I was so excited to live my first full day as president of the State Bar of Michigan I woke up at 5:30 AM Friday October 10, 2015 and wrote this blog. The inaugural luncheon felt like the 4th most significant milestone in my life, just behind getting married and having two children. What a fantastic day!
I will be forever humbled by how many of my friends, family and colleagues came to the inaugural luncheon. Even more humbling were all the kind compliments after the luncheon about my remarks, especially those shared with me by Justice Bernstein, whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting before. He was so heartfelt and I will never forget his affirming, kind words.
Since so many people said they enjoyed my speech, I thought I would give you the inside scoop on some of my tips for preparing it. Here goes:
1. Start Early. Jotting down ideas for content and quotes early and often will serve you well. I have been reading inspirational books and keeping a running Word document for the past 5 years with ideas for the inaugural address and President’s Columns.”
2. Emulate. Watch other well-received public speeches. I listened to the University of Michigan commencement speech delivered by Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, founders of Ann Arbor’s entrepreneurial success story, Zingerman’s, and watched the Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford on YouTube. Watching movies about inspirational leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr and Nelson Mandela is also a great way to catch the passion for public speaking.
3. Train yourself. Consider consulting with a public speaking specialist or media consultant for basic tips. Use your time wisely by coming to the meeting with specific questions and concerns to minimize cost.
4. Get Experience. Arguing in a courtroom is one forum for experience, but finding other opportunities is also helpful. For me, being a lector at my church was helpful because I received training about projection, eye contact, pauses, pace and inflection in your speech.
5. Compile Content. Listeners want to hear substance, but not excruciating or boring detail. They want to know specifically what is the purpose of your speech in sound bites. Be genuine, authentic and personal in the way you frame your content. Using humor is good, but unless you are an experienced stand-up comedian, tread lightly when trying to be funny.
6. Write. Decide on about 3 topics you wish to address. For example: Recognition of members of the audience; what your organization is working on; exhorting the audience to be engaged.
7. Edit. Allow yourself at least a month to repeatedly edit your draft. Keep your drafts as you may excise portions you later decide to keep.
8. Finalize and Print. Your final draft should be in 18 point font, using only the top 1/3 of the page (so your eyes don’t drop down too far); bullet-pointed with lots of white space, page numbered in the upper right corner, and stapled securely.
9. Rehearse. Read your speech aloud at least 3 times, preferably 6. You will tweak it so read the final, final draft to make sure your own tweaks don’t throw you for a loop. I find that rehearsing while jogging and driving are good ways to semi-memorize, which allows for more eye contact with the audience.
10. Details for the Day. If you’re short like me, make sure you can see over the podium! Take 5 minutes before you go on to sneak away to a private hallway or bathroom to breathe deeply and remind yourself this is not about you: it is about the people to whom you are speaking and that with God’s grace, you will say something meaningful to them. Put your friends close to the front, and hope they smile at you while you speak. Speak to the back of the room, from your core, not your throat. Relax and have fun! You’ve done your homework and you’ll do fine!
Not one of these tips would have been helpful were it not for my passion for being a lawyer. When you love what you’re talking about, it’s not hard to talk about it to a large group of people.
During the annual meeting, I reconnected with so many other lawyers who are just as passionate as I am about our profession. Thank you for joining us at the Annual Meeting. I hope you learned something, enjoyed yourselves and “sharpened the saw” as you head back into the daily grind of work. See you next year!
Lori is a shareholder at Nichols, Sacks, Slank, Sendelbach, Buiteweg, & Solomon, P.C.