It’s your time to shine. You have been chosen to present at your favorite legal conference.
Naturally, you are a little nervous, but you expect your audience will start rocking once they warm up. As you get past five minutes, they are still not rocking. In fact, they look like dead fish with their mouths hanging open. This is not helping your confidence - you just want to get the hell out of there. So, you start to speed up your presentation, which confuses everyone … including you.
If you found this description similar to your own experience presenting, you might appreciate knowing the number one technique for transforming a boring legal presentation into something that brings audiences to life.
Step 1: Identifying the Benefits
To deliver a presentation that interests your audience, you need to identify why they should be interested. Unfortunately, most lawyers find it difficult to explain besides: “It’s an interesting topic.” Do you often sit in on presentations simply to “hear an interesting topic?” Probably not. More likely, you go to presentations to pick up a few insights that will help you with your work (i.e., to be enabled). For this reason, you should focus on trying to identify your audience’s WIIFY (“What’s In It For You”). In other words, how they will benefit from what you have to tell them.
If you have trouble identifying the WIIFY for your presentation, try phrasing it as: “This presentation is important to you because [insert audience benefits].” For example: “This GDPR presentation is important to you because it will help you avoid the three most common compliance mistakes.”
Step 2: Using the Benefits
Once you identify the WIIFY, make it the heart of your presentation by promoting it via (i) your agenda, (ii) your slides, and (iii) your takeaways.
Regarding your agenda, explain the WIIFY when you get to your “agenda” slide. If you watch audience behaviour, you will notice that most presentations are won or lost by the agenda. When the presenter fails to describe the benefits of the presentation at this point, you can see audience members drifting off (often, painfully, by checking their phones). On the other hand, skilled presenters draw their audience in by using the agenda as a teaser for their presentation’s benefits.
Regarding your slides, use the WIIFY to filter out bad slides and useless information. Lawyers often make the mistake of including too much – too many words, too many slides – in order to ensure that the audience gets all of the information that they might conceivably need. If you do this, you kill your presentation by forcing your audience to search for the information they need among all the other stuff they don’t. To avoid this mistake, use your WIIFY to examine each of your slides. Delete all slides that don’t promote your WIIFY. If you decide to keep slides, reduce the wording as much as possible so that you are only using the words that are crucial to communicating the WIIFY.
Regarding your takeaways, lawyers oftentimes forget to put into their presentations any takeaways, such as links to websites or blog posts. Leaving this information out denies your audience the most important element for ensuring that they get a lasting benefit from your presentation. You can end your presentation with a powerful conclusion by listing three valuable resources that your audience can consult to learn more.
Learn more about the WIIFY method and other valuable presentation techniques with Terry Weissman’s book Presenting to Win.
Aaron Muhly is an American lawyer who has been training European professionals on clear writing and effective communication for over 15 years