Lawyers, Make an Unforgettable Impression on Zoom with a TED Talk

JD Supra Perspectives

Lorin has been successfully making presentations to clients, investment bankers, and private equity professionals for over a decade. His clients and referral sources count on him to have up-to-the-minute knowledge on the latest rules and regulations. They also think of him as a brilliant attorney who truly understands this fast-paced and challenging industry and all of its components.

Like most partners, Lorin has relied on his firm's marketing department to help with the design of his PowerPoint presentations. He became comfortable over the years with PowerPoint due to its ease of use and bulleted slides that keep him on track - and also provided his attendees with a sequenced set of information to take home.

Then along came a pandemic and an overuse of Zoom for meetings.

Lorin realized he needed to adopt and refine a strategy that would thoroughly engage his virtual audience and keep them involved. Bullet point Power Point slides are just over used, plain and simple.

But what is Lorin to do to stand out in this virtual environment?

Several years ago, at a firm-wide partner retreat, Lorin participated in a session on advanced presentation skills. He learned more about the storytelling process and how to use 'sponge activities' at the very beginning of his talks to draw in his audience. He was told to add a bit more interest to his slides by folding in additional visuals such as charts, graphs, illustrations or interesting photos. He began to incorporate these strategies into his talks.

Recently, Lorin was asked to speak at an upcoming major banking and finance Zoom webinar. He remembered learning about storytelling and the use of incorporating these strategies. He was confident he could develop something unique for Zoom with these interesting and useful presentation tips.

Coincidently, one of his clients recently sent him a link to a TED Talk about the secret of what constituted great leadership. His thinking changed in an instant. Lorin had heard about TED Talks, but didn't know very much about them other than they were known for their brevity and spreading great ideas to stimulate thinking. As Lorin watched the short 15-minute Simon Sinek presentation, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, he realized he stumbled onto something which would allow him to be a standout at the upcoming virtual conference. He imagined using just 15 to 18 minutes to present the new idea he had about investment banking. This would leave him with a bit of time for some quick group breakouts so attendees could figure out how to apply this cutting-edge idea to their own situations and companies.

Lorin searched online for the best TED Talks and after watching a few he saw how this type of presentation could apply to literally any topic or idea. He became smitten with the concept and was determined to craft a truly effective TED-style talk.

Here are the top ten ideas Lorin learned that make TED Talks, and their speakers, so effective:

  1. TED Talks are a showcase for speakers presenting well-informed ideas in 18 minutes.
  2. They work so well because an audience is good at focusing on one subject at a time in relatively short chunks. Shorter talks are not lesser talks. It may only take minutes to make your point unforgettable. Check out Simon Sinek’s unforgettable talk.
  3. Speakers must be very knowledgeable about their topic, which should have a compelling new argument of viewpoint behind it. Although you do not have to be the world's foremost expert on your topic, you should be an expert in your niche area.
  4. The audience is relying on you to provide accurate facts, anecdotes and statistics.
  5. The primary goal of your talk is to communicate your idea effectively.
  6. Before preparing your talk ask yourself if your idea is something new to your audience and if it will be interesting to them.
  7. Open your talk with a surprising or cool fact that is relevant to the audience.
  8. Structure your talk incorporating stories which contain pockets of information. This will capture your audience and point to why or how your idea can be implemented. You may choose some limited visual assistance such as incorporating a few PowerPoint slides which take your audience on a visual journey. Do not use bulleted slides; rather use a single focal point such as a graph, a compelling word or phrase, a photograph or an image. These images will connect your words with the topic.
  9. TED Talks need to be memorized and rehearsed to the point of ease of delivery. Practice your talk in front of a mirror and time it. It should last between 15 to 18 minutes.
  10. Remember that laughter is good and that you are not selling anything.

TED-style talks not only provide a neat and condensed platform to deliver your message but they create an opportunity for you and your messages to stand out from the Zoom crowd. They will make you more relevant. They make excellent use of the educational qualities that create high retention and memorability. You will be speaking to and with your audience – connecting with them on a deeper and more focused level. The next time you follow up with attendees from your TED-style talk they will remember you as soon as they hear from you.

Is it time for you to take a look at the possibilities of creating your next Zoom presentation to be like a TED-style Talk?


[Merry Neitlich, Managing Partner of EM Consulting, is located in Irvine, California. We assist law firms with strategic business development, branding, websites, legal operations, and client enhancement programs. Merry can be reached at 949.260.0936 or]

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