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Legal TV dramas have a lot to answer for. Watch any episode of LA Law and you would get the impression that US lawyers have to pass a test for good looks as well as their law exams. It does not fare much better in the UK – Judge John Deed gives the impression that all of the London Inns are actually dens of vice. Perhaps the one thing that all legal dramas do have in common is the way they consistently present lawyers as slick, articulate and never failing in their ability to hold an audience captive.

In reality, it is a different story. Most lawyers I have trained – regardless of the size of the firm or the geography – tell me that presenting does not come naturally to them, whether to clients, prospects or even within their own firm. Regardless of the size of their audience, some lawyers find presenting to a group of eight people just as daunting as speaking to more than 500 people.

No matter how technically brilliant lawyers are at their job, a public performance can be marred by talking too quickly, talking in monotone, getting bogged down in the detail, an obsession with PowerPoint and failing to think about what their audience really wants to hear. Is it any wonder, then, when a speaker looks up from the lectern, that half the back row of the auditorium are nodding off? The good news is that one does not have to spend a lifetime being a presentation bore.

Less is more

Lawyers are fascinated by detail but presentations should not be a forum to dump information. Do not begin with the premise that ‘the more I tell them the more they will go away with’. In fact the reverse is true: less is more. This can be partly due to the speaker thinking: ‘I need to tell them a lot to prove I know my job’, and partly on an assumption that because the speaker is interested in the detail, so too will the audience.

The audience does not want to know what the lawyer knows. They want to know what the implications are for them.

If you did a quick word association with ‘presentation’, many would probably cite such words as ‘PowerPoint’ or ‘slides’. While PowerPoint has its place, there is a danger that your audience’s attention can wander, even to the detriment of not listening at all.

With slides you need to remember that the audience will not be concentrating on you. If they are not concentrating on you, they certainly will not remember your key points or be influenced by what you are saying. Who makes the impact? You, as a highly competent professional or a highly-paid slide operator?

Key points to consider are:

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