Speaking is one of the best ways to build a lawyer’s reputation and connect with people who may need your help. Speaking consistently at least once per month increases your credibility and visibility in both your local community and your expanded professional community. However, as many business developmentally challenged lawyers already know, pitching yourself does not come naturally to all of us.
Speaking in front of a target audience, whether potential customers or other lawyers, is an effective way to market your law practice and to get new clients. Presenting on topics related to your legal practice builds your reputation as an expert. Repurposing your speaking content on social media extends that visibility, allowing lawyers to establish themselves as thought leaders.
But, what is a busy lawyer to do? Researching potential speaking opportunities takes a lot of time and effort. You have to be creative in your research, looking for gigs outside of the typical legal professional association speaking circuit, where you will be more likely to meet clients instead of competitors. To be successful in getting yourself booked to speak, you will not only need to research, but also connect with the right people within each group you target, and follow up with them.
Ten Steps to Efficiently Find Ways to Speak Publicly:
- Decide which practice area(s) the firm should focus on for increased exposure.
- Identify your target market.
- Identify groups that your target market might belong to (i.e. independent event organizations, trade groups, and academic institutions).
- Contact the target groups and find your best point of contact (i.e. an event planner or chair of the continuing education committee).
- The lawyer who will be the speaker (or his or her primary support staff member) should build a relationship with this point of contact.
- Connect with the point of contact on LinkedIn.
- Find out the group’s speaker selection process and obtain their event calendar.
- Come to the group with a presentation or paper ready that targets their membership. If your paper has been published, the group will find you even more credible.
- You may not be invited to speak right away, as many groups book their speakers well in advance; so, offer to write an article for their website or newsletter, or to sponsor an event to stay on their radar.
- Engage with the target organization(s) on social media, promoting their events.
Best Practices to Attract Lawyer Speaking Engagements
While my tips on how to research, connect, and engage with your target demographic groups or associations will be extremely valuable, there is more that each lawyer can do to attract attention.
Get Involved: Organizations respond best to those who get involved, so be sure that if you are able to, you pay or sign up to join the group you are targeting. Beyond that, serve on a board or committee; in the legal world, serving on the CLE committee usually allows you to help pick the speakers.
Be The Industry Expert: You can position yourself as an industry thought leader by repurposing your presentations and publications on your law firm website and social media channels. You should also set up and utilize a law firm branded SlideShare channel, and require all lawyers to post their presentation materials on it. You can also make yourself look like you are the best speaker for the job by compiling a speaker pitch packet.
Make It Easy: As someone who has planned and executed many legal industry events, the easier you are to work with, the more likely I am to book you as a speaker. Have materials ready in case the booker wants you to mail or email information, possibly including the pitch packet mentioned above. Provide your materials in the requested format by the designated due date, and make sure that your presentations are high-impact. Bring a copy of a written introduction that the event coordinator or panel moderator can use to introduce you.
Help: Offer to help plan or execute the event. For example, your receptionist or secretary can man the event registration table for a few hours. Use your own law firm database or list of previous connections to help the event planner promote their event via email, direct mail, phone calls, or whatever method works best for you.
If All Else Fails, DIY
You can and should host your own continuing education events, business development events, and other events at which you can have your lawyers speak and/or interact with your target client base. Events like these provide your lawyers a chance to visit in-person with potential clients in a small group setting.
Be careful (1) that you don’t invite guests that don’t like each other, (2) that you over-invite because there is a strong tendency to cancel, and (3) that you budget, as in-house programs are expensive to arrange and run.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease
Be persistent in seeking out opportunities (without being annoying). The folks that plan events stay pretty busy, so they might forget you if you do not remain top of mind. If you are not actively hunting for events at which you can speak, your law firm is missing out on one of the better ways lawyers can market their services. Start planning your law firm’s speaking opportunities calendar for 2015 today.