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Eight Tips for an Effective Seminar

By Roberta Gubbins posted 02-08-2019 01:56 PM


“I’ve been asked to present a seminar on elder law for the employees of SDJ Corp.” Lance announced to Linda, his partner. “Sally, the owner, is my client—I helped her with estate planning. She said a lot of their employees are approaching retirement and have questions.”

Lance is fortunate. He has met several of the employees of SDJ Corp. and understands that, while highly skilled with tools, they are not so comfortable with words. He will design his presentation accordingly.


  1. Know your audience. Who are you speaking to, and what are they expecting or needing from your presentation. To obtain a complete analysis of who will be in the room, talk to the person who invited you. Obviously, a presentation for a roomful of lawyers will be different than a presentation for a group of front-line workers.
  2. Define the goals. Every presentation must have a goal. Is your goal to educate on a new legal service such as discreet task representation or the new recreational marijuana law? Maybe it is simply to give an overview of landlord-tenant responsibilities. Without clear goals for the event, there is no point in getting people together.


  1. Start with a shout, not a whisper. Start with a compelling quote, a great story, a stunning statistic, or even a provocative question. The key is to get people's attention. Then introduce yourself and your topic. Remember to keep the introduction short or you will lose your audience.
  2. The importance of the space. Just as you check out a court room before a trial, visit the space where you’re presenting to see its limitations. Can you move around or are you stuck to a podium? Is there enough room for everyone? Adapt as needed so everyone is comfortable.


  1. Slideshow rules. If you use a slideshow or PowerPoint, don’t read directly from the slides and follow the 10-20-30 rule developed by Guy Kawasaki of Apple who suggests no more than ten slides that last no more than twenty minutes and use a font of no less than 30 points.
  2. Make it a conversation, not a presentation. Interact with the audience. Having a conversation makes the presentation more useful and interesting. They have a chance to ask questions and actually talk to you. And, don’t forget the ethics rules—answer with information not advice.
  3. Make handouts available at the end of your talk.

Follow Up

  1. The sooner the better. If you agreed to send anything to participants, do it as soon as possible so you won't forget and they remember why they wanted it. Review the evaluations while the event is still fresh in your mind. This is the time to think about changes for your next presentation so that it will be even better.

After years practicing law, Roberta Gubbins served as editor of the Ingham County Legal News. Since leaving the paper, she provides legal content writing for lawyers. She is editor of The Mentor, the SBM Master Lawyers newsletter. Writing as Alexandra Hawthorne, she published a cozy mystery, Murder One in Midvale Corners.

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