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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

March 8, 2017
Question

Is it worthwhile to speak at legal conferences? Would doing so be a good resume builder?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

For a lawyer, receiving an invitation to serve as a guest speaker at a legal conference is flattering and a boost to the ‘ol E.G.O. But is such an engagement worth the time and effort for an otherwise overloaded professional? Is it good for a career? How ‘bout a resume builder?

The most valuable content on a resume is a professional’s work experience, work history and education. Ancillary categories like “Speaking Engagements” or “Presentations” add some value, but are not factors in determining a candidate’s competitiveness or viability. So racking up conference appearances will not provide a material benefit on the resume itself.

With this said, speaking at legal conferences does have its benefits. While the biggest lift won’t come in the form of a resume builder, it can build your professional reputation and serve as an avenue to exhibit your expertise and hone your public speaking and presentation skills. It can also provide the opportunity to “give back” to the profession and help others – and make you feel good about doing so.

Here’s why:

Building Your Reputation.

Books, articles and blog posts about “Building Your Personal Brand” are everywhere. So much so that it’s a bit saturating. And the concept of proactively building one’s “brand” seems so contrived that it makes many lawyers cringe. But heightening one’s profile as an expert in the field or as someone who is a smart, competent legal executive isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good thing. And a good career move. As a speaker at a legal conference, you’ll have a platform to showcase your knowledge, give your opinions and interact with others in a positive way. You’ll have the opportunity to make a favorable impression and build your reputation in the legal community. Professionals who attend these conferences watch and listen…and judge. And you never know who could be watching. So seizing this opportunity to shine could add value to your career in the future…even in the smallest of ways.

Defining Yourself As The Expert.

Conferences are terrific platforms to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Why is this important? Because people talk. And they like to be “in the know” on the best people for This, That and The Other Thing. If you are viewed as an expert in your field by other respected colleagues, you will be a more marketable professional and will receive more referrals for jobs, new business, promotions, quotes for articles, speaking engagements etc.

Public Speaking and Presentation.

Whether speaking in front of 10,000 people or just with your boss, effective “presentation” skills are a must-have in order to maximize career success. Some people are naturally gifted in this area, but the vast majority is not. Why? Because it’s difficult. It’s intimidating. And it takes work…organized thought, control, the right tone, good content, relevant content, discipline and persuasiveness…to name a few. Speaking at conferences provides the perfect opportunity to hone these skills: the skill of preparation and the art of presenting. Skills, which will benefit you throughout your career.

Opportunity to Give Back.

Accepting an invitation speak at a conference allows you to “give back” to the profession – to help an organization that asked you for help. And provide value to those attendees who have come to hear what you have to say. Helping others in this way builds goodwill and will give you personal satisfaction. A win-win situation.

Speaking at legal conferences won’t do much for your resume, but there are other career benefits that can be gained. If you are receiving several invitations, I recommend that you assess each conference and choose the one(s) that best align with your goals. While you are undoubtedly busy, incorporating this activity as part of a career development plan is a wise idea – and one that will serve you well in the future.

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Comments

Great points Julie and fully agree. I would add one more thought: speaking at a conference on a given topic forces you to take a step back and think about the topic. It’s also a good chance to get the latest insights and collect your own thoughts and form an opinion on your topic. So helps to brush up your knowledge and form new ideas.

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