Lawyers: Improve Your Presentation Skills Using One Simple Tool

Blurred presenter and audienceLawyers speak publicly all the time. Whether it’s arguing your client’s case before a judge, pitching new business, or engaging with colleagues in the boardroom, to be a successful attorney, lawyers must be able to clearly articulate their position and persuade others to come along.

It would seem, then, as seasoned public speakers that lawyers could seamlessly slip into the role of the authoritative presenter or expert facilitator when they’re asked to teach other attorneys about topics on which they have knowledge to share.

However, that’s not always the case. Lawyers are often trained to talk to people (i.e., lecture, or argue) rather than to talk with people (i.e., facilitate, or lead a discussion). It’s a different skill set that lawyers may not naturally have.

Helping you identify the difference between public speaking, presenting, and facilitating and where you land on the spectrum is where we come in. In this blog, I’ll teach you how to assess your presentation skills and map out a path for improvement.

This will all be supported by the Commission on Professionalism’s “Presenter Skills Guide,” a handy resource that you can refer back to any time.

(Please note, for brevity’s sake, there are times we group presenting and facilitating into the “presenting” bucket in this blog).

Public speaking vs. presenting vs. facilitating

Believe it or not, there is a difference between the three. Public speaking is delivering an idea, presenting is explaining an idea, and facilitation is practicing an idea.

While lawyers conduct public speaking the most, effective presentation and facilitation skills are important too.

Consider this: whether you’re talking to a few colleagues or presenting in front of 100 fellow lawyers, it’s beneficial to be able to facilitate discussion and hold the attention of a group.

CLEs and other presentations can help you make a good impression on your colleagues, form connections, and demonstrate your authority on a topic. This can all lead to business development and other thought leadership opportunities down the line.

Most people won’t remember all of the details you included in a presentation, but they will remember how they felt. Were they impressed with how you managed difficult questions and related the content to issues they were facing? Or did you seem like a deer in headlights, with no real plan or presentation structure?

Developing skills is a progression

Before I jump into how to assess yourself as a presenter and facilitator, I want to talk about the process of developing new skills. Skills typically aren’t binary. We are better or worse at certain things but rarely move quickly from beginner to expert.

When it comes to documenting improvement, a self-assessment tool that accounts for our progression can be effective in motivating change.

Let’s use an analogy. This is my motorcycle. Yes, I have a motorcycle and it is awesome.

Motorcycle

Now, asking if I can repair it could mean several different things.

Can I perform basic maintenance and repairs? Yes. Would I feel safe riding it if I replaced the engine? Not in a million years.

So, a motorcycle skills guide might look like this:

  1. BASIC LEVEL: Can perform basic maintenance to maintain a functioning motorcycle.
  2. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL: Can diagnose common mechanical issues and repair or replace the related components on a motorcycle.
  3. EXPERT LEVEL: Can diagnose all (or most) repairs on a motorcycle and replace the components safely.

Having simple, progressive benchmarks and identifiable evidence to support them is key for professional development. For example, did the wheel fall off? If not, I’ve reached an intermediate level.

Using 2Civility Presenter Skills Guide

In CLE and other educational presentations, successful presenters must tailor their sessions to real-world issues the audience is facing and be prepared to manage challenges and opportunities that arise.

Having a range of prepared skills not only makes a presenter more confident, but makes their presentations more engaging, impactful, and, most importantly, memorable.

The 2Civility Presenter Skills Guide is designed to help you determine where your skills are and map out a plan for further development.Presenter Skills Guide

Here’s how to use the Presenter Skills Guide:

  1. Review each column to determine which best describes your skillset.
  2. Then focus on improving incrementally in one or two areas at a time. (Here’s a link to an article I wrote explaining how to do this.)

If you would like additional perspective, it may be beneficial to ask a trusted friend or colleague to watch you present, then use the Presenter Skills Guide to identify the areas they think you’ve mastered and those that may need more attention.

Remember, the desire to improve your abilities as a presenter is more than half the battle. If you have any questions about the 2Civility Presenter Skills Guide or are looking for additional resources, reach out to us at mail@2civility.org.

To view the Presenter Skills Guide, click here: https://www.2civility.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Presenter-Skills-Guide.pdf.

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One thought on “Lawyers: Improve Your Presentation Skills Using One Simple Tool

  1. Thank you for sharing the Presenter Skills Guide. I will be sharing this valuable resource wih all our speakers.

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