June 5, 2014
As you develop in your legal career, you're likely going to encounter more opportunities to speak publicly. Whether it's a room full of your colleagues at a conference or potential clients, use these tips to improve your presentation skills.
Preparation for Your Speech
- Learn about your audience. You need to know to whom you're speaking in order to give a successful talk or argument. Check your audience's background. If it's a larger audience, research the average level of expertise on your topic – that way you know how basic or detailed you can be.
- Create an outline, not a manuscript. If you're expecting to run through your speech from beginning to end without interruptions, you're in for a surprise. An outline will ensure you know your argument and main points and that you won't stumble if you get off track.
- Practice in front of others. The best way to make sure you have the facts down and can speak on the subject without reading your notes verbatim is to practice in front of friends or colleagues.
During the Presentation
- Focus on your presence. No matter who the audience is you want to exude confidence and expertise. Hold your head high, speak clearly and make eye contact with your audience.
- Don't stare at your notes. If you're constantly looking down, the audience is less likely to believe you. Have your notes to glance at but look up and make eye contact with the listeners.
- Slow down! You need to take your time. It may feel like you're speaking too slowly but your audience needs a slow pace to follow you and let what's said sink in and resonate.
- Move around. Nothing is more boring than watching a person speak behind a podium so take advantage of the space you have.
- Speak up. Remember to pronounce and annunciate. If you can't be heard, you can't make an impact.
When You're Finished
- Hand out materials. If you brought a brochure or business cards pass them around when you're finished. These will only distract people during your speech.
- Leave time for questions. If you're talking with a group of people at a seminar, make sure you allow time for them to follow up at the end. Someone may have missed something you said or want a certain point expanded.
Giving presentations and speaking in public is a necessity for attorneys who want to advance their careers and be considered an expert in their legal field. There will be opportunities to speak with colleagues, clients and at bar associations and conferences. Follow these tips to properly prepare for you engagements and give the best presentation possible. And when you're finished, don't forget to hand out your materials and leave time for questions!