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Public Speaking - The Art of Getting Referrals

Updated: Mar 14

Generating Leads and Referrals from Public Speaking

By Liza Vasquez CMC ICF and Jeffrey F. Silber MBA CMC

Certified Master Business and Life Coaches

The recipe for generating leads continues to be a mix of: Exposure to as many people as possible so that those who might want to hire you will get to know you; Demonstrating your expertise; and Creating the all-important Human Connection so that you are the lawyer the potential client would prefer to hire.

For today, let’s concentrate on exposure to as many people as possible. 


Inasmuch as it is very difficult to know which companies or organizations are looking for a lawyer at any given moment, you must present yourself to as many decision makers as possible and let them sort themselves out as to who is looking for a new lawyer and who is not. As you know from the relationships you have with your own clients, the bonds between clients and their lawyers can be difficult to break.

Other than a start-up company or a spin off, basically all companies already have a law firm. It would be like trying to break up a marriage to attempt to replace a law firm with which the client is happy and satisfied.  And in the extreme case, perhaps the company’s current external lawyer is the sister-in-law of the company’s president.  That is a client-lawyer relationship that is virtually impossible to break

This does not imply that obtaining new clients is a hopeless dream. On the contrary, companies change law firms all the time and for all sorts of reasons.  The trick is for you to make sure that the companies which are ready to make the change already know you, are impressed by you and like you. When you do these things – the new clients will come to you.

Keep in mind, that it is always a good idea to continuously “romance” the president of a company and/or their in-house lawyer. First, they might, in fact, need you in the future even if is only for some overflow legal work that their main law firm cannot handle at the moment. After all, it is a foot in the door. Or, the company may be tied to their current law firm but if you impress their in-house lawyer enough, he/she may refer some good prospective clients to you.

The Process

Now we want to turn the numbers game of putting yourself in front of as many potential clients as possible. The best way to do this is through Public Speaking.

To begin with, are you comfortable speaking in front of an audience? Did you know that fear of Public Speaking is the most common phobia? It is. Don’t be embarrassed if you share this fear.  There are several things to point out:

1) No one in the audience is as much of an expert on the subject as you are. Do not worry that someone will stand up and say “You don’t know what you are talking about!”  Sure you can think of questions you can’t answer but that is because you are the only one in the room who has enough knowledge on the subject to even think of the question. 

2) Also, being a little nervous is all right. Don’t think that making a speech is the same as chatting with your best friend over a glass of wine in a very comfortable situation. You should be a little keyed up about your speech.  Actors are almost always nervous before the curtain goes up but they channel the energy into their performance.  Use your nervousness and that adrenaline to your benefit and make it a great speech.

3) Do not aim to be a very polished speaker.  The type of audiences you will be addressing are often skeptical of speakers who seems too slick. Making mistakes, or even saying Let me back up a little bit and so on, makes you look real.

If you need more skills, find a course in Public Speaking in your city.  In that nice safe environment, they will show you how to overcome your fears and give a good performance.

In Part 3 of this series which you will receive in November 2016, we will discuss how to improve your Public Speaking skills.

Returning to the today’s theme, Public Speaking is a very powerful tool to generate more clients and building a network of referral sources.  Here are 8 tips that will ensure the time you commit to this endeavor pays off for you:

Step #1:  Finding a Topic

The most difficult part of the process is thinking of the title of a speech that will attract the attention of as large an audience as possible. It should peek their curiosity. Companies are in business to make money. Therefore, if you can include that concept in the title, all the better for attracting attention.  Increasing your Profits Through Better Defense of Labor Litigation; or Opportunities to Increase Profits Under the New Tax Code. 

Or think of a title that is sexy in some way. One of our clients specializes in fraud investigations and he has a speech titled Sex, Drugs and Rock’n’Roll – How to Detect Fraud in Your Company. His point of view is that the obvious change in behavior of dishonest employees is a better and quicker way to detect fraud than forensic audits. With this title he finds it easy to get speaking opportunities.

But do not write the speech yet – just think of the title!

Step #2:  Do Research and Contact Various Organizations

You begin by thinking about the kind of audience you want to reach. If you could have a one-on-one meeting with a potential client, what characteristics would you be looking for in that person?  You want to speak in front of an organization that has as many of that type of people as possible.

Giving a speech to a group of purchasing agents may not give you the highest return on your effort because they are generally removed from the decision-making process of hiring a lawyers. You will want to find a group of Decision Makers.

In that regard, The Association of Financial Executives may represent a better opportunity for you than The Association of Loan Officers.  Similarly, the Association of Pharmaceutical Executives would have a better target audience for you than the Association of Quality Control Chemists.  

Make sure you get in front of the right group of people who either can refer clients to you or who are highly likely to need, want and be able to afford your services.

You can see that it would damage your personal brand and not be very effective if it is not the right venue for what you want to achieve.

Contact the organizations that meet your criteria and be sure to ask the organizers these questions before agreeing to appear:

  • What the composition of the attendance likely to be?

  • Who is the typical attendee? Their job titles? Description? Age range?

  • What kinds of topics have had the best response?

  • Who has recently spoken to your group and what did they speak about?

Unless your practice area relies heavily on referrals from other lawyers, such a divorce lawyer or a tax lawyer, you should stay away from speaking in front of other lawyers. They would like to hear your speech because they are most likely your competitors.   If you want to educate other lawyers, that’s fine but kindly do not think it will generate new clients for you.

Step #3 Write the Speech

It generally takes months to get on the calendar of an organization. Once they set a date for your speech, you will have plenty of time to write it. No point in dedicating time to writing a speech if no one is going to hear it.

Only write the speech after an organization has agreed to hear you speak and given you a specific and confirmed date.  Utilize junior lawyers or interns as much as possible to do research for your speech.

Note: Remember, in October 2016, we will send you Part 2 and in December 2016 Part 3 of this series on Public Speaking. Watch for them.


Step #4: Educate Your Audience – To a Certain Extent

Let’s work backwards for a moment and think of the result you want to achieve by making a speech. You are not setting out to educate the world. Your motive will be to use public speaking as a tool for generating more prospective clients. Do not lose sight of this objective when you write the speech.

You are fundamentally there to teach the audience only one thing which is that you are an expert in this material and when they have this situation, they need you. Full stop!

On the other hand, if you speak at a law school or a legal organization, you may want to be more informative, but that is not a marketing speech and you should understand the difference between the two situations. We will discuss only a speech you are going to make for the purpose of marketing.

Of course, no audience will sit still for a 45 minute sales pitch so you have to make your talk educational but only to a limited extend. Again, remember that you are not teaching them this material so that they can handle it by themselves without you.

From a marketing point of view, those who would be able to handle these matters without you are not your target audience – they are your competitors. That is why you should not be speaking to an audience of lawyers who could handle this by themselves without you. Why create competitors?

What you want to accomplish is that the audience needs to learn how to identify a problem or a situation where an expert like you will be needed.

Inasmuch as you will mostly be speaking to business people, don’t stand up there and give them a technical legal lecture that belongs in a class at an LLM program. That’s not what your target audience wants to hear. They want practical, useful information.

Step #5: Who is in the Audience

You want to target the people who have the money to hire an attorney and who will not do it themselves.

Return to the idea that it is a numbers game. You must recognize that not everyone in the audience is in your target market for various reasons. Some are very happy with their current law firm and you may give them a few good ideas to discuss with their lawyers but you are not going to get their work.

By demonstrating your expertise in the subject material to a large audience, a few will realize they need you. If you were able to obtain one excellent client from each speech you make, we are sure you would consider that a huge victory.

In making a speech, you are going for a few quality prospects not quantity.

Step #6: Get Attendees’ Contact Information

Have a plan for obtaining the attendees’ contact information both before and after your presentation. Beforehand, ask the organization for a list of the confirmed attendees and their e-mail addresses. Not all organizations will give it to you, but it will be gold if you can get the list. Nonetheless, there is a way around it if the organization will not give it to you.

From the podium, you have numerous options for obtaining the contact information of attendees:

Ask them to leave you a business card if they have additional questions on the topic. People are often reluctant to ask questions during the Q&A period at the end but they will crowd around the speaker when he/she comes off the podium.

Therein lies a danger that people with questions will get frustrated and leave if they have to wait too long to speak with you. Bring a colleague with you and from the podium say “My colleague, Bill Jones, is here in the back of the auditorium, Bill raise your hand. Please give him your business card if you still have any questions I did not answer in my presentation and I promise to get back to each one of you personally.

Announce that you are giving a workshop in your office in the next few weeks to drill down into more detail “And if you want to be invited, also please leave your business card with Bill.”

Or, you can offer a giveaway or a prize. “We have a complete report on the impact of this topic and if you give me or Bill your business card, we will be happy to send it to you. Or, leave me your business card to get a copy of today’s PowerPoint slides.”

Of course, all this will not be necessary if the organizers will give the details of the attendees. Then you will follow-up with all of the attendees by e-mail thanking them for attending and inviting them to a workshop. In addition, they will become a permanent part of your list of potential clients and send them some interesting information every month or so.

Step #7: Go Early and Stay Late – Make a Human Connection

Many organizations have an opportunity for the speaker to meet the attendees. This could either be at a coffee break, during a luncheon or over cocktails before or after the speech. You have gone to all the trouble to get invited to make a speech do not try to get in and out of the event in a hurry. The more people you meet personally the better job you will have done.

You are the event’s speaker - you do not have to impress anyone beyond that. Therefore, when you meet people one-on-one, your job now is to ask questions. The speech establishes you as the expert.

What a potential client wants to know is if you are filled with ego or if you will be a good lawyer and listen to your clients. You do this by asking lots of questions. That will make them feel important in your eyes. You are already important in their eyes therefore there is no need to keep pushing it.

Step #8: The Fortune is in the Follow-up

The number one reason why lawyers don’t get results from making a speech is because they don’t have a written follow-up system. You must develop a follow-up strategy before the talk.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say your follow-up strategy is a series of emails.

E-mail #1 would be sent three to five business days after the event and not on a Monday or a Friday or it will get lost in their in-boxes. They do not need to be reminded of you any sooner than a week later.

That first e-mail would be a thank you note for letting you speak on a subject for which you have so much passion. That is enough for the first e-mail. Any more than that at such an early stage of the relationship would make you look desperate.

E-mail #2 – A month after the event. Remind them about the speech they attended and invite them to come to your office for a workshop for more details.

E-mail #3 – Find a way to be helpful to them. Make introductions where you can see them developing some synergy with one of your other clients.

E-mail #4 – You might offer a brief tip about the topic you spoke on.

Between the 3rd and 5th e-mails, ask for a meeting or lunch. When they accept, let them do most of the talking. Eventually, they will mention something where you can be of help. That is how you discover the opportunity.

Thereafter, every attendee should receive a never-ending monthly e-mail from you with useful information. Never get discouraged – keep your e-mails going unless they specifically ask you to stop.

If you implement these tips, you will attract both new clients and referrals from an audience that has been impressed by your knowledge, how you articulate it and the thoroughness of your follow-through.

Useful Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

The average person ranks the fear of public speaking even higher than their fear of death. If this is your case, this could have a negative impact on your career. When you must speak in front of even a small group of people, do you feel nervous, your palms sweat, your stomach ties itself into knots? Do you feel like running away because you just don’t want to be there?

Would you rather do anything else than speak to this group of people? These are the obvious symptoms of the fear of public speaking and can be a very debilitating phobia.

It is essential for you as a lawyer to get your point across whether it is in a meeting with several people or if you must speak in front of a large audience. Whether you give a formal presentation to a large group of people or you are simply speaking with colleagues you work with, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in any professional setting especially for a lawyer.

The good news is that there are techniques to help you overcome your fears. There are even ways to channel your nervous energy in a positive way to improve your presentations.

1) Get Organized

When you organize your thoughts and materials, it helps you to become much more relaxed and calmer. When you have clear, organized thoughts it can greatly reduce your speaking anxiety because you will be able to focus better on the thing at hand - giving a great speech.

2) Practice and Prepare Extensively

Nothing takes the place of practicing and preparing for your speech. Write out an outline of your key points. Do not speak from a script. If you do a word for word reading, you will be concerned with “getting it right.” There is no “right” other than you want to deliver a strong message.

Know your material so well that you could answer any possible question thrown at you. Keep in mind that in most cases, you are the expert in the room on this subject and no one in the audience is even capable of asking a question you cannot answer.

3) Eliminate Fear of Rejection

The audience is there to listen to you for a reason: they want to hear what you have to say. What if my audience hates my speech? What if they boo me off stage?” That is never going to happen. Try to eliminate all your fears of rejection.

4) Focus on Patterns

When you speak try to get into a rhythm or a flow. Keep your sentences short and to the point and repeat key points. A short pause in between points can add anticipation to what you are going to say next.

5) Watch Yourself in the Mirror

When getting ready to make your speech, practice your speech in front of the mirror as if you were speaking directly to someone. Pay attention to:

  • Your facial expressions

  • Your gestures

  • Your body movements

  • How welcoming you appear

Having gentle expressions and a calm demeanor when you speak, you will be more welcoming to your audience.

6) Give your Speech to Another Person

Now try your speech in front of a limited live audience. There are plenty of people you can practice on. Be sure to tell the person to be completely honest with you in their critique. Examples of people you can practice with are:

  • Your significant other

  • Your friends

  • Your parents

  • Some colleagues

  • Your dog . . .

Speaking directly to another person will help relax you and give you experience with getting feedback from someone. If they have questions about your speech, it is likely that members of an audience will have the same questions.

7) Work on Your Breathing

When you focus on your breathing your voice will have more resonance and you will relax. Breathe calmly and focus on getting into a rhythm.

8) Lightly Exercise Before Speaking

Exercising lightly before a presentation can get your blood circulating and send oxygen to your brain. Take a walk before a speech or do a few knee bends.

9) Record Yourself and Learn Your Voice

When you finally make a speech, record yourself giving the talk from beginning to end on your smart phone by voice or video. Then listen and watch yourself. Make notes on how you could make it better. Some people do not like listening to the sound of their own voice so it is important that you get used to hearing your own speaking style.

When looking at yourself, here are points to be sure you are speaking to maximum effectiveness:

  • Use humor to hold onto audience attention – keep in mind you are not a professional stand-up comedian. Using too much humor may take away from your ability to show you are an expert on the subject. Use only a joke or a funny story that you have tried before and you know is guaranteed to be funny or entertaining.

  • Your body is an instrument – Use vocal variety, hand gestures and raised eyebrows

  • Pause to let key points sink in

  • Use the entire stage – do not stay in one place

  • Engage the audience to get them thinking about your topic

10) Public Speaking Classes

Find a great speaking coach or mentor. There are many groups and courses that you can take to learn the art of public speaking. A group such as Toastmasters is a non-profit organization which helps people get over their fears by having them practice speaking on subjects over and over. There are other courses such as Dale Carnegie among many more to choose from.

11) PowerPoint Can Be Great or It Can Be Really Bad

PowerPoint can be your best friend. It can serve as your notes, serve to focus your train of thought, keep your audience engaged, and give people a good place from which to take notes.

However, do not overload any individual slide with too much information or too many figures or tiny print. Find information on how to create an impactful PowerPoint presentation.

12) Even Warren Buffett Had Public Speaking Anxiety at First

Mr. Buffett got over his fears by teaching investing principles to people twice his age. He forced himself to talk to people. He practiced these skills repeatedly. And look how far it has gotten him.

13) Sip Water That’s Warm or Room Temperature

Sometimes adding some lemon and honey to your water helps as well. It helps lubricate your throat. Try to avoid sweet beverages before speaking. These can dry out your mouth and make it harder to talk.

14) Pick a Subject That You Care About – Have Emotional Commitment to Your Material

More important than methodology, the key to eloquence is the emotional component that you as the speaker brings to the subject. To put it another way, the starting point of being an excellent speaker is for you to care about your subject.

How to pick a subject that you care about:

  • The subject should have had a significant impact on you

  • You want to share it with others

  • You intensely feel others could benefit from your knowledge

  • You can speak about it from the heart. When you speak about something you passionately care about you will be more comfortable and feel more confident in your element.

15) Know 100 Words for Every Word That You Speak

Ernest Hemingway wrote that, “To write well, you must know 100 words about the subject for every word that you write.  Otherwise, the reader will know that this is not true writing.” What this means to you is that when you speak on a topic, you must know 100 words of information for every word that you tell the audience.  In other words, you must know a great deal more about the subject than you are presenting.

Otherwise, your audience will have the sense that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Also, with that much information in your head, you will be comfortable knowing that you are the expert in the room.

16) Focus on the Material, Not on the Audience

Focus on delivering your material in the best way possible. Don’t worry about audience reactions. Like an actor on stage, don’t play to the audience, play to the other actors and the material and the audience will be drawn along with you.

17) Don’t Overthink Audience Reactions

There is always going to be someone in the audience on their phone or yawning. Remember that there will always be people who are bored or tired. None of these audience reactions

have anything to do with you personally.

18) Relax

When you let go of your stress and relax it eases your body and makes you less tense.

19) Meditate a Minutes Every Day

Meditating can help clear your head of negative thoughts. In an article in Forbes, Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America discussed his public speaking anxiety and how meditating a few minutes a day helped him to overcome negative thoughts.

We have developed a one-minute meditation exercise that we recommend when you get to your desk in the morning, again when you get back from lunch and in the evening if you work late. Everyone can spare three minutes a day to focus your energy and dispel anxiety. Please send us an e-mail if you would like to receive our one-minute meditation exercise. Write to us and we will send you this one-minute meditation.

20) Avoid Speaking Too Fast

Talking fast during a speech interferes with your breathing patterns. If you talk too fast, you will breathe less. Then feeling short of breath will make you panicked. Practice slowing down when you speak, and you will be much calmer and more relaxed.

21) Make Your Nervous Energy Work for You

Learn to channel your nervous energy into positive energy. Being nervous is a form of adrenaline. You can use it in a positive way to help give an impassioned presentation.

22) Commit to Taking the Time to Speak Well

Decide right now that you want to learn to speak well and that you are willing to go to any lengths to achieve your goal. We have seen our clients take quantum leaps in their careers by overcoming their speaking anxiety. In the long run, the better you are at public speaking, the farther you will go in your legal career.

23) Have Pride in Your Work & Recognize Your Success

Your strongest critic is you. When you finish a speech or after delivering a presentation, give yourself a pat on the back. You overcame your fears and you did it. Have pride in yourself and celebrate.

24) Develop a Plan to Improve Your Next Speech

Practice makes perfect. If there is a video of your speech, watch it and make notes on how you can improve on it for next time. Earlier we told you to record your speech when you were rehearsing. Also, record your speech at the actual event. Listen to it again and compare the rehearsal version with the final version.

  • How do you think you did?

  • Are there areas you think you could have improved?

  • Did you seem stiff or make any weird facial expressions?

  • Did you use a PowerPoint to your advantage? Did it help? Could your PowerPoint be improved?

  • Did you use “um” often to fill empty air time?

  • How was your rhythm?

Write everything down, keep practicing and improving. In time, you will banish all your fears of public speaking. Also, remember, you do not have to come across as slick. The audience can relate to you if you are human and even make a few mistakes. Don’t worry. They just want to know that you know the subject so that they can have confidence in hiring you.

25) Practice Some More

When a client asks us how they can create a more effective communication style and improve his/her Public Speaking, we tell them: “The only way to learn to speak is to speak and speak, and speak and speak, and speak and speak and speak.”

© Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorized distribution or reproduction of this material in print or in any electronic form is strictly prohibited. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the prior written consent of Silber, Vasquez & Associates.

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