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.


Putting some practice into your law practice


A Facebook friend mentioned a recent conversation with a photographer who told him, “You need to practice your craft! Ask any serious musician, actor, actress, vocalist, writer, painter, etc., how often they practice and they will tell you. So often I talk to photographers and ask them the same question and they get a blank look on their face and say, “Practice”?

What about lawyers? Are we not serious professionals? Are we not creative?

We practice law but how many of us practice the practice of law?

Most trial lawyers practice their closing arguments. But how many practice interviewing a hostile witness? How many practice writing a more persuasive brief or settlement package?

Lawyers want more clients but how many practice meeting new people at a networking event? How many practice what they will say to a prospective client who comes in for a consultation?

I’ll admit, in my law practice, I did very little practicing. Over time, I got better at writing and speaking not because I made a conscious effort to do so, not by practicing but by speaking and writing for real clients in real cases. How much better might I have been had I worked on this between clients?

An actor rehearses before he goes on stage. He works on his craft when nobody is watching or in a workshop among his peers. He practices and practices so that he can deliver the best performance. Musicians do the same.

Writers churns out millions of words that are never seen, honing their craft, improving their work product. Painters do studies, dancers rehearse steps, singers do scales.

In law school and in bar review courses we took practice exams, getting ready for the real exam, the one that counts. Why do we stop practicing once we get licensed to practice?

Want ideas for articles, blog posts, and speeches that make the phone ring? Go here.


How to qualify prospective clients in four seconds or less


Would you like to know if someone is a candidate for your services within four seconds of meeting them?

I just read about a financial advisor who built a very successful business doing that. He cold called investors, introduced himself, and asked a simple question: “Are you looking for a new financial advisor?”

He didn’t ask if they were interested in getting information about a hot stock. He didn’t invite them to a seminar. He was looking for people who wanted a new advisor and that’s what he asked.

They either were or they were not. If they said yes or maybe, he moved forward. If not, he moved on.

Hold the phone, I’m not suggesting you cold call. Or that you ask people you just met a qualifying question. “Hi, I’m Joe. Are you looking for a divorce lawyer?”

But I am asking you to put on your thinking cap and come up a good qualifying question for your services.

There are many ways to phrase the question:

  • Are you looking for. . .?
  • Do you need. . .?
  • Which of these works best for you. . .?
  • Do you have this problem?
  • Have you ever. . .?
  • Why are you. . .?
  • Are you ready to. . .?

You might put the question on the home page of your website, front and center, to let visitors know they’ve come to the right place. You might not ask until someone has had a chance to read something, get their questions answered, and get a sense for who you are.

You might ask in conversation. Or hand over a brochure or report that asks for you.

On the other hand, you may never vocalize the question or put it in writing. The question may be no more than sub-text. But there it will be, guiding you and qualifying your reader or listener.

Crafting this question will help you define your “ideal client”. What is their problem? Where are they in the process? What other solutions have they considered or tried? It will help you qualify prospective clients, possibly in four seconds or less.

So, what would you ask someone to find out if they are a prospect for your services?

Do you want help describing your ideal client? Get this.


People are stupid


It is said that one should never underestimate the intelligence of our fellow man.

That’s a load of crap. People are stupid.

They can’t think. The can’t write. They don’t understand.

Their vocabulary consists of twelve words, none more than two syllables. They have the attention span of a goldfish.

Dumb. Thick as a brick. Stoo-pid.

If you don’t believe me, go read the comments on just about any Youtube video.

See? People are stupid.

At least that’s what you should assume when you write or speak.

Never assume people will understand what you are saying. Spell it out. Say it so they can’t possibly misunderstand.

Use plain words. Short sentences. Word pictures.

Short lists. Simple examples. Precise instructions.

This actually takes some work on your part. It’s not easy to write simply and plainly and not sound like you are talking down to people. It’s much easier to write like a lawyer, but I urge you not to, even if you’re writing for lawyers.

Write and speak to communicate, not to impress. Don’t make people work any harder than necessary to understand your message.

Keep things simple so everyone can understand. Stupid people will thank you. Smart people won’t mind.

If you want a (simple) marketing plan that really works, get this.


WTF: Cussing in email, blogs


Last week I got an email from a subscriber who disapproved of my use of the word “bastard” in a blog post. He referred to it as a “strong cuss word” and thought I should refrain from using such terms.

That surprised me. I don’t consider that a strong cuss word. I’m not even sure it’s a cuss word anymore, at least in most circles.

I think I monitor my language pretty well. I don’t use four letter words in my posts and emails. But coarse language does have its place in communication. If used appropriately and not overdone, it can add color and contour to our writing and speech.

So, at the risk of pissing off some of my subscribers (oops), I don’t plan to change anything.

On the other hand. . .

If most of my subscribers told me they didn’t approve of my language, I would be foolish not to listen. If you want to stay in business, you have to pay attention to your market.

But you can’t listen to everyone who is unhappy with something you said.

At the end of the day, you have to be yourself. You will attract people who like you “as is”. They may not like everything you say, but if they read something that bothers their sense of propriety, you have to assume they will let it go. If they don’t, it’s their loss, not yours.


10 tips on public speaking for lawyers


Admit it. You’re a ham. You like the limelight. You love to be in front of the room.

Okay, even if you don’t, you know that public speaking is an excellent way to market legal services.

Here are 10 tips on public speaking for lawyers:

TIP #1: Write your own introduction. Your audience will hear everything you want them to hear and nothing you don’t. It’s better to let the host say nice things about you than it is to say them about yourself.

TIP #2: If you use handouts, pass them out at the END of the talk. Otherwise, everyone will read and not listen. (The exception would be handouts that track on screen bullet points.)

TIP #3: Don’t read. You should know your material well enough that you don’t need to read anything. It’s okay to have notes with you but only as reminders of points you want to cover.

TIP #4: If you use slides, aim for no more than three bullet points on each slide. Keep it short, simple, and easy to read. No animation or fancy graphics. Also, try to use no more than a dozen slides. The audience is there to listen, not read.

TIP #5: Tell stories. All facts make Jack a dull boy. Stories show people what is important and why. People relate to the people in your stories on an emotional level.

TIP #6: Engage the audience. Make eye contact. Speak to individuals in the room, not to “the crowd”. Mention people by name. Ask rhetorical questions (e.g., “What would you do if that happened?”) and questions that call for an audible response.

TIP #7: Mix it up. Vary your speed, tone, and voice level. Pause for effect. Gesture. Walk from one side of the room to the other. Point to something.

TIP #8: Aim for one main take-away. One main point, one memorable line, one evocative story. If they are asked about your talk two weeks later, what’s the one thing you want them to remember?

TIP #9: Keep it short. Twenty minutes is ideal. After twenty minutes, people get restless. If you have a bigger topic, break it up into twenty minute segments.

TIP #10: Close with a “call to action”. Tell them what to do next: visit a website, fill out paperwork, call to make an appointment. If you tell them what to do, more people will do it.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Please share in the comments.

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