As a Public Speaker, I am entrusted by Urban Lawyers with the responsibility to teach elements of criminal law to various youth clubs in a clear and concise manner; to articulate law, ensuring accuracy in information. Whilst giving examples of criminal conduct, I must ensure appropriate delivery to my audience and to take great care in distinguishing ‘teaching’ from ‘giving legal advice’.
My experiences to date have been brilliant. The audience is young, energetic and hungry to learn. This alone inspires me. As I once were a youth, I understand the frustration of living in a society and being fearful of the law; a normal emotion when one hasn’t had the education to understand its ingredients, what it means and how to challenge it.
On the other hand, the peril of a public speaker having such an enthusiastic audience as opposed to a silent one, like a jury, is the influx of complex questions on each and every part of your submissions. Whilst this makes the presentation active and shows engagement and interest, it is easy for one to slip into answering questions as if giving advice which may be later relied upon or looking confused. This is not the waters an educational speaker wants to test and one must be careful when teaching and guiding another, about the law and its interpretation and/or procedures. Without legal qualifications and professional indemnity insurance, advice should not be given. Nonetheless, it is always fascinating to hear the type of theories and questions asked by the audience in their attempt to visualise and understand complex legal provisions. Further, it is important to remember that everybody has different ways of learning. As a public speaker it is your duty to cover all types of learning methods, allowing your audience to fully appreciate your presentation and/or submissions.
At the end of my presentations, my audience is always grateful to Urban Lawyers for covering a wide range of legislation in detail and answering a large number of questions in a short amount of time.
Overcoming the fear of public speaking
All presentations are nerve racking. Presentation skills are important and these can only be improved through practice (unless you are naturally gifted). Thus, be prepared for the unexpected, practice with your friends and remember to smile. It is important to engage with your audience. Use eye contact. Ensure that your audience is listening to you – do what your teachers used to do, glance more at those not paying attention. The skill of persuasion can be achieved through many different forms: words, body language and silence. Body language is very important and probably the most effective method of persuasion. You need to have open body language, eye contact, smile, nod, hand gestures etc. As a presenter, if you can engage with the most unengaged, then you have successfully executed your presentation.
However, it is important to remember in law, the information you give is more important than your presentation skills. The content you have is why the audience is there to listen to you, not to sit and watch your mouth meaninglessly move. If you aren’t confident with your presentation skills, then focus on the content. Make the content short and snappy whilst giving the audience something to read. Introducing a new topic / area of law isn’t always a smooth transition. Thus, whilst the audience focuses on reading the presentation, leaflet and/or skeleton argument, flesh out the literature. When your audience finish reading, you will have overcome that initial pressure and would have comfortably settled into your topic. If your content is strong and you know it well, your presentation skills will not matter as you will naturally become persuasive and trustworthy to your audience.
Remember, body language is important but content is significantly important. Practice, practice, practice!
In summary, I thoroughly enjoy presenting for Urban Lawyers. Our audiences are always diverse and eager to learn. At times this may be intimidating, as you foresee tough questions coming your way but knowing that your audience have learnt something valuable and resourceful from you, is extremely rewarding and leaves you with eternal satisfaction.
Urban Lawyers’ aim is to make the law more accessible and understandable. If you know a group who may benefit from the education we provide, please get in touch. Thank you.
31 May 2016