Excuse me while I check my notes

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

Apparently, I don’t know when to shut up

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?

My first YouTube video in over 3 years

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”.

How well do you know your stuff?

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.

Stop trying to make everyone like you

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

Write for your clients, not your prospects

A question posed on a marketing blog caught my attention: “How might your attitude to writing your newsletter or blog improve if you saw every reader as a client?”

It’s a great question.

You know your clients, and care about them, and so when you write to them or for them, you communicate at a deeper, more informed level than you do when you’re writing to strangers. You understand your client’s business. You know their family. You know what they like and how they think, what they need and what they want.

You have a relationship with them and when you write to them, you are more relaxed, more open, and more genuine.

Why not be that way with everyone?

When you write a blog post or article, when you speak before a group, when you meet people while networking, think about them as though they already are your clients. You may know nothing about them (yet) but by showing them that you care about them and want to help them, when you generously share your knowledge and advice, when you have a conversation with them instead of talking at them, they will come to know you and trust you.

Some of them will become actual clients. This is a great way to accelerate that process.

Website? Blog? Newsletter? Here’s what to do and how to do it

The Real Housewives of Orange County

I get a fair amount of direct mail from lawyers and other professionals inviting me to a free dinner at a nice restaurant. Basically, they buy you steak or seafood and you listen to a presentation, followed by a pitch to make an appointment.

If the professional gets all the bits and pieces right, this can be an effective strategy for marketing high ticket items like legal services, securities, and insurance products.

The other day, I got one such mailing from one of my neighbors, a financial adviser who is conducting a retirement planning dinner. My wife saw it and recognized the name of the host as one of the stars of “The Real Housewives of Orange County”.

Yep, she’s one of our neighbors.

The mailing doesn’t mention her “Housewives,” connection, however. I’m sure this was intentional. Aside from the fact that she may be contractually precluded from leveraging the show by name, no doubt she wants real prospects to attend, not just star struck folks who want to meet a celebrity.

The mailing contained a brochure, the invitation, and two tickets. Fairly typical and reasonably well done.

There is something on the invitation that’s not that common, however.

The invitation says,

Would you prefer a face-to-face meeting?

If you would rather discuss your retirement questions in a private setting, you can schedule a consultation with [her name] in the comfort and privacy of our office. As a sincere “thank you” for your time, you will be presented with a $50 gift card after completing your consultation appointment. No purchase is required. Call xxx to schedule your appointment.

If you are using free dinner (or lunch) presentations to market your services, you might consider adding this option. You’ll get in front of people who can’t make the event or who prefer privacy. If you’re willing to buy them dinner to hear your presentation, why not make the same offer if they come to see you privately?

Actually, you might want to do this even if you don’t use dinners as a marketing tool.

Am I suggesting that you pay people to come see you for a free consultation?

Yes. It will increase response.

If there are no legal or ethical restrictions, and your numbers work, i.e., you close enough prospects to make it worthwhile, why wouldn’t you?

You don’t have to offer this to everyone. You could use it for special occasions, a holiday promotion for example. You could offer it in some ads or mailings and not others. Or with certain joint venture partners.

For example, if you’re working with a CPA, have him email his clients and tell them about your consultation or seminar, etc. When his clients come to see you and mention the CPA’s name, they get a gift card or other freebie.

If you don’t want to offer a gift card or other cash equivalent, offer a “planning kit,” a copy of your book, a resource guide, or a presentation on CD.

Whatever you call it, bribes work. Even if you’re not a real housewife.

3 Keys to promoting your event or offer

So you want to get people to register for your seminar, hire you for your service, or buy your new book. What should you do?

Promote it.

Promoting isn’t announcing. Announcing is merely stating the facts. Promoting has an emotional element to it. Here are 3 keys to promoting your event or offer.

(1) Get excited

If you’re not excited about what you are promoting, you can’t expect anyone else to get excited. If they’re not excited, they’re probably not going to look at what you’re offering, let alone sign up.

Start by asking yourself why you are excited about your offer. What’s new about it? What’s different? What will it allow people to do that they can’t do now?

Put your thoughts on paper or record them. Tell people why you are excited and, more importantly, make sure you sound excited.

Don’t go over the top, and don’t make up things. Just share how you feel about it.

Instead of just saying that you are excited, illustrate it. For example, you might say that as soon as you heard about this, you ran to your laptop and started writing. Or at breakfast, you couldn’t stop talking about the upcoming seminar, “just ask my wife!”

(2) Urgency

Tell people why they need to act immediately. Tell them why they should not delay.

What will they gain by taking action now? What will they lose if they don’t?

If there is limited seating or phone lines or quantities, tell them, and be specific. If you’re offering an added benefit for the first ones who respond such as preferred seating, additional bonuses, or lower pricing, tell them.

Make sure they know why they shouldn’t wait, and then tell them what to do: go here, do this, do it now.

(3) Repetition

Don’t tell them once, tell them several times.

They may not have received your email, or read it. They may have been busy with other things and forgot. They may not realize that what you are promoting is as good as you say it is, or believe you when you say you’re not sure it will be repeated.

So tell them again, and tell them in different ways.

In one version of your message, appeal to their desire for gain by emphasizing the benefits. In another message, appeal to their fear of loss by telling how many others have signed up or how many seats are left.

Get excited, use urgency and repetition to promote your event or offer and you’ll get more people signing up.

My formula for persuasive writing

When I write sales copy, presentations, books, or blog posts, I often use a formula that makes it more likely the reader or listener will do what I want them to do.

I may want them to buy something, do something, or remember something. The formula works the same way.

The persuasive writing formula I use (no, I didn’t invent it) has five parts:

  1. State the PROBLEM (here’s what’s wrong, what you don’t have, what will happen if you don’t do anything about it.)
  2. AGITATE the problem (dramatize the pain, here’s more about how bad it could get, here’s other ways this will affect you)
  3. Present the SOLUTION (what can be done to stop the problem)
  4. Describe the BENEFITS (relieve your pain, other good things you get with this solution)
  5. CALL TO ACTION (what to do to get the solution and benefits)

Try this formula the next time you write something. You may find it helpful to start with the call to action. What do you want them to do? What’s the key takeaway?

Then, either work backwards through the other parts (ie., the benefits they will get when they do what you want them to do, the solution that delivers those benefits, etc.) or go to the beginning, describe the problem, and work forwards.

Anyway, an article in the Harvard Business Journal presents a similar formula based on classical story structure. In “Structure your presentation like a story,” author Nancy Duarte says:

After studying hundreds of speeches, I’ve found that the most effective presenters use the same techniques as great storytellers: By reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way, they set up a conflict that needs to be resolved.

That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.

Persuasive writing is about creating tension (or identifying it) and then relieving it. If you want someone to hire you, show them the status quo and the path to a better way: “You’ve got this problem that’s only going to get worse; if you hire me, I will solve that problem (or help you take the first step towards solving it); here’s how you’ll be better off; here’s what to do to get started.”

Tell them a dramatic story that makes them angry or afraid. Just make sure it has a happy ending.

Do you know the formula for earning more in your practice? Go here.

Be brief, be brilliant, be gone

I just got off of a conference call. Thirty-five minutes intended to inform listeners about exciting new developments in our business.

Fail.

The news is exciting. Very positive developments. Great things lie ahead. The problem is that if you weren’t already aware of that news, the conference call did little to inform or excite you.

There was too much information. It was difficult to follow. That’s bad enough in a meeting with visuals or handouts, but on a conference call, it is the kiss of death. People are dialing in from their car or from the gym or while distracted with other things. Too much information begins to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Everyone tunes out.

There were also too many speakers. That meant extra time for introductions. There was a lot of overlap, with speaker B covering the same information covered by speaker A. It was also obvious that the speakers had not been told how much time they were alloted (or didn’t follow instructions). The host cut off one speaker who spoke too long so the next speaker could be introduced. Ouch.

The call ended with platitudes and hyperbole. Words that were intended to inspire listeners to take action, but simply made listeners (me) cringe.

Unfortunately, these are common issues with meetings and presentations. It’s why people dread going to meetings and find most presentations too long and boring.

Don’t let this happen to you.

For starters, make sure you have a very good reason for conducting a meeting, conference call, or presentation, instead of disseminating the information in some other way. If you decide to go forward, keep these ideas in mind:

1. Be brief. Succinctly present three (no more than five) key points, and organize them so they are easy to understand and easy to remember. Additional details can be made available via a hand out or web page. Have as few speakers as necessary. In a short presentation, one speaker is usually best.

2. Be brilliant. Don’t do an information dump, have a “conversation” with your listeners. Keep the facts to the basics. Talk more about benefits and less about features. Tell a memorable story. Tell them what and how, but mostly why. Leave them wanting more.

3. Be gone. Keep it short, under twenty minutes if possible, and end with a call to action. Tell participants what to do. Avoid hype. Let the benefits in your presentation inspire people to do what you have told them to do.

Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.