12 Terrible CLE Audience Members (and How to Handle Them)

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Being asked to present a continuing legal education seminar is a great way to establish credibility. During your session, most of the audience will be polite and listen attentively to your presentation. They won’t interrupt. Some will even take careful notes as you offer your timeless wisdom, but not all of them.

CLEs sometimes play host to strange audiences, especially as reporting deadlines loom. You may have lawyers in attendance who are not all that interested in what you have to say; they just need the mandatory credits and don’t care how they get them.

I have participated in and attended dozens of CLE’s. Here are some of my favorite types of audience members and how I would recommend addressing them if you are the speaker. If you get any of these attendees, try not to take it personally. Here’s what you can do about them.

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  • Christine Senne

    Loved this, except #10. There’s a decent amount of scientific research out there that indicates people have an easier time focusing for long periods of time and retaining information if their hands are occupied while sitting through a presentation. In fact, I worked for a multinational company that provided pipe cleaners and other craft supplies for employees’ use during orientation for this very reason.

    Most lawyers I know who knit, crochet, doodle, etc. during CLE do so in order to pay better attention. In fact, they’ll often choose a fairly simple project so they’re not distracted by their craft during the CLE.

    It seems counterintuitive, I know, especially since knitters appear just as absorbed in their activity as the True Detective watchers. But the knitters really want to learn the material. Definitely engage them.

    Oh, and p.s.: Engaging them by asking what they’re making and getting audience oohs and ahhs will neither embarrass nor deter them.

  • Andrew Cabasso

    Once was at a CLE with a very loud snorer. The whole room could hear it. Speaker got flustered. Cameraman recording the thing was getting annoyed at the snorer. Snorer’s buddies sitting next to him kept nudging him to try to politely wake up him up.

  • John F DeLancey

    Love it. Have certainly seen my fair share of most of these over the years of helping and speaking at CLEs.