The Ultimate Sales Tool: Seminars
BY Kristen Friend
One of the most effective ways to convince potential clients that you are an expert in your field of the law is to hold occasional seminars to tell them to their face. The seminar format is ideal for communicating with potential clients.
There is no better way to present yourself or the firm as the pre-eminent source for legal representation in a given are than to bring in potential clients and lay out the firm’s strengths in a seminar.
The ability to keep the attention of potential clients with a strong presentation in a seminar focused on your firm’s practice area is unmatched in other marketing areas. A billboard cannot keep their attention that long. A television or radio ad does not lend itself to the same kind of information depth. Even your firm’s website can explain how the law works, but comes up short when the clients have questions.
In a seminar format, a quick overview of the subject matter with a compelling visual display that augments your oral presentation can be followed by a question and answer session that helps fill in the gaps. The question and answer format is ideal because the clients’ questions will continue to help you look like an expert in your field.
The seminar works perfectly in some legal disciplines like estate planning, but might not work as well in others like criminal defense. Some firms have had success doing seminars about bankruptcy. Seminars work best with prospective clients who are not familiar with the area of law your firm practices and who may have been thrust by life’s circumstances into a position where they need to learn more.
The best people to have in the seats at your seminar are potential clients or people who can refer potential clients to you like professional colleagues. Start with small seminars with friends who probably need your services or friends who can critique your delivery. Then build to larger audiences with press releases and other marketing techniques to fill the room with potential clients.
The audience for the seminar will be focused. Ideally, the people who show up all will need legal services. But even a group of people who all are in a similar place in their legal needs will still be diverse. The audience may have young and old, people of wealth and people of modest means, people with college degrees and people with limited education. The seminar must speak to all of these people. The best way to connect with such a diverse crowd is by using examples.
This is how you show your firm’s expertise. Because of your years of experience practicing estate planning law or bankruptcy law, you have seen cases that represent people in hundreds of different circumstances. You can change subtle details about these circumstances and use clearly made-up names to show examples to the audience.
An estate planning lawyer might use an example of someone with an extensive art collection and several pieces of property to split up among two biological children, and one step child a wife and two grandchildren. That example may have come from two or three cases, but since you know those cases, you can answer specific questions about what to expect. Another example might involve a parent with three children, but one has special needs. That parent may want to draw up an estate plan that ensures the special needs child is cared for, but allows the other children also to be supported.
In the case of a bankruptcy seminar, you can use examples from previous clients, but make it all seem more relatable by giving them celebrity names. Going to a bankruptcy seminar will be a big step for someone who is prideful about his or her finances. You can disarm and relax potential clients by giving them real-life examples using fictional character names or celebrity athlete names to help the clients feel like these are issues everyone has to face.
Remember to collect the names and contact information of all of your seminar attendees. This way you can follow up with them and turn them into clients.
Focusing on your audience and your objective will help you produce effective seminar materials. Slideshows, props, handouts and leave behinds are all support materials. They exist to illustrate and enrich your message. When developing your seminar materials, try to bring together design and purpose, use unique visuals and keep it simple and consistent.
Your presentation is a conversation with colleagues, clients and prospects. The design of your materials must match the tone and purpose of that conversation. Think about what you want your audience to take away from the seminar. What are your one or two main points? Develop handouts or giveaways that emphasize those points. Do not try to recreate the entire presentation in graphic format.
Generally, an attorney seminar is an indirect sales tool. As such, it should focus on a benefit, or a result, not on facts about your firm. When thinking about presentation materials, remember to minimize yourself and maximize outreach to prospects. For example, a firm that focuses on estate planning could choose to hold a seminar on the topic of trusts. The presentation might describe how various types of trusts can help people plan a secure future for themselves and their loved ones.
Perhaps the firm also chooses to hand out a simple brochure to seminar participants. But instead of reinforcing the seminar – aligning design and purpose – the brochure focuses entirely on facts about the firm. A disconnect then exists between the positive results-oriented tone of the presentation and the flat, standard firm brochure. To avoid this, make sure the graphics and content of any handouts emphasize results and show the benefits of following the advice outlined in the presentation.
Dig deep and use unique visuals.
Seminar attendees, whether they are clients, potential clients or attorney colleagues, have likely sat, voluntarily or involuntarily, through their share of boring presentations. In the case of an attorney seminar, you have an advantage. Attendees want to be there. They have some question they think you can answer or problem they think you can help them address. Do not turn them off with boring materials.
Try to think visually. Pictures can often provoke a memory in a way that listening or reading cannot. Take some time to think about how your firm can demonstrate the key points of your seminar with interesting photography or illustration instead of list after bulleted list.
If you include an interesting fact or anecdote, do not just rehash it on a slide for people to read. Illustrate it with a graphic. For example, why not use a picture of an ostrich with its head in the sand if your firm is talking about the risks of ignoring proper planning?
Whatever your topic, stay away from obvious stock clichés. If you have seen the handshake 1,000 times, so has your audience. It is not memorable.
Keep it simple.
PowerPoint is a dangerous thing. It does have many features that, if used appropriately, can help attorneys create helpful supporting slides for a seminar presentation. But, it is merely a tool. It can be used for good or bad, to inform or to confuse. Avoid common PowerPoint mistakes such as poor choice of font or font size, inappropriate use of color and too much information per slide.
When selecting a font for your presentation, remember all slides will need to be readable at a distance. Make sure the type size is large enough for everyone to see. Use one consistent font family throughout the presentation. Sans serif fonts, like Arial, are easiest on the eyes, while script or display fonts can be difficult to read or distracting.
Color is another important consideration. Color choices affect the feel of the presentation as well as the readability of the text. Avoid placing colored text on a differently colored or black background. Colors that have similar levels of saturation, even if they are different, are difficult to read when grouped together or placed on top of each other.
Once you have chosen colors fonts and graphics, use them sparingly. Do not clutter presentation materials with too much information. A good rule is one slide or fewer for every minute of speaking, with no more than 6 bullet points or 2 pictures on any given slide. Leave off the complicated charts and limit (if not eliminate entirely) animation. You are asking participants to listen, read, watch and remember. That is a lot to ask. Make it easy on them.
When the seminar is complete, give people a reason to stay in touch with a good offer or leave behind. Combining a perk for attendees with a method for collecting contact information is particularly effective. Hand out a special seminar code and tell them they can use it on your website to download a free ebook or practice area guide. Use technology to your advantage. Connect your seminar with a reason to visit your website and permission to send follow-up emails.
An effective attorney seminar will make a connection with the audience that prompts action. The seminar is not about the firm presenting it, nor is it a venue to show off fancy PowerPoint or Keynote technical skills. The seminar is bout the participants. Seminars should leave attendees feeling positive. They should want to learn more (about the topic and your firm), trust your firm as an authority and believe you are a match for their needs.
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