Post-Mortem on My First Bar Conference Presentation

I have taught LSAT classes to future lawyers. I have presented to classmates. I have stood in court and argued in front of a judge. But I have never stood in front of dozens of lawyers and tried to explain to the secrets of successful marketing on the cheap. In fact, I’ve never spoken to a crowd that large before at all. But in early June, I did just that: I delivered a talk to about sixty people on website and SEO basics, reputation management, and building visibility through third-party sites.

How’d it go? I honestly wasn’t quite sure: I’m my own biggest critic, and though I received a lot of positive feedback after the talk, people — especially my fellow Midwesterners — aren’t going to come up and tell you that you sucked. Fortunately, evaluations were handed out after the talk, and even with the shield of anonymity, the attendees were quite gracious.

What I Think Went Well

There were a lot of great questions on third-party websites (fluffing your Avvo profile, for example) and building one’s online reputation, especially through client reviews. These are going to be challenges for anybody — and I really hope I passed along enough tips to the attendees that they were able to demystify these topics somewhat.

I also am sure, after that talk and after speaking with my fellow conference attendees at meals and social events, that there is a need for marketing education for lawyers. Just like laypeople need legal basics explained to them, lawyers need things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, social media, and reputation management explained in terms they can understand– especially solos who can’t afford to pay the larger marketing firms for services and even if they could, want to make sure they’re getting what they’re paying for.

What I’d Do Differently

It was way too much material for an hour. I wanted to demystify Search Engine Optimization (SEO), because I’ve dealt with so many “SEO experts” that are completely full of crap, that I really hoped to demystify SEO a bit and give these lawyers the knowledge they need to find an honest vendor.

At the same time, the topic was cheap marketing — and the cheapest and quickest way to build an online reputation is through playing the Avvo and Yelp games. Third-party sites get millions of visitors, and if you can win there, you’ll get far more traffic, quickly, than you will in the short-term with even the best website. 

My solution was to do a third on websites/SEO, a third on Avvo and other review sites, and a third on gaining visibility through third-party directories.

I really could’ve done a series of presentations:

  • WordPress and SEO Basics
  • Gaming Avvo, Yelp, and Other Third-Party Sites
  • Pay Per Click Marketing Basics (I didn’t include this in June’s presentation)
  • Measuring Success (Tracking Marketing Channels and Key Performance Indicators)
  • Social Media Marketing (Paid and Unpaid)
  • Creating an Internet Marketing Plan (Triage, Website, Third-Party Sites, etc.)
  • 10 Absurdly Cheap or Free Tools to Jumpstart Your Marketing (already made a handout for that one)

Like I said — way too much material for one hour-long session. At least I came prepared:

Swag

Peacock socks? Orange tie? Pinstripes? Check. Check. Check. #swag

What The Attendees Said

Surprisingly, they overwhelmingly loved my way-too-packed presentation. Last week, I received my evaluations back from the conference and they were great. On a scale of 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree):

  • I learned useful information about the topic: 4.92
  • The presentation was what I expected: 4.92
  • The course materials helped me understand the topic: 5.0
  • The presenter did a good job delivering the presentation: 5.0

The written feedback was positive (“best one of the day” and “Very entertaining & informative”) and constructive comments that I couldn’t agree with more (“Just too much to cover in the time” and “Fast talker but good info”).

The feedback reinforced my own thoughts: that there is a need for this type of presentation, but that I tried to do too much with one hour. My feeling is that, even if a lawyer wants to hire a marketing company and is too busy for DIY marketing, she still needs to know enough to make sure she’s getting what she is promised. I’ve seen — in the real world — so many marketing companies promising “first page results” and other magic, only to deliver utter crap, and knowing the basics (like first page for your name versus first page for a high-volume relevant search term) will keep the vendors honest.

But presentations like this need to be spaced out — you can’t do websites, SEO, reputation management, and everything else in one hour. And I’d like to make it more accessible in the future — attendees rated my presentation 33.33% as “Advanced” and 41.67% as “Intermediate,” which, for a one-off, one-hour presentation is probably too difficult for many to grasp and apply in their practices. 

Also, in case anyone from Missouri is reading: a big shout-out to the Missouri Bar Solo & Small Firm Conference. I’ve been to conferences all over the country — small ones in New York, the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, and even a few in the Midwest, but this was by far the best one. I loved that it was a gathering of hundreds of lawyer-prenuers, all discussing how to make their firms better. I loved that, even though I knew nobody there, at every meal, strangers made me feel welcome. This was, beyond a doubt, the best conference I’ve ever been to.

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