Before I tell you that, I want to tell you this

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No. Don’t do that.

You’ll get more readers reading and listeners listening—to your articles, presentations, newsletters, email, or posts on social—if you do one simple thing.

Get to the point.

I see so many writers and speakers who don’t.

First, they want to tell you about their day or about their kid or about something they’re working on, thinking you’ll care about this or get all warm and fuzzy about them because you can see they’re just like you.

But that’s not why folks are reading the article or watching the presentation.

They want to learn something valuable or interesting (to them). Or be entertained.

So, in those first few seconds, yes seconds, you need to show them you’ve got this for them.

If you start out clearing your throat and warming up your tonsils before you get to the point of your message, many folks will think you don’t have a point and won’t stick around to find out.

Because people are busy and have the attention span of a gnat.

If you don’t get their attention immediately, they’re going to buzz away (do gnats buzz?)

Just the way it is.

This doesn’t mean you should never tell them about your day or your kid or something you’re working on. Just don’t lead with it.

Get their attention first. Tell them about other things later. Or weave those other things into your narrative to illustrate your points.

You listen to a baseball game on the radio to hear the play-by-play. The “color” commentary adds to that but can’t replace it.

There are exceptions. If you are an incredibly talented writer, or you’re writing to a captive audience, e.g., your clients who are inclined to read or listen to everything you say because they’re afraid of missing something important (to them), you can get away with some throat clearing before you begin your speech.

For everyone else, get to the point.

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Speaking of books. . .

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If you read a lot of books, or want to, but are busy and can’t always justify the time to do it, as I recently struggled with, I’m going to make things a little easier for you by pointing out some additional benefits.

Specifically, some ways you can use what you read to get more clients and increase your income.

Not just by learning new or better marketing or management ideas, but also by improving your productivity, speaking, writing, and negotiating skills, developing new habits (or getting rid of old ones), becoming more creative, reducing your stress, and so much more.

Good things that can make you better at what you do and who you are.

You can also use the information you learn to generate content for your blog or newsletter, videos or podcasts. And you should because many of your subscribers, prospective clients, and professional contacts want to learn many of the same things you want to learn.

Developing more content this way could be as simple as writing book reviews or blog posts that summarize key ideas in these books.

You could add these books to an ongoing “recommended reading” list and post it on your blog. You could compile your favorite quotes and stories and use them in your writing or presentations.

You could write guest posts about the books for blogs in your clients’ niche, interview other people who are following these ideas, or interview the authors themselves. You might even create workshops and teach others about the principles you’ve learned, or show people how you use them.

You could also use these books in your networking. If you’re at a function attended by physicians you’d like to meet, for example, asking them if they’ve read the latest book by one of their colleagues can be a great way to start a conversation.

If nothing else, you can give away copies of your favorite books to clients and professional contacts, as a way to add value to your relationships or to thank them when they do something nice for you.

In short, you can feed your reading habit and build your practice at the same time.

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Get to the point

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The best presenters don’t begin their presentation by welcoming the audience or telling them they’re going to get a lot out the presentation. They start their presentation.

That’s what people came to hear and they let them hear it.

They start by saying something important or remarkable. Or they tell a story or ask a question. In the first few seconds, they get the audience involved.

If they have announcements or promotions, if they want to introduce themselves, they save it for later—after they’ve got people listening and nodding their heads, glad they showed up.

Because if they don’t, the audience will tune out. And think about the work they need to finish or the errand they need to run on their way home.

Good speakers get to the point.

The same is true of good writers.

One of the best writing tips I’ve ever heard was to get rid of the “throat clearing”–the filler at the start of your article, post, report or email.

The purpose of the first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence. If that first sentence doesn’t hook ’em, like the audience at a presentation, the reader will tune out.

Yes, there are exceptions. Occasions where a little warm up or background is appropriate. But those are exceptions.

The default: get to the point.

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The Bandwagon Effect

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Psychologists tell us most people tend to think or act a certain way when they believe others are doing the same. They don’t want to make a mistake or miss out so they usually follow the crowd.

The “Bandwagon Effect” is a cognitive bias that causes people to buy a certain product or act a certain way because it is the more popular option.

Prospective clients often choose the attorney who appears busier for the same reason.

You can use this innate cognitive bias in your conversations and presentations with prospective clients.

When you present two or more options to a prospective client, e.g., Package A (your “starter” service) and Package B (your bigger service), for example, before you ask what they’d like to do or which option they prefer, tell them which option is more popular: “Most of my clients prefer Package B” (if that’s true) and tell them why.

You can do something similar in your articles and blog posts, and in your sales materials.

“Most of the people I talk to about [issue] tell me they don’t want to wait, they want to take care of this immediately because. . .”

Most people want to follow the ostensibly safer and better path chosen by others, so make sure you tell people what most people usually do.

Ready to make this year your best year ever? This will help

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Do you talk too much?

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Many lawyers are verbose. They use 100 words to explain something when five or ten will do. They “bury the lead” under paragraphs or pages of background information. They clear their throat for ten minutes before they get to their first point.

Early in my career, I did this. I’d like to think I’ve nipped that habit in the bud.

Why are lawyers like this?

Could be because we were taught to be thorough, to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to persuade.

I’m sure some lawyers want to impress people with the depth of their knowledge, the breadth of their experience, or the thoroughness of their research.

Some want to display their intelligence. Some want to hide their shortcomings behind a wall of words.

And, in a profession that often equates value in terms of time, more words or pages or minutes can mean more income.

But most people, especially high-achieving, busy people, don’t want or need all the details. They want their lawyer to get to the point.

They want us to be more concise.

How do you do that? How do you write an email, memo, or article, or do a presentation, that clearly and concisely says what you want to say, and no more?

How do you persuade someone to do something or believe something, without taking them to school?

Knowing your audience helps. What do they already know about the subject? What questions are they likely to have? What problems do they want to solve, and what’s in it for them if they follow your advice?

Confine yourself to what you know your reader or listener wants or needs to know and leave the scholarship on the bookshelf.

Providing examples and stories helps. Help the reader understand what you mean, with fewer words, by showing instead of telling.

Re-writing and editing help. Cut out the fluff, use shorter sentences and paragraphs, and make the page scannable with lots of white space, bullet points and numbering.

More than anything, see if you can boil down your message to a single idea.

Ask yourself, “What’s the ONE thing I want my reader (or listener) to take away from this?”

What do you want them to know, believe, or do?

Use that as the lead to your presentation, the subject line in your email, or the conclusion of your article.

And once you’ve delivered that takeaway, stop talking.

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Maybe you should teach a class

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CLE presenters don’t teach classes for the money. Why do they do it? Why should you?

Here are 6 reasons you should consider teaching a continuing education course:

  1. It will make you a better lawyer. You’ll necessarily stay current with the cutting edge aspects of your subject.
  2. It will make you a better presenter. You’ll learn how to craft an interesting and persuasive presentation.
  3. It will expose you to other lawyers who take your class. This can lead to referrals, associating on cases, and other networking opportunities.
  4. It looks great on your bio. Just being able to say you teach other lawyers in your field gives you an edge over other lawyers who don’t.
  5. You’ll have more content for your blog, newsletter, guest posts, videos, podcasts, and seminars.
  6. It can lead to book deals, invitations to speak on panels or sit on committees, and other opportunities to get more exposure and elevate your reputation.

So, what are you waiting for? Sharpen your pencil, and your tongue, and outline your first CLE class.

Marketing is easier when you know The Formula

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The case of the florescent green house slippers

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I needed a new pair of house slippers and ordered a pair online. They arrived, I tried them on but didn’t like the fit. 

Back they went. 

I ordered a different brand and they fit alright but I couldn’t get used to the bright green lining which showed even when my feet were in them.  

You want to relax when you put on your slippers, don’t ya? Not feel like you’re at the circus. 

I sent these back and ordered a third pair. Plain black, inside and out. 

Guess what happened? 

They fit, they look good, they’re comfortable, and I kept them. I’m wearing them now, as a matter of fact. 

You may be wondering why I’m telling you this not-very-interesting and seemingly pointless story. (And why you spent valuable time reading it.)

It is to make a point about stories, and why you should use them liberally in your writing and presentations. 

Yes, you’ve heard this before. You know that stories are more interesting than facts, usually because they have people in them, you know that “facts tell but stories sell,” and you know that stories are a great way to connect emotionally with your reader. 

You also know that stories are a good way to show people what it will be like having you as their attorney. 

Showing instead of telling.

But there’s another reason why stories are effective. 

It’s because human beings are hard-wired to listen to them. 

It’s a survival instinct. When we hear stories, our minds seek to predict what happens next. 

When we sat in caves and heard tribal leaders tell stories of being chased by ferocious creatures and what they did to escape, we learned what to do when we’re chased by ferocious creatures. 

Our brains pay attention to stories to find out what happened. 

So the next time you want to persuade someone to do something,  don’t just tell them the facts, tell a story. 

If a busy professional like you will listen to my boring tale of buying slippers, imagine what your prospective clients will do when you tell them about your client being chased by ferocious opposing counsel and how you saved them from being devoured.

Put stories in your newsletter. Here’s how

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Create a better marketing message by keeping it simple

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The best marketing messages are simple. They are easy to understand and easy to remember, and the ideas embodied in them affect the reader or listener on a basic emotional level.

The same can be said for any message.

The strength of a simple message is in its clarity. The reader or listener grasps the message on its face, without explanation or documentation, and without delay. It says what it means and it means what it says.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Do not write merely to be understood. Write so you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

But how does one do that?

Ultimately, this is a function of the writer’s or speaker’s understanding of the essence of the message and their ability to communicate it. In other words, it takes some skill and effort. But there’s a lot you can do to make your message simpler, clearer, and more effective, even if you’re not (yet) a great writer.

Make your message about fewer ideas

Include a few key points in your message, not everything you could say on the subject. This is true no matter who your audience is, but even more so for a lawyer seeking to influence lay people.

Be brief

Spare the details. Don’t write pages when paragraphs will do. See if you can convey the same idea in a sentence or two.

Most people want no more than the bottom line and a fact or two that supports it. You should have additional information available, however, for those who want it. On your website, for example, put your message on the home page; provide links to the details for those who want to drill down to get them.

Write at a fourth grade level

You want your message to go from the page or the lectern to the recipient’s brain at the speed of thought. You don’t want anything slowing it down. So use shorter paragraphs and sentences, and simpler words. “Don’t use a five-dollar word when a fifty-cent word will do,” Mark Twain told us.

Use repetition

No matter how effective your message is, it will be more effective if it is repeated often. Repetition helps people understand, accept, and remember your message. It is key to earning their trust and their business.

Think of your message as a campaign speech, if that helps. You address the same handful of ideas and repeat them over and over again, to new crowds and to your die-hard supporters alike.

Repetition makes your message stronger and affects people at a deeper level. The first time they hear it, they may be critical and doubtful. After they’ve heard it several times, they are better able understand and accept the message. Eventually, after they’ve heard your message repeatedly, they can remember it and articulate it to others.

And that’s what you want.

You want your clients and prospects, friends and followers, to know what you stand for and what you promise, and you want them to easily share that message with others.

Need help crafting an effective marketing message? Try this

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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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