people pre-qualify prospects and leads before talking to them, and you should, too. Find out if your audience needs what you’re selling and if they can afford to buy it. If they don’t need it or can’t afford it, go talk to someone else.

Get your website to pre-sell your services to visitors. Click here

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Are you smarter than a fifth grader?

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If you’re smarter than a fifth grader, your intelligence, and more specifically your vocabulary, might be holding you back.

How’s that?

If your write and speak at a post-graduate level and your audience is comprised of people with little or no college, your audience won’t follow everything you say, nor do what you ask them to do.

Does that mean you should dumb down your writing and speaking? Indubitably.

There, someone reading this might not know that I just said yes. They might deduce that from the context of my other words, but it might take a few seconds, and whether you’re selling ideas or legal services, a few seconds could cost you the sale.

When you use simpler words, however, all of your readers and listeners will understand you, including those with a bigger vocabulary or a higher education. In addition, simpler words make it more likely that your thoughts will be perceived more quickly and understood at a deeper level.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

By anyone.

Whether you’re writing an article for your website, an email to your clients, or an appellate brief, unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, it’s best to use plain language. Some experts recommend writing at a seventh grade level. Others claim fourth grade is the cut off. I say, use common sense and when in doubt, err on the side of simple.

Now I just used the world err. According to an app I just discovered, Simple Writer, err isn’t on the list of the 1000 most common words in the English language. But to my chagrin, neither is the word error or the word mistake.

The Simple Writer app tells you if the words you type are on the list, and if not, it suggests that you consider replacing them.

That doesn’t mean you have to.

When I typed, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” into the app, it told me that “fox” and “lazy” aren’t on the list of most common words but to avoid using them would clearly be absurd for any audience. The point is to be more aware of what you’re writing and continually seek to make it simpler.

Because everyone understands simple.

There are nine keys to an effective website. Does yours make the cut?

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Excuse me while I check my notes

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I’ve done a lot of presentations over the years and I don’t just mean in the courtroom. I’ve done them to small crowds with friendly faces and to big audiences where many people had no idea who I was or why I was on stage. I’ve scored home runs and bombed brilliantly, and everything in between.

Every one of my presentations was done without a script, except two.

The first was when I delivered a eulogy for a close friend and didn’t think I could get through it without the written page to hold onto. The second was when I received an award and was given two minutes to speak, which wasn’t enough time to thank everyone, let alone say what I wanted to say. (I took six minutes, thank you.)

There are times when a written speech is warranted. If you’re testifying before Congress, go ahead and use a script. But for most occasions, you’re better off without one.

You can write a script and use it to practice. But leave the script in your pocket during your talk.

You can use bullet points on your slides or on note cards to prompt you. This will help you avoid leaving out something important or taking too long on one point to the detriment of others. But if you know your material well enough, you may not need any help.

If you’re like some presenters I’ve seen, however, make sure you have a clock in front of you, so you don’t take 90 minutes to deliver a 60 minute talk. Or six minutes when you’ve been allotted two.

One way to prepare for your talk is to imagine yourself having a conversation with a friend. You make a point, they ask questions, and you respond. Not only will this allow you to inculcate your natural speech patterns into your talk, you might discover gaps in your material you need to fill.

The bottom line with most presentations isn’t the content, however. When your talk is done, most people won’t remember what you said. They will, however, remember how you made them feel, and the best way to make them feel good about you and your message is to talk with them, not at them.

Use your website to get more clients

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Apparently, I don’t know when to shut up

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I’d rather be sitting on the sofa all day, listening to the Eagles and thinking about the 70’s. But with so many music legends leaving us lately, I am reminded that I’m not getting any younger and I need to be grateful for every day I wake up and I’m still alive.

So instead, I’ll tell you about a conference call I did last night where I was interviewed about reaching a big milestone in my network marketing business.

As usual for these kinds of things, the host first asked about how I got started. And as usual with these kinds of things, before long I turned the call into a training.

My Spidey sense, and the fact that I’ve done a lot of these kind of calls before, told me a few things you might want to note for when you do an interview or presentation.

  • Although there were hundreds of people on the call, most were only half-listening. Trust me on this. Even though I am the most fascinating person I know and deliver many nuggets of gold, people get on these calls while they are doing other things, making dinner, putting the kids to bed, and probably also watching TV, and they don’t pay a lot of attention. On top of that. . .
  • Most people don’t care about me and my success. They may be inspired by my story, but only for a few seconds. They want to know how they can do what I did, and that’s what I told them, however. . .
  • Most people don’t take notes. Despite having been repeatedly told that a “short pencil is more valuable than a long memory” or however that goes, they don’t write anything down. Fascinating. On top of that. . .
  • Most people don’t want to hear about things like “hard work” and “long term”. They want shortcuts and immediate results, and they’re not going to have it any other way. That’s why some people are successful and others play the lottery. But. . .
  • Some people will take my advice and run with it. That’s cool. That makes it all worthwhile. Most won’t, some will, and that’s okay because I was only talking to the few. Finally. . .
  • Hells, bells I sure can talk up a storm. I had no idea how long I had been speaking until the host told me we were already over the scheduled time. Note to self: learn how to STFU.

Okay, well I hope that helps. Not so much? Not even the last point? C’mon, you’re a lawyer. You flap your lips for a living, just like me. And just like me, I’m guessing you have never been accused of not saying enough.

Yes or yes?

Now if we can just figure out a way to get paid by the word.

I take notes in Evernote, how about you?

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My first YouTube video in over 3 years

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Oops, I did it again. After a hiatus of more than 3 years, I uploaded a new YouTube video. It’s a quick overview of mind-mapping using Xmind software.

The video is unscripted and done without notes. I was trying out my screen-casting skills using screencast-o-matic software and wasn’t planning on uploading it, but when it was done, I thought it wasn’t terrible and you might like to see it.

While you’re on YouTube, you might want to watch a funny video I did 5 years ago, call The Convention. It’s about an attorney going to his first ABA convention and may be good for a few chuckles.

No matter how disinclined you are to doing a podcast or any other content creation requiring a regular commitment of time, even the busiest attorney can occasionally create simple videos and post them online. Even me.

Anyway, let me know what you think of my new creation, or if you have any questions. And if you have any requests for additional videos, as Ross Perot used to say, “I’m all ears”.

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How well do you know your stuff?

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A number of years ago I was in Texas attending an event related to one of my businesses. The room was filled with several hundred attendees waiting to hear the featured speaker who was scheduled to do a training. Unfortunately, he had the flu and couldn’t speak.

One of the event organizers knew me and asked if I would be willing to fill in. I had nothing prepared but I said yes, got on stage and did a 30 minute training. I was able to do that, without notes or preparation, because I knew the subject matter. I had trained many times before, both on stage and on conference calls, and was able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Even if you don’t regularly speak or train or address a jury, you should be able to do the same thing.

You know your area of expertise cold, don’t you? You should be able to explain what you do in a cogent manner. The challenge is to make it interesting enough to engage your audience, so they will remember what you said, and remember you.

So here’s my charge to you. Flesh out a five minute talk about some aspect of what you do. Start with a few bullet points, then add an opening and a closing.

Open with a story, a startling statistic, or a provocative question. Share stories about cases or clients you’ve had, to illustrate your material and to bring it to life. Close with a summary and tell them what you want them to do.

Practice your talk. Record yourself delivering it. Get good at it, because even if you’re never called upon to deliver it to a live audience, it will help you become better at communicating what you do.

Wait. You’re not done. You should also prepare a 20-minute talk, and be prepared to deliver it if called upon. A standard talk you could do at a luncheon or on a webinar. Who knows, you might find you like speaking and have a new way to bring in business.

Finally, prepare a one-minute talk. This will probably be the most difficult, but also the one that you are most likely to deliver.

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Stop trying to make everyone like you

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Believe it or not, some people don’t like me. Okay, maybe it’s not me they don’t like, they don’t like my writing.

They think my ideas “aren’t for them”. My writing style makes them uncomfortable. They don’t think I understand them or can help them.

You know what? I don’t care.

For one thing, I never hear from them. They quietly leave my email list or stop visiting my blog. They’re gone, like a fart in the wind, and will probably never return.

The other reason I don’t care is that they aren’t my target market. I don’t write to them, or for them. If they don’t “grok” me, they probably don’t trust me and my ideas and thus they aren’t going to hire me or recommend me.

If I cared about what they thought and tried to appeal to them, I would have to water down my style or homogenize my ideas. If I did that, I would be doing a disservice to the ones who do like me: my prospects and clients.

So, I ignore them and continue to do my thang. And the more I do that, the more I attract people who like what I say because they know I’m talking to them.

One of the reasons I pound on the idea of targeting niche markets instead of marketing to “everyone” is that it allows you to connect with the people in that niche on a deeper level. By your examples and stories and yes, even your style of writing, they think, “he gets me”. That synergy leads to more clients, more referrals, and more positive word of mouth.

That doesn’t happen when you try to please everyone.

Seth Godin put it this way recently:

When we hold back and dumb down, we are hurting the people who need to hear from us, often in a vain attempt to satisfy a few people who might never choose to actually listen.

It’s quite okay to say, “it’s not for you.”

Write to the people who get you. Ignore the ones who don’t.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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