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How Anyone Can Become a Better Public Speaker
Monday, July 8, 2024

Public speaking is an important skill that everyone needs to master and it’s something you can learn – trust me, as I’ve been there too. I wasn’t always a confident public speaker—in fact, I used to be filled with anxiety every time I had to speak publicly. The turning point came when I stopped stressing about the act of speaking itself and instead focused on connecting with my audience. I began telling more stories and smiling, which made my presentations more engaging. Over time, I picked up various tips and tricks that helped me improve. Once I understood that the audience genuinely wants to see you succeed, my nerves started to calm, and I became much more at ease.

Public speaking is a critical skill for lawyers and law firm business professionals. Whether you’re presenting in court, addressing colleagues or speaking at industry events, the ability to communicate effectively is essential. Here are some tips to help you become a strong public speaker.

Before You Start Presenting

  • Introduce Yourself: The first slide after the agenda should be an introduction. Tell stories, connect with people and make a personal connection. Share your background, expertise and why you are passionate about the topic. This helps to establish credibility and build rapport with your audience. Remember to tell the audience to connect with you on LinkedIn! Put your LinkedIn QR code on this slide to facilitate networking.
  • Agenda Slide: Include an agenda slide to give your audience an overview of what to expect. This helps them follow along and stay engaged throughout your presentation.
  • Housekeeping Items: Address any housekeeping items such how and when to ask questions. This helps to set the stage for a smooth presentation.
  • Online Presentations: If you are presenting online, put your contact information in the chat and display your LinkedIn QR code on the screen so people can easily connect with you.

Public Speaking Best Practices

  • Know Your Audience: Understand the specific interests and knowledge level of your audience, whether they are clients, colleagues or industry peers. Tailor your message to their needs and concerns. By doing so, you ensure that your content is relevant and engaging which increases the likelihood of your message being well-received.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: Rehearse your presentation multiple times. Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself or present to a trusted colleague to get constructive feedback. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will become with your material which will help reduce anxiety and improve your delivery.
  • Prepare Thoroughly: The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. Know your material inside out especially complex legal topics. Thorough preparation helps to reduce anxiety and ensures that you are ready to handle any questions or issues that arise. Prepare but don’t overprepare—sometimes you just need to stop practicing, trust yourself and save the best for the stage.
  • Know Your Material Inside and Out: Ensure that you are fully versed in your content so that you can confidently deliver your presentation even if technology fails and your PowerPoint doesn’t work. Being well-prepared allows you to adapt and continue seamlessly.
  • Start Strong: Begin with a powerful opening that grabs attention—an intriguing legal fact, a relevant case study or a compelling question related to the legal industry. A strong start sets the tone for your presentation and piques the interest of your audience from the outset.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Focus on your key messages. Avoid legal jargon and complex language. Keep your points simple, clear and relevant to your audience. Clarity is crucial in legal presentations where complex information needs to be conveyed effectively.
  • Use Stories and Examples: Illustrate your points with stories, anecdotes or case studies from the legal field to make your message more relatable and memorable. Real-world examples help to contextualize your points and make them more impactful.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Ask questions, invite participation and encourage interaction. Make eye contact and use body language to connect with your audience. Engaging with your audience makes your presentation more dynamic and helps to keep their attention.
  • Control Your Pace: Speak slowly and clearly. Pause for emphasis and to allow your audience to absorb your points. Rushing through your presentation can lead to misunderstandings while a controlled pace ensures that your message is communicated effectively.
  • Use Visual Aids Wisely: Integrate visuals like slides, videos or props to complement your message not overshadow it. Use infographics to explain complex legal concepts. Visual aids should enhance your presentation making it easier for your audience to follow and understand.
  • Stay Calm and Confident: Maintain a positive attitude and exude confidence. Smile – a lot! Remember your audience wants you to succeed and find value in your expertise. Confidence in your delivery helps to establish your credibility and authority on the subject.
  • End Strong: Conclude with a clear summary of your main points and a call to action or a thought-provoking statement emphasizing the impact on the legal industry. A strong conclusion reinforces your message and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Public speaking anxiety is common especially in high-stakes environments like the legal field. Here are some strategies to help you overcome this fear.

  • Prepare Thoroughly: The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. Know your material inside out especially complex legal topics. Thorough preparation helps to reduce anxiety and ensures that you are ready to handle any questions or issues that arise.
  • Visualize Success: Picture yourself delivering a successful presentation. Visualization can help build confidence. By imagining a positive outcome, you can reduce anxiety and improve your overall performance.
  • Focus on Your Message: Shift your focus from yourself to the message you want to convey and the value it brings to your audience. Concentrating on the importance of your content can help alleviate nervousness.
  • Breathe Deeply: Practice deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves before speaking. Deep breathing can help to reduce anxiety and improve your focus.
  • Start Small: Begin by speaking in smaller, less intimidating settings and gradually work your way up to larger audiences. Building your confidence incrementally can make the process less overwhelming.
  • Embrace Nervousness: Accept that feeling nervous is normal. Use that energy to enhance your delivery. Nervous energy can be channeled into enthusiasm and passion for your subject.
  • Connect with Your Audience: Build a rapport with your audience before you begin. Chatting with them can make you feel more comfortable. Establishing a connection can help to ease anxiety and create a more relaxed atmosphere.
  • Get Feedback: After your presentation, seek constructive feedback to improve and gain confidence for future speeches. Feedback helps you to identify areas for improvement and reinforces positive aspects of your delivery.

Creating a Strong PowerPoint Presentation

A well-crafted PowerPoint presentation can significantly enhance your public speaking efforts. Here are some tips to create effective slides.

  • Keep It Simple: Use a clean, professional design. Avoid clutter and excessive text on slides. Simplicity ensures that your slides are easy to read and understand.
  • Put Your Contact Info on Every Page: Include your contact information on every slide so that people can easily connect with you online and in person.
  • Use High-Quality Visuals: Incorporate images, graphics and charts that support your points and make the presentation visually appealing. Use visuals relevant to the legal industry. High-quality visuals can help to illustrate your points and keep your audience engaged. Use Canva to easily create these.
  • Limit Text: Use bullet points and short phrases. Each slide should convey one key idea. Limiting text helps to keep your slides focused and ensures that your audience can easily follow your points.
  • Consistent Design: Use a consistent color scheme, font and layout throughout your presentation to maintain a cohesive look. Consistency in design enhances the professional appearance of your presentation.
  • Readable Fonts: Choose easy-to-read fonts and ensure the text is large enough to be seen from the back of the room. Readability is essential to ensure that all audience members can follow your presentation.
  • Engaging Content: Mix up your content with quotes, questions and interactive elements to keep your audience engaged. Engaging content helps to maintain interest and encourages interaction.
  • Highlight Key Points: Use animations and transitions sparingly to highlight key points without distracting from your message. Highlighting key points helps to emphasize important information.
  • Practice with Slides: Rehearse your presentation with your slides to ensure a smooth flow and to get comfortable with the technology. Practicing with your slides ensures that your presentation runs smoothly and minimizes technical issues.
  • Backup Plan: Have a backup of your presentation on a USB and online. Be prepared for technical issues. Having a backup plan ensures that you are prepared for any unforeseen problems.
  • Stay Flexible: Adapt if needed. Handling glitches smoothly impresses your audience. Flexibility allows you to respond to issues without losing your composure.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tailor your message to your audience’s needs and concerns
  2. Practice thoroughly to boost confidence and reduce anxiety but don’t overprepare—trust yourself and save the best for the stage
  3. Start and end your presentation with strong, impactful points
  4. Use stories, examples and visuals to make your message relatable and memorable
  5. Engage with your audience through interaction and body language
  6. Control your pace and stay calm and confident throughout your presentation
  7. Prepare for and embrace nervousness, using it to enhance your delivery
  8. Create simple, visually appealing PowerPoint presentations that support your message
  9. Include your contact information on every slide so people can easily connect with you
  10. Introduce yourself effectively by telling stories and making a personal connection with your audience
  11. Use an agenda slide to outline the presentation and keep your audience engaged
  12. Address housekeeping items at the beginning to set the stage for a smooth presentation
  13. For online presentations, put your contact information in the chat and display your LinkedIn QR code on the screen for easy networking
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