Make sure they can see what you’re saying


I heard a podcast this morning that featured a financial advisor being interviewed about his productivity habits. He had some good information to share but I couldn’t follow all of it because he spoke in the abstract.

He would make a point and, while I was processing it and thinking about how I might apply it, he was off to another point. He didn’t explain what he meant or tell us how he applied it in his practice, which would help me to see how I could apply it to mine.

As I listened to him make a point, I said more than once (and probably out loud), “give us an example!” But examples didn’t come.

The interviewer should have asked questions to clarify what the guest meant and help listeners to “see” what he meant. I’m not sure why he didn’t do that.

Whenever you communicate–whether you’re being interviewed, conducting a webinar, writing an article, or talking to a prospective client–your job isn’t just to present information, it is to help people understand what you mean and how they can use this information.

When you make a point, illustrate it with one or more examples.

For example, (see what I did there), if you write an article about comparative liability, after you quote the code section and/or some case law, you should then illustrate what the law means by relating a fact pattern or two, either hypothetical or from actual cases.

Examples help translate what you’re saying so that your audience can see what you’re saying.

You can also help your audience understand and remember your message by explaining it in other ways. Say, “What that means is. . .” and then explain it a different way.

If you’re speaking with someone directly, their questions will often tell you if they understand. If you’re not sure, offer to explain further or provide additional examples.

For presentations and articles and the like, put the work product aside for a couple of days or a few hours and come back to it with fresh eyes. Or, have someone else read it and edit it or point out areas where you could be clearer.

I know you know this and you probably do it most of the time. But it couldn’t hurt to stop and assess your communications, to make sure you are being as clear as you mean to be.

Clearly explain to clients the kinds of clients you want and you will get more referrals




In college, I had a professor who mumbled. I sat in the front row and could usually figure out what he was saying but sometimes he also spoke at a low level and I couldn’t understand him at all.

One time, I raised my hand and said, “Could you mumble a little louder?” Everyone laughed, including my professor. (All was okay. He later wrote me a recommendation letter to law school).

Now, as you probably know, I get a lot of emails from lawyers. To my chagrin, many of these professional communicators (that’s who we are, after all), are just as difficult to understand as my mumbling professor.

Frankly, they can’t write their way out of a paper bag.

It’s one thing to send an informal email to someone you know. You don’t always have to format properly or use the King’s English. But you can’t send emails that make people think, “What the hell did they just say?”

Clarity is right up there at the top of the effective communication mountain. If people don’t understand you, you can’t expect to persuade them of anything. They’re not going to learn what you want them to learn. They’re not going to get your jokes.

If your legal documents are muddled, if your closing arguments are a mishmash of thoughts, if your marketing documents and presentations are as mushy and boring as a bowl of oatmeal, you’ve got some work to do.

How do you improve? Read more. Find models of clear writing and study them. Write more. Write something every day and re-write it as often as necessary. You can ask someone to read and critique your writing, and maybe edit it. You might take classes or read books about writing.

You don’t ever want someone to wonder what you just said. As Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Don’t Write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood.”

Clear instructions on marketing your practice