Master the 30-Second SpeechBy Greenfield Belser, a Finn Partners company
August 1, 2005
Take two minutes to read this article, and you will learn how developing a systematic, goal-oriented approach to conversational branding can help your lawyers:
- make a better first impression for your firm
- deliver a consistent message about your firm
- take better advantage of marketing opportunities
- recruit more persuasively
- strengthen your firm’s brand.
“What do you do?”
Only in America! In other countries, it’s often impolite to ask “What do you do?” but in the United States it is a social lubricant, an easy way to get the conversation started. You are maybe asked at a conference, at the PTA, at a neighborhood cookout or in the airport waiting room. You may never have thought about what your answer could be, or even what it should be. But this casual conversation-starter is an opportunity to make a powerful first impression that can set the tone for a future relationship with the firm.
Me, Me, Me
Unfortunately, when most of us get that question, we usually answer in the singular (I) instead of the plural (we). We talk about what we do personally—not about the firm. The result? “I’m a lawyer” (often followed by a self-deprecating joke). But, if you think about it, you’ll realize that the questioner no more wants an ANSWER to that question than they really want to know “How are you?” Only the classical boor proceeds to tell you the truth about how they really are. In fact, the individual who asked “What do you do?” simply wants to melt the ice and get the conversation going. They have no goal greater than yours. But imagine if you do. (Relax. This is not about the Machiavellian palace coup. It’s about bringing an important moment under your control!)
There is a powerful branding technique that law firms can use to prepare lawyers to market and recruit more effectively. Lawyers learn to describe the firm in 30 seconds (the elevator pitch), 3 minutes (the airplane talk) and 30 minutes (formal sales presentations):
- The 30-second speech focuses on what the firm does and your role in the mix
- The 3-minute talk begins with the 30-second pitch and adds details—what’s new at the firm, what matters are on your desk and others
- The 30-minute PowerPoint presentation begins by delivering the firm’s brand message in about 5 minutes. The rest is about the client.
The 30/3/30 gives lawyers a simple, distinct and memorable storytelling framework that helps them describe the firm in short conversations. Properly constructed, the 30/3/30 also guides listeners to the benefits that the firm can bring them.
The power of conversational branding
The 30/3/30 is branding that walks and talks. It may be the most powerful technique available for branding—and the least used. Powerful because it maximizes the opportunities presented by a curious listener. Powerful because it reinforces the firm’s brand with a face and voice. Here are some important guidelines. The 30-second pitch is
- Goal-oriented. Your goal is to create a dialogue, not really answer the question. Do we agree? If so, recognize that the best 30-second pitch
- Tells a story. No one is really interested in your resume except your mother and even she tires of it. This is not a resume request. It’s a request for you to reveal yourself, to show your bright side, to engage the other person. Do we agree? If so, then we’ll bet you will agree that a great 30-second pitch is
- As much about them as about you. Once again, a classical boor is centered on him or herself and will, given only half a chance, drone on and on. Do we agree? If so, then let’s also agree to engage the listener right away. A smart 30-second pitch
- Begins with a question. For example, “You pay interest on your credit card, don’t you?” Except for the Rockefellers, the answer is probably “Yes.” "Well, I work with credit card companies to gather up those interest payments across tens of thousands of cardholders to create securities that are bought by large institutional investors. I’m not sure if it sounds dull to you but at our law firm, we get a kick out of it.”
Okay, that was a tough one. But lawyers don’t flip burgers or park cars. And you can help your questioner out if they seem lost. However, you’re on your way to accomplishing another important goal. A great 30-second pitch
- Positions you in the mind of the listener as important, confident, smart and a leader. Ultimately, you are an adviser, a counselor, a strategist and tactician. If you can set that up in your area of expertise and involve the firm in 15 seconds, you are also a bit of a miracle worker. The next step is to name the firm and a client or two.
There’s more, but you get the point. The end result is an interested listener who either asks more questions or connects you with a decision maker to continue the conversation.
The 30/3/30 brings a range of benefits
Armed with a 30/3/30, lawyers are more effective marketers and recruiters, better prepared to shape the listener’s impressions of the firm. Everyone sings the same tune, sending a consistent message to prospects and recruits. New associates know what to say, the rainmakers stay on message and recruiters have a better story.
Maintaining and communicating a consistent message is worth its weight in gold. The 30/3/30 helps enforce the message internally and externally and helps focus attention on each opportunity as it emerges. Enforcing the message means strengthening your brand—your unique identity based on the promise of value that sets you apart from other firms.
How do you put the 30/3/30 into action?
Know your pitch—whether it’s the 30-second pitch, the 3-minute follow-through or the 30-minute presentation—like the back of your hand. Try it on your family and your colleagues. Pay attention to their critiques. Finally, practice, practice, practice until you’re absolutely comfortable.
“What's new at your firm?”
By developing a 30/3/30 for your firm and training your lawyers to deliver each piece, you can shape the listener’s first impressions of your firm and seize the everyday opportunity created by the simple question, “What do you do?” Armed with this answer, you’ll be able to graduate to an even tougher question, “What’s new at your firm?”