Miracle Making – Giving Engaging Presentations

Speaking engagements are huge responsibilities. Attendees give speakers their time and in return they expect quality information that is presented in an engaging and professional manner. When our lawyers speak they are representing our firms and brands, and demonstrating our work product and thought leadership. When our lawyers present, it is important that they showcase their knowledge and communication abilities and not their writing and reading skills. As legal marketers, we can advise and coach our lawyers to create and deliver winning presentations.

Frame the Story

Before making a PowerPoint deck, we should talk to our lawyers about what they want to cover in their presentation. Decide what story is being told, where to start, and how to develop succinct topics and logical topic flow. Great presentations tell stories; they are emotional journeys, intertwined with information that results in reasons for action.

To help your lawyers create their stories and flesh out the items covered, including examples and stories; think about what problems need to be solved. What associations can be made and what are the human aspects of the story. This approach brings ideas to life and makes them relatable and memorable. Think about topic transitions so the presentation flows smoothly. When deciding where to start, consider what the audience already knows about the subject and gauge their interest so the right level of information is presented.

When deciding what to include, remember that not every detail needs to be explained. Audiences are intelligent, and can think for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Slide deck

Once the story is created, it is time to start developing the PowerPoint slides. Make sure the slides are simple. White spaces are okay and do not need to be filled with graphics and logos. All slides should have the same look and feel, using the same layout and consistent formatting. Use professional photo images.

Slides should not have too much text; less is more. They are visual aids to enhance spoken words. When there is too much text, the audience has the difficult task of both reading and listening. If a lot of text is necessary, slowly reveal each bullet.

Instead of your lawyer handling their slide content, advise them prepare written documents that complement their presentation, which can be used as takeaways.

When using videos to enhance presentations, insert them into the PowerPoint deck. Charts can help explain data, but make sure to use appropriate charts with the right level of detail. Vertical bar charts show changes; horizontal bar charts compare quantities; line charts show trends.

Color evokes emotions. Cool colors are best for backgrounds and warm colors are for the foreground. Fonts can also be an effective design element to draw the audience’s eyes. Use no more than two san-serif fonts (e.g., Arial) in presentations, and make sure that the font size is legible for those sitting in the back of the room.

Presentation delivery

Have your lawyers practice in front of live audiences until their word flow becomes natural. Video record practice presentations and watch them – videos do not lie. Encourage your lawyers not read their presentation from paper, slides or teleprompters. It makes presentations feel formal and they cannot build an intimate connection with their audience. It is also important that their tone sounds conversational to build rapport.

Lasting impression

A successful presentation is an exploration that leaves the audience looking at things a little bit differently. It creates a call to action and attendees leave thinking about what was said and wanting to continue talking about it.

By Helena M. Lawrence, Senior Marketing & Business Development Manager, Orrick, for the September/October 2015 issue of Capital Ideas. 

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