The Gen Why Lawyer: Are We Saying Anything Worth Listening To?

One way or another, lawyers are always talking. But are we saying anything worth listening to?

Almost every lawyer (with a few exceptions) relies on her communication skills to argue, negotiate, and persuade. Whether it’s in front of a jury, with a client, with opposing counsel, in front of a judge, or at networking events, lawyers are always speaking in public. However, not every lawyer is good at it.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that skill automatically came with our JD?

A few years ago, I began taking close note of how lawyers communicated, specifically when they were in front of large crowds. These situations typically arose at legal conferences and bar association functions. I also noticed how awful so many lawyers were at presenting and yet, there they were, center stage, with hundreds of eyes on them.

I became obsessed with studying the art of public speaking [emphasis on the word “art”].  I consumed podcasts and books by great speakers like Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins. I joined my local Toastmasters group to help me refine my own speaking skills. I even launched my Gen Why Lawyer podcast in an effort to improve my own speaking abilities.

Based on my research, I discovered that all great speakers are able to influence and affect others because they have put in the time to perfect their speaking craft. They are able to move others to action, persuade towards a new belief, and educate. It truly is a remarkable skill.

I’m hoping you see how useful a skill that is for you as a young lawyer.

Thus, I have become a firm believer in the power of public speaking and its infinite benefits.  Here are a few personal and professional reasons why you should consider participating in speaking engagements and refining your skills:

  • Meet potential clients while delivering a speech/presentation
  • Strengthen your oral advocacy skills
  • Connect with a greater community
  • Share your message/story with the world
  • Generate income (many speaking gigs are paid)
  • Expand your network
  • Market your business/law practice
  • Establish a solid reputation
  • Build your personal brand and visibility
  • Influence and impact others

Convinced that speaking events could be good for you and your career?

Where to Find Speaking Opportunities:

  • Google search events in your community to see what’s coming up and how you can participate as a speaker. Keep in mind that big events are usually planned many months in advance so you’ll need to reach out to the event coordinators early on if you want to participate.
  • Check with the American Bar Association, your State Bar, and your local bar associations for upcoming events.  Reach out to a program coordinator and make it known that you’re interested in participating as a speaker or a program moderator. It’s always best to reach out to someone you already have a relationship with so start with associations you’re already active in.
  • Use social media. Yup, good ‘ol social media. There for us when we’re bored at work, there for us when we want to connect with others, and there for us when we’re searching for speaking gigs. Use your social media platforms to reach out and connect with people who are in positions to offer you speaking engagements. Also, use social media to build your credibility as a speaker.  Post articles about subject areas you’re likely to speak about and you’ll begin to build a reputation as a knowledgeable person in that area.
  • Consider planning your own event where you can speak/present on your chosen topic. You can host a CLE, a community event, a webinar, a small get-together, a roundtable discussion, etc. Sometimes, you just have to create your own opportunities.

What to Talk About?

Although selecting a speaking topic is something personal and only you can ultimately choose what you’re comfortable speaking about, here are a few questions to ask yourself to kickstart your brainstorming:

  • Are you practicing in a niche practice area that others might want to learn about?
  • Do you have a special hobby/talent/skill that not too many others do?
  • Are you an expert in anything?
  • Has any life experience of yours contributed to your current state of being?
  • What is one thing people always seek your advice about?
  • Have you written a book, created a product, or built a business that can help others?
  • Did you overcome a huge obstacle?
  • Do you have a unique story or message that must be shared?
  • Do you have something to teach?

Public speaking is a powerful way to get your message across to others. Unless you’re planning on working behind a computer with no human interaction for the rest of your life, I would urge you to start speaking up!

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