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LIV President's Blog 2012

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5 Practical tips for lawyers to improve their presentation skills

5 Practical tips for lawyers to improve their presentation skills

The upcoming LIV & Hanover Welfare Services Mooting Competition and Golden Gavel competition will present many young lawyers with the opportunity to showcase their public speaking skills to the legal fraternity.

However, for those of us who are not blessed with the natural ability to speak in front of large audiences, we will need to confront our fears of public speaking throughout our career (whether it be presenting to our colleagues in an internal meeting or delivering a seminar to a large external audience). This can, quite frankly, be a scary prospect for many of us - in fact more people would rather visit the dentist than present at a meeting! Therefore, I thought it would be useful to share the following 5 practical tips to improve your presentation skills:

1) Use as much eye contact as possible
This allows the speaker to ‘connect’ with their audience, and the audience will feel more engaged (and thus more receptive to the message the presenter is trying to get across).

2) Set an objective before the presentation
Before you start structuring your presentation you should know exactly what you want to accomplish and the message you want to get across to the audience. The objective should be clear and precise and be able to be summarised in one sentence.

3) Always consider the audience of your presentation
This is a crucial step to an effective presentation as it will help you tailor the content of your presentation accordingly. For example, if your audience is only interested in the ‘bottom line’ then you may decide not to overwhelm them with a large amount of detail and get straight to the point.

4) Always be wary of hand gestures
Hand gestures can be a powerful tool if used correctly (ie. to emphasise a point). However, many of us (myself included) unconsciously use our hands in a potentially distracting manner when presenting. Try rehearsing in front of a mirror before a presentation, and if you notice that you do wave your hands around in a distracting way you should consider strategies to rein in the hand gestures. This could be clasping your hands behind your back, resting your hands on the lectern, or holding something like a pen to keep those hands busy.

5) Utilise the art of the ‘pause’
The use of the pause is a very effective method in public speaking. It can be used to emphasise a point (either before or after it has been made) or when responding to questions. For example, if I am asked a tricky question during a presentation, I usually pause (and then repeat the question noting that it is an interesting question). This will usually give me time to formulate a response. Too many times I have just gone straight in to a response rather than pausing (which has negatively impacted on the quality of my response).

"The best way to improve your presentation skills is by practice and experience."

Remember, there are so many different tips and strategies that can assist us to improve our presentation skills (and the above 5 tips only really touch the surface). The best way to improve your presentation skills is by practice and experience. If you are put off by public speaking, then I encourage you to confront your fears head on take up each public speaking and presentation opportunity as it comes. Who knows, perhaps this time next year you may even consider entering the 2013 Hanover Mooting Competition.

And for those of you interested in public speaking consider entering the 2012 Golden Gavel to showcase your skills.

Have you discovered any great tips for presenting? I’d love to hear your ideas, leave a comment below.

Cameron Forbes
King & Wood Mallesons/Chair, YLS Professional Development Committee

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Donna Price
This was a great article. Like you said, public speaking is something that almost everyone finds difficult. I recommend this resource to my students:

<a href="">Public Speaking Resources</a>

This is a great resource, containing links to many helpful tips and tutorials. This site can help anyone become a better public speaker.
18/08/2012 5:22:04 AM

Cameron Forbes
Thanks everyone for your comments and adding your tips which are great!

Cal your anecdote regarding a Policy Officer/Police Officer is a great lesson to us all (and very funny!)!

And Joe thanks for pointing out the LIV workshops. They really are fantastic and a great way for us to refine our public speaking skills. The same with chairing the LIV young lawyer CPD sessions which I have found to be so helpful in building up my skills in public speaking. Chairing these sessions has really built up my confidence in public speaking (even if I still have a lot of improvement to go)
25/05/2012 1:39:55 PM

Vicki Thomopoulos
Good practical article Cam. Nick and I will be chairing our $$$ seminar, and I will be using these handy tips to get it right. I also suffer from flailing arms syndrome, but will place my hands on the lectern! Great tip!!
20/05/2012 7:28:55 PM

Anna Alexander
Great tips Cam. I was once petrified of presenting now I love it. Your tips and advice as well as the ones suggested by those who have commented before me made presenting a lot more fun and enjoyable for me! Well done for sharing this wonderful advice.
18/05/2012 2:46:00 PM

Cal Viney
Cam - can I also add, if you have no time to practice, ALWAYS find time to carefully check that your notes make sense (don't do what I did at the thinking outside the commercial box night and explain that a guest speaker was once a "police officer" - when in actual fact they were are POLICY officer! If the notes aren't prepared by you, check them before reading them aloud, and make sure that anything in those notes that appears out of the ordinary does actually belong there!)
18/05/2012 12:50:36 PM

Joe Jeney, LIV CPD
Hi Cam. Great article. (Joe, from the LIV CPD team.). One little tip I would like to add – or extend - is to practice everything for real, not just hand gestures. Read aloud in front of a mirror or your workmate. Don't just read silently and then convince yourself that you have the pauses and intonation down pat. With practice and training, anyone can speak publicly. Get over the fact you choked on your first attempt, and keep practising.

We give young lawyers a chance to speak publicly by inviting them to chair CPD sessions in the Young Lawyers program and in the broader CPD program.

You can always learn from the masters too. We hold workshops regularly. We run them in conjunction with Spruikit, one of the top trainers out there. They’re intended to give you skills that you can keep as your own at the end of the day. You won’t forget them.

Have a look at the workshop here, and get in touch with me if you can think of other ways to get people out there talking!

Interesting parting note: pundits say we fear speaking publicly because we are hard wired into thinking (in an evolutionary sense) that we speak publicly only when we try to convince our twelve or so tribal peers not to drive us from the village or not to sacrifice us to the gods in some indelicate fashion. True! Enough to give anyone sweaty palms.

Here is the link to our Spruikit workshop:
18/05/2012 12:00:44 PM

Amanda Storey
Great work Cam. I do numerous presentations a year in my role as President of the YLS however I had never thought of the idea of setting an objective summarised in one sentence. I am doing a presentation on Thursday so I'm going to give that tip a go. The mirror tip is great too. I often roll my feet when I do public speaking which is thankfully hidden by a lectern. Breaking that habit is still a work in progress but I think I'm getting better as I build more confidence.

Another tip I use when reading from a paper, is to casually trace the words as I speak. That way if you get nervous or lose you place when giving eye contact to the audience, you can quickly resume where you were up to. Nothing is worse than that stroke of panic where you don't know where you're up to in your speech and you just forgotten what you just said!
17/05/2012 4:03:05 PM

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