The Secret Weapon to WOW Your Employees

Like many corporate counsel, I've spent long hours researching, drafting, and editing materials to create the "perfect" legal training presentation.

You won't be able to educate your salesforce on best practices involving foreign government officials if you don't know the legal issues, right?

Well, yes that's true. 

But there's more to effective legal training than knowing the law. 

Even if you know the law inside and out, it's absolutely critical to understand the best way to deliver the materials so your audience actually retains the information you've presented. 

One of the best in the business for presentation tactics is Michael Port.

Michael is an accomplished keynote speaker who writes about how to deliver great content to your audience. His podcast, called "Steal the Show" is a wealth of information for corporate counsel seeking to improve their delivery and keep their audience on the edge of their seats. 

In episode 26 of the Steal the Show podcast, Michael reveals the "secret weapon" to keep your employees on the edge of their seats during legal training. 

(I bet you never envisioned that, right?)

Build contrast into your presentation.

What does that mean?

It means you need to intentionally build "difference" into three key areas to keep your audience on their toes. Differentiation is key because monotony is boring. Monotony in structure, emotion and delivery are all presentation killers that will put your audience to sleep in a heartbeat. 

Without further ado, here are 3 key ways to build contrast into your legal training and "WOW" your employees:

1. Structural contrast

In order to keep your audience on the edge of its seat, you can't just read off a PowerPoint walking through a legal claims analysis.

You need an engaging narrative. 

The narrative is the macro-story or vision you want to present to the audience through your training.  

Structural contrast is differentiation in the way you present the narrative of your legal training topic. 

This means weaving in stories, jokes, data and legal analysis into the narrative you're telling. 

What does that look like?

Let me give you an example. 

Let's say you're training a group of executives on anticorruption. The narrative you want to present is a vision of your company leading your marketplace in ethical conduct (or at least not getting in trouble).

How do you get there?

You'll need to weave in stories and examples of your company (and other companies) facing challenges in the field, and provide examples of how certain employees responded (or should have responded). Telling a story is an effective way to detail how legal concepts work in the real world, and let's face it: people love stories. 

But you can't just tell stories. 

You should also weave in data. Changing the structure of the narrative by presenting data will keep employees interested in your presentation. Also, an added bonus: many people learn more effectively through the presentation of numbers than concepts.

Finally, even if you're not a comedian, it's important to use humor in legal training. First, it helps create contrast from the (sometimes dull) world of legal analysis. Also, it will build trust between you and your audience as they see you as a real person instead of a lawyer/robot. 

2. Emotional contrast

This one's going to be a challenge.

Building emotional contrast into a legal training presentation is difficult because there generally aren't a lot of legal topics that stir complex emotions (other than maybe, "I'm really bored"). 

Regardless, it's important corporate counsel make a conscious effort to strike different emotional notes in their audience. 

You don't need to leave the room with a sobbing audience. That's not what I mean. 

To build emotional contrast, corporate counsel should tell jokes to build humor and tell stories to stir pride and (yes, even sometimes) scare the audience. 

To be clear, you don't need to be Jim Gaffigan to be humorous. Telling a simple joke about how boring legal training can be (or another topics) is extremely useful. 

Also, you can use success stories about employees who have done the right thing to stir a sense of pride in the audience. 

Finally, I don't recommend trying to scare your audience often, but it's sometimes useful to discuss criminal liability for certain activities. It's important for employees to understand implications of their actions, but it will also pique their attention to hear about all the hedge fund managers who've recently gone to prison for insider trading. 

3. Delivery contrast

Delivery contrast may be the most important of these 3 "secret weapons". 

It refers to contrast in voice, visuals, movement and platform

Let's discuss each briefly. 

Voice

You may as well send your employees a legal memo if you're not going to vary your pitch, because they won't be listening during your presentation.

Remember this scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

Brutal. 

Visuals

Your presentation should flow through multiple types of visuals including, PowerPoint presentation slides, videos, charts, graphs, and physical objects. The constant change will keep employees on their toes and waiting for your next move. 

Movement

Do you notice how the speakers in the best TED Talks don't just stand in front of a podium or sit at a table with their audience? Moving your body during the presentation gives employees a changing object of focus which keeps them engaged. 

(NOTE: this doesn't mean dancing, no matter how much you want it to)

Simply using hand gestures or shifting your position is good enough to help build contrast. 

Platform

This last one may be the hardest habit to break. Corporate counsel (and perhaps all corporations) seem doomed to use the PowerPoint platform for every single presentation. 

I'm here to tell you it doesn't need to be that way, and in fact, it's helpful to provide contrast to your audience by NOT using a PowerPoint presentation every time. 

You may want to simply provide a handout detailing a complex factual example and have a roundtable discussion. Or you may want to have employees watch a video and follow up with a Q&A session.

There was legal training before PowerPoint and there will be legal training after PowerPoint. You aren't chained to it. 

Those are the 3 secret weapons to build contrast and engage your audience during legal training.

What are some others? Please comment below!