At ABA TECHSHOW 2011, I got the opportunity to speak with Rodney Dowell on the topic of the “Open Source Powered Law Firm.” Rodney was great, the audience was engaged, and I really enjoyed the experience. Gwynne Monahan does a nice job of capturing the session in her post, “First Mac, then #cloudcomputing so perhaps #opensource #abatechshow.”

As I mentioned in the session, former Red Hat CEO Bob Young was a keynote speaker at ABA TECHSHOW 2000 and, I believe, this was the first TECHSHOW session since then to focus on Open Source software. Young’s talk inspired me to write a law review article on the Open Source licenses in 2001 (“A Primer on Open Source Licensing Legal Issues: Copyright, Copyleft and the Future,” 20 St. Louis Univ. Pub. L. Rev. 345 (2001)) and put together a list of web sources on Open Source legal issues. I’ve been interested in Free and Open Source software and the philosophy behind it ever since. If you Google my name and “Open Source” you’ll find some of my writings and a couple of podcasts (e.g., this podcast).

I’ve had the chance in 2011 to write one article and co-author with Gwynne Monahan another on the use of Open Source software in the practice of law.

The major article is the one with Gwynne that was recently published in the March/April 2011 issue of the ABA’s Law Practice magazine. It’s called “10 Tips for Getting Started with Open Source Software” and it’s meant to be a easy and practical introduction to Open Source Software and the role it might play in law practice. As you might guess from the title, it feature ten important practical tips.

In my monthly technology column for the American Bar Journal in March 2011, I wrote a short and concise introduction to Open Source software in law practice called “Free Can Be Good: Add Open Source to Software Considerations.” In the column, I conclude: “Open Source programs are be coming realistic alternatives for lawyers, especially for focused tasks. Now is a great time to add a consideration of Open Source software to your technology decision-making process.”

Through the presentation and the articles, I wanted to join with Gwynne and Rodney in raising the profile of Open Source software, highlighting its growing importance and introducing the philosophy and reality of Open Source software.

Open Source is about community. The articles and presentation are meant to start the conversation, but we also wanted to find ways to continue and extend the conversation about the use of Open Source software in the practice of law. One step in that direction is a new LinkedIn group called Open Source Tools for Law Practice. With luck, it will grow to help people find others interested in Open Source and offer a place for conversations. If you are interested in Open Source, please consider joining the group.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

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I did a presentation called “The Freemium Practice of Law” at IgniteLaw 2011 last Sunday night, produced by my good friends Matt Homann and JoAnna Forshee.

IgniteLaw takes a unique approach to presentations – 12 presenters each presenting for 6 minutes using only 20 slides apiece. And the slides advance automatically every 18 seconds.

It’s a challenging format for any speaker, no matter how experienced, especially if it doesn’t fit your usual style. Perhaps I understate that. It’s the speaking equivalent of riding in a top fuel dragster.

I found the presentation fun – in a challenging sort of way – but quickly struggled with time management. I got my points made, but not quite in the way I had hoped. My main points seemed to get across and I hope I was able to contribute in a small way to what was a fun evening with lots of high-quality presentations.

The videos will be posted soon, but I thought it might be fun to post the final version of the “rehearsal script” I had written. On that evening, the “script” turned out to be more ambitious than I’d hoped it would be (especially since I couldn’t refer to it), but I really liked the way this version of the script read. See what you think.

The Freemium Practice of Law – Rehearsal Script

1. Several years ago, when I was in the private practice of law, I had a meeting with a potential new client, a technology start-up. Things went well and they wanted to hire me. The initial project would be preparing terms of use and a privacy policy for their website.

2. I gave them an estimate and the president of the company joked that lawyers probably all used the same base documents and just changed the company names. Or at least we created documents with one push of a button. We laughed, although I felt the need to mention that even standard documents had nuances.

3. I thought a lot about that client’s view of legal work, especially documents, and the question kept coming back to me: “If clients assume we can use technology in this way and, technically, we can, why aren’t we”? I first implemented document assembly more than 20 years ago, so the issue is less technology than business model.

4. One of my favorite innovation techniques is to reverse my assumptions. I recently listened to a podcast with William Ury, co-author of a great book on negotiation. He said, “to change the game, you must change the frame.”

5. Here was my reversal. What if standard documents actually were provided to clients for free, perhaps as part of a service package? How would that work? I didn’t get very far myself, but Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson wrote a book in 2009 called “Free” that looked at the growing Internet phenomenon of successful businesses based on giving away what would traditionally be core products and services for free, and then making money in a variety of other ways.

6. Anderson’s book tells about Monty Python deciding not to sue the thousands of people who started to put video clips from their shows and movies on YouTube. Instead, Monty Python created its own YouTube channel and made high-quality video clips available for free. In exchange, they simply asked people to consider buying their products. The result: a 23,000% increase in DVD sales in 3 months, even though they were giving the same video content away.

7. That’s Freemium. Make something available for free, use that to extend your reach and audience, and then provide options for people to willingly pay for enhanced value. My definition of freemium tonight would be: Giving away “something” in order to create educated customers who better understand how to use your services and products in ways that better help themselves and for which they will happily pay to do so.

8. There’s been a lot of discussion about Richard Susskind’s custom vs. commoditized approach and you’ll be hearing more about that in the next few days at TECHSHOW. The most interesting thing about freemium, at least to me, is not so much that it will work in both contexts, but that I think it can work extremely well in the custom context.

9. Another example. Open Source software and Larry Lessig’s Creative Commons licenses. The free “something” is the software or the standardized license. The Open Source model, where the software itself is available for free, but a company like Red Hat can be quite successful selling maintenance, support, consulting services, and even T-shirts around the software, is perhaps the best example of the freemium approach.

10. Stewart Brand famously said, “Information wants to be free.” We clearly live in a world where we expect to get digital versions of music, video, books and information for free. How do lawyers fit into that world?

11. My favorite new band is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. They let people post recordings of their live shows on the Internet. I doubt that I would have bought any CDs or even known of them if not for this approach. Now, I buy albums and would attend a show in a heartbeat. Bands can now be thought of as music services providers, giving away what we once thought of as core content and value – the music – to create revenue from shows, merchandise and other channels.

12. Now think about a “legal services provider” model. Law is certainly an information business. Are we like music? Encyclopedias? Newspapers? Other fields challenged by Internet models, aging business approaches and innovative competitors? Change the frame, change the game.

13. Lawyers often will say that clients buy documents or hours – a lawyer-centric view. When I did estate planning, I concluded that, at heart, clients were really buying peace of mind – assurance that their family would be taken care of after they were gone. In other practice areas, they might also be buying things like judgment or risk management – something they’d happily pay more for than a document or a unit of time.

14. That is the big disconnect between lawyers and clients and where the opportunity for freemium law practice comes into play. Change the frame, change the game.

15. Some ideas. Start with Anderson’s book. It has plenty of ideas that might Anderson has a lot of freemium ideas in his book that could apply to the practice of law. Here’s one of mine to start you thinking – moving from highlights to insights to personalized. Highlights: a free annual summary of important cases prepared by an associate. Insights: an audio or video where partners explaining why the cases matter. Personalized: Half-day customized presentations where your best people show a client’s legal and executive team how to address those new cases.

16. Barriers. Oh, there are a few. Not done before. It’s change. How do we bill? Bar regulation still applying a 20th century framework to 21st century client needs. Don’t underestimate – these will be difficult frames to change, but freemium is for innovators who like challenges.

17. It strikes me that simple technology can drive this. Document assembly has been around for years. Second graders are making videos these days. So much can be delivered easily via the Internet for free.

18. Where do you get ideas other than buying Matt Homann a cup of coffee? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Bryan Cave’s Trade Zone extranet application as a model. Other professional services firms, authors and consultants have successful models. Talk to young people, see what’s going on outside the US, and get a diversity of opinions.

19. Let me emphasize that I’m not for a second advocating a wholesale freemium approach. However, I do think that economic survival for the long term depends on taking a diversified portfolio approach. Using free to create enhanced-value freemium revenue streams should be one part of your portfolio.

20. 3 action steps for you:

1. Read Chris Anderson’s book. Even better, go to iTunes and get the audio version for free, and see if you go ahead and buy the book.

2. Carve out 30 minutes with a piece of paper and brainstorm ways you might try free and freemium, starting with places where you already heavily discount or write-off fees.

3. Change your frame and see if it changes your game

IgniteLaw 2011 was fun, fast-paced and informative. I congratulate Matt, JoAnna, all the other presenters and everyone else involved for putting on such a great event. And it was especially great to meet some other Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fans.

I’m hoping to post some reflections on TECHSHOW 2011 soon.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

If you are involved in the use of social media by and for non-profit organizations or just generally interested in legal issues arising out of the use of social media, and you will be in St. Louis on the afternoon of March 10, I have a panel presentation for you.

Here are the details:

Online Communities for Your Nonprofit: Legal Aspects of Social Media

March 10 – 3:00PM – 4:30PM

A panel of information technology attorneys from the St. Louis Corporate Counsel Association Pro Bono Committee will discuss the potential benefits of social media for nonprofits and provide an understanding of the legal issues and risks involved. They will suggest ways to create a successful online community without unhappy surprises.

Call 314-539-0357 to reserve your seat.

Schlafly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library (225 North Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63108 (314) 367-4120)

The panelists for the presentation will be JulieAnn Broyles (Ascension Healthcare), Elizabeth Cox, Peter Salsich and me.

We’re planning to do lots of Q & A and try to cover what’s on our audience’s minds. Bring your questions. We hope to see you there.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter at @dkennedyblog. Follow me at @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

I was disappointed not to be able to attend the first IgniteLaw in 2010, although close observers will catch my very brief virtual appearance on the video from last year. I’m planning to make it to the recently-announced IgniteLaw 2011 that will happen on April in Chicago on the evening before the start of the 25th ABA TECHSHOW.

IgniteLaw (“The Future of Law Practice, in 6 minute increments”) is presented by my friends Matt Homann (LexThink) and JoAnna Forshee (InsideLegal). IgniteLaw uses the popular “Ignite” format with speakers getting 6 minutes to present with 20 automatically-advancing slides. The videos from last year will give you an idea of what to expect.

I thought it would be fun to come up with a possible presentation. While my first choice was to do a dramatic re-enactment of Doug Sorocco’s tremendous presentation from last year, I quickly realized that Doug’s presentation simply cannot be duplicated. We have to talk Doug into coming back this year.

The topic idea I submitted is called “The Freemium Practice of Law” and here is the description I wrote:

Richard Susskind meets Chris Anderson meets Larry Lessig on the road to new legal business models based on the notion of “Freemium.” How might lawyers give away traditional core services and products (think documents) to generate new flows of income, happy clients and personally-fulfilling work using technology readily-at-hand, Open Source principles, and new technology on the horizon?

I wanted to pull together some provocative ideas I’ve thought about off and on for the last couple of years, but haven’t written about or presented before. The talk would take me into some different areas than I’ll be presenting on at TECHSHOW (collaboration tools for transactional lawyers and Open Source software for law firms).

I’m excited about this topic and presentation. So much so that I’ve already sketched out the slides for the presentation. There’s a voting process for IgniteLaw, so I’m hopeful that my topic gets picked.

If you will be in Chicago on April 10 (for TECHSHOW or otherwise), I encourage you to attend IgniteLaw 2011. Tickets are free, seats are limited, and the information you need about tickets is here. Hope to see you there. I’ll be pestering you about going to TECHSHOW and talking a bit more about my presentations there in a future post.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter ñ @dkennedyblog. Follow me ñ @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

If you don’t already own a copy of the collaboration tools book Tom Mighell and I wrote, here’s a great opportunity to attend a webinar on February 9 where the “handout” is a copy of our book.

Here are the details and registration info:

You have a choice of a live telephone seminar or a live webinar. There will be some slides, so the live webinar might be a slightly better choice. On the live webinar, you’ll also be able to submit questions during the presentation rather than waiting until the end.

As I mentioned, attendees get a copy of our book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together.

You’ll get the chance to:

  • Learn about collaboration technologies that you can use to work with others in your practice
  • Get practical tips for using collaboration tools in common legal practice settings
  • Develop a strategy for selecting the right collaboration tools in your law practice
  • Hear future trends and developments in collaboration tools for lawyers

The seminar is a joint production of ALI-ABA and the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Section.

Depending our your state’s rules, you might be eligible for 1.2 hours of MCLE credit. Cost is $225.

I hope you can attend. Registration info here.

Please help get the word out. Collaboration tools are more important now than ever before. I’ll also note that I’ll be speaking about collaboration tools for transactional lawyers at the upcoming ABA TECHSHOW.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter ñ @dkennedyblog. Follow me ñ @denniskennedy

The Lawyerís Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

I’ll be one of the speakers tomorrow (Monday) evening at a St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts workshop called “Business Edge for Individual Artists.” The focus of the workshop is websites for artists and the program looks great.

Here is the program description:

Business Edge for Individual Artists

WEBSITE CLINIC

Monday, Nov. 1, 2010 7:00 to 9:30 p.m.

What makes a successful site? Jeff Hirsch and Travis Estes (Graphic Panacea) will present a checklist. Then Attorneys JulieAnn Broyles (Ascension Health) and Dennis Kennedy (MasterCard Worldwide) will offer practical tips for artists of all disciplines. After the presentations, you’ll have an opportunity to spend 15 minutes getting one-on-one feedback on your site. Consultations will be scheduled in person that evening and may not be available if you do not register in advance. Co-sponsored by AIGA and Art St. Louis.

$10 in advance; $15 at the door.

The workshop will be held in the Regional Arts Commission’s building, 6128 Delmar, across from the Pageant. Here is a link to program registration form.

Julie and I plan to give a lot of practical tips in our presentation.

See you there?

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

I gave a presentation recently on Social Media and Legal Ethics to a great audience at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. I’ve given a half-dozen presentations on this topic (often with Mike Downey covering the ethics part) over the last year – to Indiana lawyers, to law students, to young lawyers, to corporate counsel, to estate planning lawyers and to the staff at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.

As I drove home after the presentation, I started thinking about lawyers and social media, the changes I’ve seen as I’ve presented on this topic, and how my approach to talking about this topic differs from much of what I’ve seen about how this topic is presented. I thought it might be fun to share my observations and reflections at this point.

1. Interest Level. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of hands that go up when I ask who in the audience is actually using social media services. My experience largely reflects what I’ve read and surveys show. Most lawyers using social networking or social media tools primarily use LinkedIn. Facebook has always come in second place, but the gap between LinkedIn use and Facebook use is decreasing rapidly. The growth in Facebook users in my informal surveys has been dramatic in the last year. Twitter usage lags well behind, and there seems to be more hesitancy and fear of Twitter usage than of any of the other tools. In part, that’s due to lack of understanding how Twitter works and what the potential benefits might be. Alas, there have usually only been one or two bloggers in my audiences. This might be an unpopular (and definitely unscientific) assessment, but my sense is that most of the individual lawyers who really want to do blogs have already tried it. I think firms are still looking at and trying blogs – that’s a good thing – and there are still opportunities to create new blogs that could be successful, but the energy and growth seems to be in other places. For example, if I were thinking about starting a blog in 2010, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t do something in Facebook rather than write a separate blog.

2. The Traditional Approach. When I present on this topic, I definitely do not take a traditional approach – more about what I do later. In fact, I tell my audiences that upfront. The traditional approach, and I’ve seen too much of it myself, goes like this: Social media is new, it’s scary, it’s risky, and it raises lots of questions for which we have no answers. In fact, the only thing the audience can possibly do to protect itself from the scary risks and dangers is to have a social media policy prepared by the law firm of the lawyer doing the speaking. If you think I’m joking, you should see how people nod their heads and laugh when I say exactly this during my presentation as I contrast what I’m about to do. By the way, this same approach was taken on the risks of blogging when blogging first started, and on websites before that, and email before that.

3. My Approach. I really think my approach is better, but I’m interested in your feedback, and I’m continuing to evolve what I do. My basic premise is that lawyers can spot issues and balance risks, but they need a solid understanding of how people use social media tools to do so. I spend most of the time in my presentations showing actual screenshots and explaining how and why people use these tools. The fact that I’ve been experimenting with many social media tools for a long time also helps. No matter how knowledgeable you might be, it undermines your credibility with an audience if it seems like you are new to using social media or, worse yet, that you don’t use it at all. I once attended a social media legal presentation where the presenter actually said, “I’m sure you all know more about using social media than I do.” I honestly don’t remember what he said after that because I tuned him out. What I’ve found is that once lawyers understand the basic use of the social media tools, they can spot the issues and risks very easily and will often point out issues and potential solutions that I hadn’t considered. By the way, this approach is comparable to how I presented about electronic discovery years ago.

4. A Framework. As I was writing a standard disclaimer to give at the beginning of one of my presentations, I wrote: “I’m Dennis Kennedy. I’m here today speaking personally and not on behalf of my employer or any other entity. And this presentation is for educational purposes, and should not be considered legal advice.” Hey, it’s a disclaimer. I was thinking about ways to either make it shorter or to jazz it up, when I saw that there were three components to that disclaimer – identity, role, purpose – and that getting those components right were an essential theme in social media. More important, confusion and lack of congruity in those three components causes most problems. The funny thing is that now I give that disclaimer as my opening, and I sometimes get some chuckles because it seems so like what lawyers do. Then I explain the three components and how they work, and it seems like I immediately get everyone’s attention and give them a framework for understanding the rest of the talk.

5. The Social Media Matrix. I don’t think lawyers make enough use of the matrix or quadrant charts most business people use regularly. I had this crazy idea last year that I wanted to create a one page chart that explained all of social media. Well, here’s my latest version and it seems to work for presentation purposes. Again, I want to give an audience a simple framework to help them understand the practical aspects and benefits of social media.

Social Media Matrix

6. Questions. I like using a lot of screenshots and showing what I actually do and telling about what I’ve done right and wrong. As people see and understand how these tools work, they want to ask questions. Often, I can see the light bulbs going on as people realize that they are only using LinkedIn in a small fraction of the ways they could or that Twitter could be extremely valuable even if they never tweet. As a speaker, it’s difficult not to take the questions as they arise and, at the same time, it’s easy to get into an open discussion with the audience. My presentation is structured in a way where I can go with the flow, but I can tell you that presenting on social media in a short time (say 25 minutes) is incredibly difficult and requires major editing work before and during your presentation.

7. Practical tips. It’s easy to get laughs talking about all the dumb things lawyers and others have already done while using social media. However, we’re all starting to hear the same stories over and over. I like to use instead some hands-on practical tips. In the last presentation, I took five minutes and used a series of screenshots to show exactly how to change your Facebook privacy settings, what settings I actually use and why, and some of the considerations to think about when making those decisions. I thought I won the audience over when I explained to them exactly how to block Farmville updates from their Facebook friends. You decide – would you rather hear about social media policies or learn how to block Farmville updates? Exactly.

8. Simplification. I actually take some time to explain Web 2.0 and the read/write web, in a non-technical way, because I think it helps people understand how social media works. But, I keep it simple. I also simplify my examples of social media, but also show people the range of social media tools (which seem to be growing all the time) rather than overload them with details on each. I always end by saying that people need to try a few tools, focus on one or two, and find what best fits you. In general, the social media tools that I like will not be the same ones other people like because I am a writer and a content producer. I agree with most of the lawyers I talk to – I don’t have any idea how they would use Twitter. Giving permission to the audience to try just one or two and that it’s OK if they feel something doesn’t work for them really seems to help them with the topic.

9. Action Steps. Social media policies are a good thing, and the speaker’s firm might even do a great job of preparing them, but a presentation that ends with a call to action to hire the speaker’s firm to prepare a policy is an infomercial rather than an educational presentation. All lawyers get this part of it. It doesn’t take any convincing, but they want to know the hows and not the whys. I actually don’t even talk about social media policies because it seems so obvious, but I do point people, in my handout, to useful resources on social media issues. That’s what I would want – guide me to where I can learn what I need to learn. I end with four practical action steps for people to try when they leave the presentation:

  • Pick one social media to try or to delve more deeply into (and gradually experiment until you find one that “fits”).
  • Create clean lines between personal and professional identities.
  • The learning process is always consume first (listen, learn, understand the community and the medium), then produce.
  • Monitor Twitter Search to get a sense of how people use Twitter.

10. What Can I Learn? I’ve learned new things every time I’ve presented on social media. There’s a lot that I don’t know, and there’s so much growth and change in social media that I’m not sure anyone can stay on top of it. By sharing what I know, I feel like I’m helping others explore and learn new things that maybe they’ll share with me. More than any other topic I’ve presented on, social media presentations really seem to lead to an exchange of ideas and opportunities for continued conversation.

11. The Secret of Social Media. I hope this doesn’t get me kicked out of the blogger guild, but I do reveal the true secret of blogging and social media in each of my presentations. It’s not about ROI and stuff like that, The secret is that it’s really fun and you meet the greatest people. And that’s enough – everything else is gravy.

In a way, I’m just thinking out loud and trying to capture some of these reflections. Hope you find them useful. Let me know.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

The ABA Journal has published my latest monthly legal technology column. It’s called “Bite the Bullet Point” and deals with the growing problem of poor use of PowerPoint slides that drains all of the energy out of many presentations I see today, especially those by lawyers.

As I say in the column, “The biggest problem I see is that people have moved the focus from the speech and the speaker to the slides.”

Or, as I also say: “[M]ost complaints about PowerPoint are like blaming modern hammers for poorly built houses. It’s not the tool, but how the user uses the tool.”

Everywhere I turn lately, I see references to “death by PowerPoint” and similar harsh critiques of the use of technology in presentations today. There’s no question that most “standard” presentations these days bury you in bullet points and boredom. Worse yet, after seeing all the slides and hearing the talk, you often don’t know what the main conclusion is, what should matter to you, and, most important, what you should do next.

If you’ve read this blog or my articles, including my ABA Journal column, over the years, you’ll notice that focusing on using technologies as appropriate tools is a recurring theme of mine. As tempting as it might be to want the “new shiny thing,” you’ll want to always keep in mind that technology is a tool and you should always keep in mind the ways a new technology can help you do what you actually want to accomplish.

Think about the oft-cited example that vendors want to sell you a drill, but what you want to buy is the holes you need to get the job accomplished. The drill is just the vehicle that gets you to the holes.

That’s the background for the new column – my concern that the focus for presentations has turned to slides, PowerPoint (or Keynote), video, audio, design and transitions, and away from educating, persuading and inspiring.

However, I’ll stress that I’m not a PowerPoint opponent. When it’s used correctly, it can definitely help you educate, persuade and inspire. If you don’t think that’s the case, you haven’t seen someone use PowerPoint really well in service of their message.

In the new column:

I run through a list of some of the things that bother me about how many people use PowerPoint in presentations these days. I’ll note that it’s a 650-word column, so I couldn’t fit everything in there, but you’ll get the idea.

More important, I give six of my best suggestions to help you break out of today’s PowerPoint and presentation traps:

1. Ask the question: Are slides even needed?

2. Remember that slides must serve the presentation, and not vice versa.

3. Keep the focus on the presenter and presentation, not the slides.

4. Don’t make slides do double duty. A huge problem I often see is using the same slides for the presentation and the handout.

5. Details matter. At a minimum, view your slides on the screen from the back of the room before you speak. I hate it when the speaker knows a slide can’t be read and apologizes out loud for it. Fix it; don’t apologize.

6. Find new role models. I’m a huge fan of Cliff Atkinson and his influential book on presentations called Beyond Bullet Points. His approach to slides is very visual, with minimal text and no bullets. He emphasizes the importance of theme, structure and story. Spend some time watching TED Talks videos and videos of other great presenters.

I’d definitely like to hear your reactions to this article and to the topic. I actually wrote it several months ago and when I re-read it, it really seemed to reflect the theme of practical and effective use of technology to help you with what you do everyday that’s been my goal with the ABA Journal tech column over the years. Let me know if the column works that way for you.

If I would have had a few more words for the column, I might have added a seventh point about hard work and rehearsal (although it’s alluded to in the column). As I mentioned earlier, I’m not anti-PowerPoint. In fact, I’ve always liked it. What I like, though, is the way it makes some aspects of preparing a presentation easier and frees you up to spend more time and effort on your message, your delivery and your audience. As they say, you can work smarter, not harder, and focus your effort on what matters most.

Check out the article here.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

I wanted to point you to a webinar on Thursday (September 16) from the ABA Law Practice Management Section and the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education called “Managing Your Online Presence.”

The webinar features as speakers two of the best subject matter experts you can find, Jim Calloway and Kevin O’Keefe. I’ll be part of the webinar as moderator of the session. Jim and Kevin have told me that they expect me to be an “active moderator” and to throw in my insights on the topics, even though my plan is mainly to try to make sure the audience gets the best of Jim’s and Kevin’s impressive experience and expertise. That said, you’ll probably get to hear some of my tips and commentary on this topic.

I can assure you that you can expect to learn a lot from this presentation.

Here’s the program description:

More and more clients “meet” you online before even deciding to meet you face-to-face. In this fast-paced session, you’ll learn the best ways to build and grow a sustainable online presence, enabling more potential clients to find you and existing clients to access more helpful information provided by you. Topics covered will include: 1. Choosing (and using) a blog or Web site as your online “home base;” 2. Utilizing social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with clients and build your professional footprint; 3. Magnifying your online presence by distributing your existing content seamlessly to multiple places online and 4. Monitoring and managing your online reputation. Your existing clients will be more informed, and your prospective clients will be more impressed.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, September 16 at 1:00 PM-2:30 PM Eastern (12:00 PM-1:30 PM Central; 11:00 AM-12:30 PM Mountain; 10:00 AM-11:30 AM Pacific).

Registration and other details may be found here.

There’s a nice discount for ABA Law Practice Management Section members. Even better, there’s a nice discount for ABA members who join the LPM Section in connection with this webinar – definitely a win-win proposition. And there’s a great discount for law students.

Hope to “see” you at the webinar. As moderator, if you want to send me a question ahead of time, please do so.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools

I wanted to point you to what should be a great webinar on Thursday (August 19) from the ABA Law Practice Management Section and the ABA Center for Continuing Legal Education called “Creating Your Online Presence.”

The webinar features as speakers the noted experts Tom Mighell and Dave Bilinsky. I’ll be part of the webinar as moderator of the session. I’ve seen the slides already and can tell you that you can expect to learn a lot from this presentation.

Here’s the program description:

In this digital era, clients and prospects expect lawyers to be savvy about their firm’s Web presence. Learn from our experts how to create an effective online presence that works for your practice, your clients and your target audience. Determine which options are wise, based upon your areas of practice, geographical location and your “online personality.” Adding your firm to online directories/legal directories such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Avvo, RocketLawyer and Justia will be discussed. Our speakers will also discuss how to setup a blog and whether this is a helpful service to your clients or prospective clients. The pros and cons of using free or lawyer-specific blogging platforms will be part of this discussion. You will walk away from this session with the ability to take the social media plunge, having seen practical examples of how to setup your own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Take the plunge!

The webinar will take place on Thursday, August 19 at 1:00 PM-2:30 PM Eastern (12:00 PM-1:30 PM Central; 11:00 AM-12:30 PM Mountain; 10:00 AM-11:30 AM Pacific).

Registration and other details may be found here.

There’s a nice discount for ABA Law Practice Management Section members. Even better, there’s a nice discount for ABA members who join the LPM Section in connection with this webinar – definitely a win-win proposition.

Hope to “see” you at the webinar. As moderator, if you want to send me a question ahead of time, please do so.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

Follow my microblog on Twitter – @dkennedyblog. Follow me – @denniskennedy

Now Available! The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Visit the companion website for the book at LawyersGuidetoCollaboration.com. Twitter: @collabtools