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Marketing: Eventful presentations

Every Issue

Cite as: (2005) 79(9) LIJ, p. 84


I can’t imagine why a law firm would hold an event. Lawyers generally are a bit shy of social things. And what would it have to do with business anyway?
– Suburban practitioner

Events and presentations are not the first strategy most lawyers would think of for their marketing events, and nor should they be. However, they are effective in demonstrating your expertise in a way that is interesting and useful to the audience.

The key to making events and presentations useful to you is to ensure the audience is one you need to further your practice’s business development. That is, it consists of people who may need to engage your services, or who know people who might.

There are various types of events, but they fall into two basic categories – social (with serious intent) or serious (professional development, information and education related).

Events are primarily concerned with putting your skills and experience on show. Depending on the area of law you work in, this will mean your audience is your direct clients or people who refer you business. Referrers will be more important for legal areas such as family, criminal and litigation; direct clients are likely to be more relevant in commercially related legal areas.

It is not necessary to do detailed legal presentations.

Presentations that focus on “tips and traps” and “key mistakes” or “things to watch for” are popular and much more useful for planting the idea that potential clients should see you about more information on the topic.

Events and presentations are distinct from “client entertainment”, which generally means taking one or two clients (or referrers) to a social activity such as a show, a game or dinner. They are also distinct from “networking” where you attend events to make contacts without any pressure to perform.

Social events

There are a variety of options for organising a social event for existing and potential clients. They include events to celebrate the end of the year, end of the financial year, or end of a matter for significant clients in your practice.

Your invitation list for these events should be small and targeted.

Social events should be held for a specific reason and in professional services are almost always a means of “thanking” clients for the work they have given you, and to cement their relationship with your firm.

A different approach would be to organise a social event that has a guest speaker. The speaker does not need to talk on a subject related to the law – it could be something you know will be of interest to your clients. That way the guest speaker acts as an icebreaker for guests, and a topic of conversation after the presentation.

Serious events

This is probably the style of events most appropriate to the business of running a law firm.

You or a person in your firm can present, or you can invite a guest to speak on a legally-related topic.

The key benefit of running these kinds of events, in the form of a seminar, special presentation or workshop, is that your existing or potential clients walk away, hopefully, with new information, and possibly the thought that they need to see you about it.

You will distinguish yourself from your competitors by adopting a communicative and open approach and challenging a common perception that lawyers are withholders of information and difficult to understand. You will position yourself as the kind of lawyer everyone wants to do business with.

You may decide a more efficient way to go is to offer to present to particular groups in your community. This eliminates the need for you to plan a specific event, but gives you the chance to present to a wide range of potential clients or referrers.

Planning

Whatever form of event you are thinking of hosting, you will need to carefully plan it.

Questions you need to consider will include why are you holding the event; who you will invite; will there be a speaker/topics; who will work on the invitation draft and design; who will book or organise the room for the event; will you need furniture, presentation boards or screens; and who will work out catering requirements?

Large events require professional events managers, particularly where elements of the event include entertainment and complicated catering.

If you’re doing it using your own office resources, keep it small and plan carefully.

For the most part, events are a rarity in law firms but every firm should consider the benefits of providing a forum where clients feel they are getting something for nothing and feel taken care of.

An event can be an excellent strategy to achieve this – if only once or twice a year.

To do this month

• Consider organising an end-of-year function for your key clients or referrers. Who would you invite?
• Consider an event you attended organised by another firm. What did you like about it? What did other guests think of it? What could you learn from that to apply to your firm?
• Make sure any invitations your firm has done (or plans to do) is in keeping with your corporate style/colours.
• Make a list of organisations you could do a short presentation to on your main area of practice.


ALICIA PATTERSON is LIV Marketing manager and the former Victorian marketing manager of a large national law firm. She has extensive experience in marketing communications and PR campaigns. She can be contacted on ph 9607 9464.

marketing@liv.asn.au

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