Public speaking is one of the best ways for a lawyer to enhance his or her reputation. Anyone reading or hearing about the speech automatically assumes that the sponsoring organization has done its homework – and that the speaker is a respected legal expert. The sponsoring organization, in short, is vouching for your credentials. Being asked to speak is an honor, and most lawyers are inclined to automatically accept any invitation to speak. It feeds their egos.
This can be a mistake.
Curb your ego
Don’t be like a trained dog – speaking on command. Do your homework first. Before you accept, set your ego aside and study the opportunity from a strategic marketing perspective. I always tell my attorney coaching clients to carefully analyze the audience, the promotion plan and the time commitment. You’ll be glad you did.
Before accepting any invitation to speak, find out who will be on the mailing list for the event and will likely attend. If the audience is full of potential clients and referral sources, the time is well spent. If the audience is sparse or not in your target market, your time is wasted. Don’t let your ego mislead you into speaking before a group of people who are not in a position to hire you.
How will it be promoted?
Never agree to speak to a group before asking about how strenuously the event will be promoted. A speaking engagement is about more than the speech itself. It is also about all the promotional material that is sent out ahead of time. Each piece of material with your name on it promotes you as an expert to the reader. Think free advertising.
What is the time commitment?
Finally, carefully consider how much time it will take to prepare your presentation and any accompanying materials. At times, this time commitment can easily approach 50 hours or more. Unless the opportunity is a perfect fit with your target market and well-promoted, there might be better ways to spend those 50 hours. After all, you have only so much time to devote to marketing. Perhaps those 50 hours would be better spent networking face-to-face with clients, potential clients and referral sources over coffee or lunch.
Lawyer coaches agree that a well-prepared speech — delivered in front of a well-qualified audience — can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways for a lawyer to build his or her reputation as an expert in a particular legal area. But be choosy. Never accept an invitation without first researching the audience, how it is being promoted, and the time-commitment. After all, you’re not a dog that speaks on command.