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How to Give the Speech of Your Life

There is nothing more fun than public speaking. You have a captive audience that hangs on your every word and before you say a word, you have a kind of celebrity status just by virtue of being the speaker. You almost can’t mess this up…or can you?

You’ve been through plenty of boring speeches that you just can’t wait to end. The speaker reads from notes and you are thinking of a discreet way to find the exit door. The material sucks and the speaker is boring. But public speaking is not taught in law school and many speakers just “wing it”.

Scripting a Powerful Introduction

The introduction before you speak should be used to build up your credentials and celebrity status. With a powerful introduction, you’ve primed the pump and you’re not just another speaker.

Don’t let the organizer make up their own introduction. Write your introduction and ask the organizer to use your script. Here’s a snippet from the introduction for my speech at the Summit of The National Trial Lawyers:

In 2015, I met this lawyer, John Fisher, at a mastermind meeting of elite plaintiffs’ lawyers in Chicago. I found out a few things about John Fisher:

*John runs a solo medical malpractice firm that is streamlined for maximum profit with a small staff and low overhead,

*John was the national Marketer of the Year for Great Legal Marketing in 2013,

*John speaks for national organizations like PILMMA and Great Legal Marketing about law firm marketing.

Then I read John’s book, The Power of a System [hold up the book for emphasis] This book gives away all of John’s secrets for the management and marketing of a multi-million-dollar injury law firm in precise detail. Everyone in this room should read John’s book!

Read The Power of a System, implement the policies and systems and leverage John’s failures, mistakes and successes and one day, I might just be introducing you as the national marketer of the year.

If you have a book, send your book to the organizer before the speech, ask them to read it and endorse and hold up your book during the introduction. The book will give you celebrity, authority and expertise that few speakers have—you are an instant rock star!

The Power of Storytelling

Whatever you do, never begin by saying, “It’s an honor to be here” or mumble some crap like, “I hate to follow such a great speaker as Mr. Jones”. Blah, blah, blah. Your audience is looking for the exit door and quickly zoning out. Get to the point IMMEDIATELY.

The best way to grab the audience’s attention is a personal story–some story from your life that illustrates an important point. But rather than talking about your successful verdicts and settlements, tell your audience about your FEARS, FAULTS and FAILURES. Your audience will appreciate that you’re willing to share your weaknesses and vulnerability and in the process, you build a higher level of intimacy with total strangers.

I tell the story of being fired from my former law firm after 13 years with the firm and being out on the street. I share my fear of telling my wife that I no longer had a paycheck to support her and our three kids and trying to figure out what I was going to do. This personal story builds empathy, as almost everyone has been fired from a job and they appreciate that you’re just like them. Within just the first 60 seconds, this story builds rapport.

I share a story about a failed speech that I gave in Manhattan, where I invited 2k plaintiffs’ lawyers to a speech about internet marketing and not a single person showed up. I gave the speech anyway and created 12 video clips that were added to my website and social media—no one has to know that the videographer and I were the only people in the room. A personal story of your screw-ups and failures is a powerful way to build trust and credibility.

Preparing for the Speech of a Lifetime

Use Metrics to Organize Your Speech: Organize your speech around 3-5 key points, i.e., (“The Five Pillars of Referral Mastery”). My last speech focused on five points for referral marketing–each of the five “Pillars” illustrates a point about referral marketing:

#1: Building a Herd

#2: Top of Mind Awareness

#3: Become a Rock Star

#4: Build Your Legacy

#5: Random Acts of Kindness

With 3-5 metrics for your speech, you stay on track–both organizationally and within the time constraints. Your speech flows smoothly and as long as you remember each metric, you won’t need notes.

Dress Rehearsals for Success: This is the most important thing you can do. Do not rehearse in front of a mirror (this is just strange). Select a group of peers and rehearse in front of them—ask them for a critique and make sure you complete your speech within the time limit. Emphasize important points with a pause/silence and GO SLOW.

With each rehearsal, your speech will get better. You’ll never need notes again and you will be more confident and less nervous.

How to Get a Standing Ovation

Engage Your Audience: Engage and interact with the audience whenever you can. Get the audience off their feet by taking a poll. I ask the audience where they get their best cases:

(a) Traditional Media (i.e., TV, radio, yellow pages);

(b) Digital Advertising/Internet Marketing (i.e., website or pay per click); or

(c) Referral Marketing.

This engages the audience, forces them to pay attention and illustrates an important point, namely, referral marketing–especially from lawyers–will always be the most effective form of marketing.

Honor Your Guest: Don’t forget to honor the organizer the end of your speech. None of the other speakers will do this and a little appreciation might help get you booked for future speaking events.

A Guaranteed Standing Ovation: At the end of your speech, ask the audience to get off their seats to give a standing ovation for the organizer. Sounds, cheesy, sure, but this guarantees that you will walk off the stage with a standing ovation.

No-No’s of Public Speaking

Burn Your Notes!: When a speaker reads from notes, the audience knows that the speaker is not prepared. Every time the speaker looks at her notes, she is sending a message: I am trying to figure out what to say next. The note-happy speaker will be rewarded by an audience that zones out.

Throw Away Your PowerPoint: Some speakers read from their PowerPoint presentation—this shows that you are not prepared and you don’t know what to say. Get rid of your PowerPoint presentation.

Stay Off the Podium: The podium puts a barrier between you and your audience. Get off the stage and speak on ground level with your audience. This will make you more real with your audience. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF.

Avoid Purposeless Body Movement: Many speakers fidget with their hands, arms and facial expressions and walk around nervously on stage. This shows lack of preparation—you should rehearse your non-verbal communication just as much as the verbal.

Do not make a body movement or facial expression that lacks a specific purpose. The more you speak, the less anxious you will be.

Building a Speaking Empire

Testimonial Letter from Organizer: Ask for a testimonial letter for the organizer after your speech on the organization’s letterhead. Add the testimonial letter to a dedicated web page (or website) that features your speaking accomplishments and put video clips from your speech on the website. When you want to get booked by other organizations, send them a link to your website and you will have an instant gravitas that other speakers don’t have.

Gift for the Organizer: Get a special gift for the organizer that he will never forget. Tell the organizer how much you appreciate the opportunity to speak at their event and do whatever you can in your social circles to promote their next event.

Follow Up with Attendees: In return for business cards, have a free give-away for the attendees, i.e., a book, and add the attendees into your funnel of a weekly email newsletter and monthly print newsletter. From a single speaking event, you might add a few hundred potential referral partners, but even if you only add one or two, that might be all that you need to get your next big case.

Steal the Show

Don’t wait for someone to anoint you as a superstar. If no organization wants to book you as a speaker, schedule a speech with a specific date, time and topic and promote it among your referral partners. You might be surprised—people will show up. You will make new relationships with prominent referral partners, because you did one thing that no one else had the guts to do.

photo credit: Svenska Mässan Chalmers föreläser på Kunskap & Framtid 2017 via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.