It’s been a while, I know! I am trying to get the hang of this whole blogging thing and have lots of ideas for the future.
And while the post below might not start any hot conversation, it will hopefully help a few speakers do a better job, and help a few CLE attendees enjoy a program more (if the speakers do a better job! 🙂 ).
So for right now, below is list of my top ten CLE speaking tips that I just emailed a bunch of my speakers who are teaching at my Federal Court Boot Camp in Chicago this friday (sold out!). I thought I would share it here as well, since it is something I send out to the attorneys and judges who speak at my CLE programs.
Here are my top ten CLE public speaking tips to help you be a hit with the audience:
1) Spend the 20 – 30 minutes before your program starts mingling with the audience members (instead of sitting on the dias).
- Introduce yourself to at least 10 different people (more if possible).
- Get their names. Jot their names down if you can on a note pad/seating chart, so you can remember during the program and mention them by name (or call on them by name).
- Find out why they are there and about what they hope to learn. I usually ask, literally, “so.. .why are you here?… what are one or two things you would really like to learn about in this program.”
- Why do all this? It helps make you more approachable, will endear you to the audience, will give you a small representative idea of what some folks want to hear about, and if you are a practitioner, it is an excellent networking tool (even if they are associates) with people who may, down the road, refer you business. Remember, some of these folks will also be experienced practitioners who are just new to federal court.
2) Don’t read off your outline. Use your speaking outline to prompt your memory about what you wish to teach (have keywords/phrases about your teaching topics).
Make sure you are prepared re: what you wish to teach, i.e. have multiple points and stories/examples written in your outline to cover re: each subject matter/topic, as appropriate.
3) If you are going to cite a case for any reason, cite it slowly and repeat it. If you plan to cite more than one case and they are not in the outline, please bring enough copies of a case cite list to handout to everyone, so they have the resource and don’t have to rely on getting it down properly (think of them as court reporters).
4) Try to know your stories/examples in advance – it is always hard to come up with them on the fly when speaking in public. Stories and examples are great teaching techniques, as are metaphors. Just make sure your stories are not super lengthy.
5) Don’t let any one audience member hijack the program with questions that are off topic, too detailed/particular to their case, or too many questions about a particular case.
The best way to handle this as soon as it starts is to tell them some version of the following, “It looks like you have a lot of questions about a particular issue/case, or it looks like you know a lot about this specific issue, can you write down your questions and see me on the break? I’d really like to discuss this further with you, but we need to move on right now. Thanks!”
And of course, answer their questions at the break of possible and if not, get their email to answer them later.
6) Make sure you either repeat your audience member’s questions, or they use the audience microphone.
7) Try to stay on time – we have an ambitious agenda!
8) Despite #6 above, give them details/specific information, tips, advice whenever you can. They typically don’t like broad brush generalities.
9) Meet their needs – you know generally why they are here based on our topics, and more specifically if you do # 1 above, so make sure your goal is to meet their needs and answer the question, “what’s in it for me” that is on all their minds.
10) Smile and have fun! Believe it or not, many of these programs can be a lot of fun if you interact with your audience (hence knowing some of their names, as discussed in #1 above) and let your own spontaneous humor flow – or tell humorous stories. And that helps lighten things up and make it more interesting!