How To Present Like A Lawyer

March 1, 2012

 

All presentations are not created equal.  We have all enjoyed great presentations and endured some rough ones.  It is important to be informative and hold the attention of your audience as well.

In preparation for any presentation, there will be prep questions that you ask yourself.  The answer will vary depending on the ultimate goal and audience at hand.  As I was preparing for a Zoning hearing board meeting, I had the opportunity to work with a great lawyer.  Today I would like to share some of the presentation tips I learned in my rehearsal experience with him.

 

Preparation:

1. Do your research!  Any standards that you plan on referencing as part of your presentation, read them entirely so you are aware of any exceptions that may affect your case.  I studied the specific requirements of the residential zone of my client’s property in the Zoning ordinance.

1.  Make sure that you prepare a response to the most difficult questions that you can anticipate could be asked about the project.  As I rehearsed the bullet points that I believed would be important to present, the lawyer interrupted me.  He asked, “Why should this variance be granted?”  The question was basic, but it forced me to focus on organizing the details of my involvement in the project to make this recommendation.  I had explored other design possibilities which brought us to this conclusion and it would be important to share key parts of the process with the Board.

This preparation will decrease any nervousness or anxiety about what could possibly go wrong during the presentation or interview.

Presentation:

1.  Start off with personal and team introductions, but make it very brief! 

2. State the objective of the presentation and go through the critical facts first (before you lose the focused attention of your audience).

3. Prepare adequately to discuss project history and/or specific team member involvement, but save it for last or possibly even allow the Board to inquire about it.  With permit and variance request hearings, remember that application packets required before the Board meetings should contain most of the supplemental documentation so it is reviewed ahead of time.

 

I believe one of the worst things we can do as professionals is to “talk over” the audience at hand.  Anyone can present a complex topic, but it takes a refined presenter to simplify the message.  Marketing staff or presentation coaches can be hired to help us with this very issue.

Clear communication is critical.  I hope something in this article helps you in preparing for your next presentation whether it be at school or in business.

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