Whether via firm-hosted seminars or other, more public, forums, most lawyers will take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their expertise before a group of potential buyers or referral sources. The key to success lies in our ability to control Who, What, Who (again) and How Much, as in:
- Who will attend? Unless it's the right audience, or you are new to public speaking and need the practice, forget it. (Actually, the second point is tongue-in-cheek. You never practice in front of your market. For practice, join Toastmasters or some other group set up for that purpose.)
- What is the topic? Your topic must be based on a compelling enough business problem to command the right audience, preferably a strategic one that earns the attention of executive decision makers. If it's mostly implementers, think hard.
- Who else must you share the stage with? The more presenters in the same or related fields, the more likely the issue is too broad. An exception is an emerging or global issue that is too new and too large to be controlled.
- How much must you give away? Many for-profit seminars, particularly those billed as professional education, are fool's gold that serve only to educate your competition. Unless you expect to get the majority of your FUTURE work from competitors' conflicts, walk away.
There are two keys to education/marketing seminars:
- The issue must compel attention from a group that you may not ordinarily have access to, e.g., senior executives at companies that fall within target parameters you've established.
- Speak in terms of the underlying business issue that drives demand for legal service, not the legal issue that defines your response or action.
By showing up at an issue-driven seminar, attendees confirm that we have gotten their attention and that the subject is of significance to them, but that is no guarantee of action. Remember that in 30% of selling situations, No Decision is the winner. Your seminar goal is to prove the need (for your category of advice), convert audience interest into an "action imperative," and have potential buyers walk out feeling that they really must do something about this, so they'd better get some good advice. Only then can you try to make yourself the preferred source for that advice.
Are you hosting an educational seminar anytime soon? I've prepared a primer that walks you through everything you need to do leading up to, during, and after your event. It includes scripts into which you need merely plug your topic variable, covering each possible post-event status for your invitees (declined; accepted but didn't show; attended but didn't speak with anyone on your team; attended and spoke with a team member). If you'd like to receive it, drop me an email requesting the Seminar Host primer.