What are you afraid of?


What are you afraid of? What do you know you should be doing but don’t because of fear?

Not because you don’t know how. Not because you don’t have the time or other resources. Simply because it scares the crap out of you.

It might the act of doing it. Public speaking may terrify you.

It might be possible outcomes. You’re afraid that if you start a blog, nobody will come.

It might be fear of failure or fear of success. Fear of rejection or fear of being ridiculed. Fear of losing your investment, or fear of being different.

We all have issues. The question is, what can we do about them?

We can make a decision. No, you can’t choose to not feel the fear. It’s there. Acknowledge it. Don’t fight it or try to reason with it. Let it go. It is what it is.

You can’t choose to not have the fear, but you can choose what you do about it.

You can allow your fears to stop you or you can choose to do the thing despite the fear.

Sometimes the best way to do that is in small increments. Baby steps. You may not be ready to do the keynote address at your bar meeting but perhaps you can introduce the speaker. If that’s too much, maybe you can introduce the guy who introduces the speaker.

Sometimes the best way to handle fear is to close your eyes and jump in.

A client owes you money. You have to call them to see if they’ve mailed the check they’ve promised. You don’t want to do it. It’s unpleasant. It makes you nervous. Stop thinking about it, grab the phone and start punching in numbers.

Some things may always scare us. Things that never get any easier. We feel the fear and do them because they must be done.

Other times, perhaps most of the time, we beat the fear. Things that once scared the juice out of us are no longer an issue. We did it, and it wasn’t as bad as we thought. Or we did over and over again and eventually got used to it. The thing we used to avoid doing is now a part of our repertoire.

Mark Twain said, “Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” So what are you afraid of? And what are you going to do about it?

Clients owe you money? I can help you Get the Check.


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.


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.


The best advice I can give you about building your law practice


Care to guess which of my emails and posts get the most passionate feedback?

It’s not posts about how to do things. It’s not about marketing, productivity, or anything else substantive. The posts that bring the most passionate, emotional feedback are, by far, those that are inspirational.

It’s when I talk about “big picture” themes that apply to all of us human folk. Or when I share something personal about how I’ve changed. The posts that share ideas that make people feel good about themselves and the future.

There’s a lot of bad things happening in the world. People are scared. Hurt. Looking for answers.

We all need a bright spot. We all want to feel hopeful.

That’s where you come in.

When you email your list, post on your blog, or talk to an audience, with everything you do in building your law practice, your number one job is to make people feel good.

When people feel good about themselves and the future, they associate those good feelings with you, the bearer of that good news and those prognostications. They will like you for it and want to continue hearing from you and being around you.

People want to associate with people who promise to lead them towards a better future. That can be you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t scare them with dire warnings. Fear can be very motivating. It doesn’t mean you should no longer try to educate them. Among other reasons, conveying information is important to building your credibility and trustworthiness.

But at the end of the day (speech, article, interview, etc.) give people hope. Let them know they aren’t alone on this journey, you’re right there with them, and things are going to be just fine.

They will never remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.


Every lawyer needs to be able to tell these 5 stories


When speaking to prospective clients, an audience, interviewers, or professional contacts, you need to be able to tell them about you and what you offer in a way that is interesting and memorable. They should be able to see and understand the people behind the brochure or the web page.

Here are 5 stories you should be prepared to tell that make that possible:

1. Why us

What you do for your clients, the benefits you offer, the kinds of clients you work with, and why someone should hire you instead of other lawyers.

2. Your/your firm’s mission

The big picture about the work you do, your vision for the future.

3. Your personal story

Stories about your past, personal interests, family. The person, not the lawyer, although you can add why you became a lawyer.

4. Client stories

Success stories about people who hired you and received positive results. Have one or two for each practice area/problem and niche market.

5. Partner and/or staff stories

Be prepared to talk about other people in your firm. Clients like to know something about other people who might work with them.

A list of credentials and accomplishments has its place, but to be more effective, talk about people: yourself, your staff, and your clients. Tell stories that show who you are and how you make a difference. Because facts tell, but stories sell.


Judgments about trustworthiness are made in less than a second


According to new research, “people only need to meet someone for less than a second before they decide how trustworthy they are.”


When you meet a prospective client they make up their minds about you instantly. In a single glance, the jury decides whether or not to trust your client or witness. When you are networking or speaking, you are judged before you say a single word.

It has to do with the human face and how our brains process the image. I’ll spare you the scientific details behind the research but the process occurs at a subconscious level, and quickly.

We used to think that people make up their minds about us in the first minute or two, giving us time to make a good impression. You know, smile, make eye contact, show people you are interested in them. Now we know that by the time we do that, people have already made up their minds about us.

Now what? We can’t change our appearance. Our face says “trustworthy” or it does not. All we can do is move forward with the things we’ve always done to make a good impression and earn trust. We’ll thus reinforce the person’s first impression of us as trustworthy, and thus strengthen it, or we’ll counter their first impression of untrustworthy and, one hopes, overcome it.

But then I’m assuming it’s possible to overcome a bad first impression. It has to be. If it were not, it would mean there are people walking around with a face that tells everyone, “you can’t trust me,” and there’s nothing they can do to change that impression. I know life isn’t fair but I think that’s going too far.

How to improve your trustworthiness. Click here.


People tell me I’m funny, but looks aren’t everything


Apparently, being funny is good for your career. According to this article, there are lots of benefits to a sense of humor in the workplace.

But what if you’re not funny?

We all know people who seem to be humorless. They may appreciate other people’s humor but they simply don’t have it in them to make anyone laugh.

Can you learn to be funny? I’m thinking not. And the only thing worse than having no sense of humor is thinking you do.

Trying to be funny when you don’t have a funny bone could do a lot of harm. In front of a jury, for example, a natural sense of humor, used appropriately, can score points. If you miss, it could be disastrous.

Some lawyers take “stand up comedy” courses. Others take acting classes to learn how to loosen up in front of a crowd. Do they help? Maybe. But at the end of the day, I’m in the camp that says you either have it or you don’t.

If you’re not naturally funny, it’s okay. On the Star Trek series, the Klingon character Worf is depicted as someone with no sense of humor. Nevertheless, he is respected, trusted, and generally liked. He would die to protect his friends and colleagues, he just won’t die laughing.

A sense of humor is a valuable asset but there are other ways to improve communication and foster liking and trust. Becoming a good listener is a notable example and it is a skill that can be learned.

In Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” he doesn’t say anything about being funny. He does talk about the next best thing: smiling. When you smile, people see you as happy and friendly and nice, and they like you because of it. When you smile, they smile and they feel good about themselves, and about you.

Smile and the world smiles with you. Tell a bad joke and the world rolls their eyes.


Remember presentations better by structuring your content


Matt Abrams is an expert on public speaking and a lecturer at Stanford. In a recent article, he says you will be better able to remember presentations by “structuring your content,” rather than presenting it randomly.

He explains:

“Having a structure helps you remember what to say because even if you forget the specifics, you can use the general framework to stay on track. For example, when using the Problem-Solution-Benefit structure–which is good for persuading and motivating people–you first lay out a specific problem (or opportunity), then detail a solution to address the problem, defining its benefits. If you are in the middle of the Solution portion of your talk and blank out, recalling your structure will tell you that the Benefits portion comes next.”

Not only does the structure give you a framework for recalling how the information fits together, I can see how it helps your audience better understand and remember your message.

Abrams says his favorite structure is, “What?-So What?-Now What?, which can help you not only in planned presentations but also in spontaneous speaking situations such as job interviews.”

What: Your message or claim

So What: Why it matters; the benefits if it is accepted

Now What: What to do next; the call to action.

I like this, too. It can be used for formal presentations, papers, briefs, articles, letters, oral arguments, and blog posts. You can also use it to help a client understand where things are in a case and why they should follow your recommendation.

The article has additional tips on public speaking, including how to practice a presentation.

For more ideas for structuring reports and other content, see my 30 Day Referral Blitz


Content marketing for lawyers made even simpler


In Make the Phone Ring, my Internet marketing course for attorneys, I provide a comprehensive list of ideas attorneys can use to create content for their blog or newsletter. They can also be used to produce reports, presentations, articles, videos, and other kinds of content.

Whether you have my course or not, today I want to give you a homework assignment that will help you create ideas for content almost automatically. You see, it’s one thing to go looking for ideas when you need them. It’s something else to have those ideas coming to your in-box every day, filling your mind with raw material and providing you with a starting point for creating rich, timely and interesting content.

Your assignment is to subscribe to three types of newsletters (blogs, RSS feeds, ezines, etc.):

  1. Other lawyers. Find lawyers both in your field and also in other fields and subscribe to their newsletters or blogs. You may start out with seven or eight and then cut back to the best three or four. You’ll get ideas for your own articles, which may include commenting directly on theirs. You’ll also see how often they publish, how long their posts are, and what types of posts they write (case histories, news, commentary, etc.)
  2. Your target market. Read what your target market is reading–news about their industry or local community, for example. Also read the content produced by those who sell to or advise your target market–vendors, consultants, businesses, and other professionals. You’ll learn about the news, issues, causes, and trends that affect your clients, prospective clients, and referral sources. You may also identify new marketing opportunities as you learn about those trends and the people associated with them.
  3. Something different. Subscribe to content that interests you and has nothing to do with the law or your client’s industry. It could be hobby related or any kind of outside interest–tech, travel, food, sports, news. I get lots of ideas by reading outside my main areas of focus, and so will you. You’ll be able to create richer, more interesting content. And it doesn’t matter if your readers don’t share your interest. Not everyone follows sports, for example, but on some level, everyone can relate to sports analogies.

Content marketing for lawyers is relatively simple. Subscribing to other people’s content makes it even simpler.

Get Make the Phone Ring and get more clients on the Internet. Click here.


Using a script in a presentation


Last night, I did a twenty minute presentation on a conference call. It’s one I’ve done many times before. I know the material well enough to deliver it without notes.

This time, I did something different. I wanted the presentation to be more succinct, so I wrote a script. After all, it’s not a live presentation. Nobody would know that I’m reading.

But now, I don’t think that’s true. Using a script in a presentation affected my delivery. I thought I sounded stiff, yes, like I was reading. A few times, when I went off script to embellish a point, I could hear the difference. I felt relaxed and just talked, and that sounds different.

After any presentation, most people don’t remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel. And you make them feel something not so much by the words you use but by your delivery. If you sound unnatural, as you do when you read, (unless you are a professional actor), it loses something. When you speak from the heart, your audience can feel your passion and be affected by it.

Afterwards, I received calls and texts praising the presentation, and this from people who have heard me deliver it before (sans script). They asked if I would do it again, so others could hear it, so I know I covered the right material–not too much, not too little, and for that, I give credit to the script. But next time I do it, I’m not going to use a script. I’m not going to wing it, either. I’m going to take my script and create a series of bullet points and work off of that.

I realize the presentation will probably be a bit longer than I’d like. I’m sure I’ll wander off on a tangent or two. But this way, I’ll cover everything I want to cover, in the right order, and be able to talk to the audience, not read to them.