Speeches as Client Development Tool-Engage Audience Early (Especially in Cross-Cultural Context)

Speeches and other presentations can be a powerful client development tool–if done well.  Successful public speakers know that for their speech to be successful, they must really engage the audience.  Unfortunately, all too many lawyers merely read their speeches.  They appear like “talking heads”, and  make no effort to engage their audience.

David Maister, one of the gurus in the professional service firm field, advises speakers to take questions from the audience within the first 15 minutes of any speech.   (Click to read David’s 4-11-07 blog post on this topic.) Ted Harro of Noonday Ventures added to the discussion by commenting that, to be engaging, the speaker should ask open ended (rather than closed) questions, thus encouraging dialog. 

As I noted in my comment to David Maister’s blog post,  arriving early and chatting with some individual audience members also works wonders.  Doing so creates rapport, shows that the speaker cares about the audience’s concerns, and giving the speaker advance feedback about topics important to the audience.  (In other words, as a speaker, you may think that you know what your audience is really concerned about–but if you’re wrong, better to find out in advance rather than being surprised by off the wall questions during the public Q&A time.)

Advance audience feedback can be especially helpful from clients from a different culture.  As just mentioned, a lawyer may have misunderstood exactly what the audience is concerned about–perhaps due to cross-cultural miscommunication.  Further, because many foreign cultures comunicate more indirectly than do direct Americans, audience members may not reveal their true concerns during the public Q&A time–sometimes for fear of embarrassing the speaker.  Once again, a speaker has a better chance of uncovering some burning issues with some advance chat one-on-one, and tweaking the presentation for maximum relevance and impact.

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