No, it's not Trump Tower, but close. Welcome to Orlando, site of the 2015 meeting of the NABE Communications Section.

No, it’s not Trump Tower, but close. Welcome to Orlando, site of the 2015 meeting of the NABE Communications Section.

In early October, a few of us from Arizona Attorney Magazine had the opportunity to present at a national conference. Today, I’m happy to share great recaps of those two presentations.

Karen Holub, our Art Director, and I spoke at the annual conference of the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section. It was held in Orlando, which is a (head) trip of its own.

My plenary presentation was on the topic of “the art of presenting.” It was a blast, and I was privileged to share the podium with the talented and long-suffering Catherine Sanders Reach of the Chicago Bar Association. She provided invaluable content to the banquet room of communicators. And I provided … well, why don’t you read the terrific coverage we got from the talented and generous writer Marilyn Cavicchia.

Attendees gather to hear us talk about the art of presenting.

Attendees gather to hear us talk about the art of presenting.

True professional Catherine Sanders Reach exudes patience while Communications Section Chair Russell Rawlings and I trade picture-taking.

True professional Catherine Sanders Reach exudes patience while Communications Section Chair Russell Rawlings and I trade picture-taking.

The day before, Karen presented with terrific colleagues from San Francisco and Nashville on design for the non-designer. Her presentation was funny and valuable, and she simply crushed it. Here’s how Marilyn described that session.

And here is a photo of Karen presenting.

Karen Holub explains design for a roomful of non-designers. She spoke slowly.

Karen Holub explains design for a roomful of non-designers. She spoke slowly.

Her slides were eye-opening (which is what you want in slides). Among my favorites was this one, which chastised all of us in legal publications for our often too-easy use of images like gavels (and scales of justice, omigod the scales) to illustrate complex concepts. Try harder, she suggested, and you’ll be surprised what can happen.

Enough with the gavels in legal journalism, ok?

Enough with the gavels in legal journalism, ok?

Finally, at the Friday closing luncheon, those of us in the State Bar of Arizona were recognized for professional achievement. My terrific colleague Alberto Rodriguez accepted an award for the Bar’s “Finish the Ballot” campaign. And I got an award for leadership.

Alberto Rodriguez and I with awards from the National Association of Bar Executives, Orlando, Fla., Oct. 2, 2015.

Alberto Rodriguez and I with awards from the National Association of Bar Executives, Orlando, Fla., Oct. 2, 2015.

You can read more about the honors here.

Alberto Rodriguez, State Bar of Arizona, right, and fellow honorees at the National Association Of Bar Executives Communications Section workshop, Oct. 2, 2015.

Alberto Rodriguez, State Bar of Arizona, right, and fellow honorees at the National Association Of Bar Executives Communications Section workshop, Oct. 2, 2015.

Over time, I’ve learned that presenting and participating in professional service yield great benefits, and that the considerable time we put in garners much in return. I hope you agree.

Congratulations to my great fellow-workers on your achievements and willingness to lead.

Unimpressed with the world? You don't have to show it. Resting bitch face

Unimpressed with the world? You don’t have to show it.

Today, I point you to an article about “resting bitch face.” There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Because the author provides excellent strategies lawyers can use to convert their (typical?) expressions of disdain into something a bit more, um, neutral.
  • Because she points us to animal examples of said Resting Bitch Face. I can’t even.
  • Because the term itself is so expressive and so much fun to say.

Articulate Attorney book Johnson and HunterBut that’s not all. I also recommend it because Marsha Hunter is a great writer and thinker. I’ve read her stuff and even seen her present in person, and she understands on a very deep level what makes someone a communicator and what makes someone the opposite. Hence RBF.

You can read her recent article here.

And here are a few words I wrote about Marsha and her partner in communications crime, Brian K. Johnson. (And here is a great article that Brian wrote for us in Arizona Attorney Magazine.)

Finally, I heartily recommend their more recent book, titled The Articulate Attorney: Public Speaking for Lawyers. You can find it online here. Here’s hoping the face you offer the world grows more placid and less aggravated.

It's OK to let your inner emotions remain unexpressed.

It’s OK to let your inner emotions remain unexpressed. (Photo: Reddit/Doo1717)

social media heart love

… but maybe it’s just me.

This Friday, I will join a fellow Bar communicator as we present a seminar on how association leaders can best deal with media—not news outlets, but all the other media that takes up our day: everything from press releases and websites to social media.

State Bar Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl will cover legacy mainstream media channels. I’m the social media portion of the edutainment. Our shared title is “Dealing with the Media—From Mainstream to Social.”

And I’d like your help.

The audience will be attending the annual conference of the Arizona Society of Association Executives (you kind of knew they must have an association, didn’t you?). As they describe themselves:

“AzSAE is for all levels of management and all types of nonprofits, from chief executives to staff managers and from international trade associations to local philanthropic organizations.”

Have you spotted the challenge faced by the event’s speakers? The audience will range from folks who understand communications like the back of their hand, and those who oversee an association and may know little about the topic.

Hmmm. How granular to get? But if we remain general, we’re bound to annoy the more fluent parts of the audience who may be hoping for nuts-and-bolts takeaways.

So I wonder if you have a suggestion for our portion of the event. I’m nearly done with my presentation prep, but then it occurred to me that I should crowdsource a solution (why it took a social media maven so long to stumble on that notion is a mystery).

You may know little about associations (congratulations). But before you avert your gaze, I point out that many professionals, especially millennials, identify social media and websites as key channels through which they learn association news.

One of the results from a 2012 Millennial Impact survey

One of the results from a 2012 Millennial Impact survey

In addition,you certainly know which of the member organizations you belong to “get it right” and which routinely fail to meet your expectations.

So you may be uniquely qualified to help answer these questions:

  • What communications channels work best to “reach you” about association news?
  • What techniques or tools used by associations make you feel most “at home” in an association?
  • What association strategies leave you cold and make your association appear irrelevant?

Thanks! I’ll report back about how our insights were received.

NABECOM Portland 2013

Put a bird on it and other Portlandisms have governed my week.

I mentioned yesterday that I’m in Portland, and enjoying every minute. But in my post yesterday, I uttered the odd phrase “Put a bird on it.”

But many readers may be too busy with wills, trusts, mergers, acquisitions and the like to grasp the pop culture reference.

If you do not speak hipster, you should read this super definition at Urban Dictionary.

It even includes a sample dialogue to help you understand:

Hipster 1: Oh my god, I LOVE your tote bag, where did you get it?

Hipster 2: Oh this thing? I just bought it for $75 at Brooklyn Flea but it was so boring until I put a bird on it!

Hipster 1: You should sell it on Etsy!

In Portland this week, I’m attending a great communications conference. And those terrific conference organizers indulged their quirky humor by putting birds on the event graphics. Nicely done!

NABECOM Portland 2013 wider cropped 2But to be sure you get it, here is a clip from the great program Portlandia, which coined the phrase.

Have a great—and flannel-filled—weekend.

Attendees gather for a Legal Marketing Association event featuring a panel of in-house corporate counsel, at Snell & Wilmer, Phoenix, Sept. 26, 2012.

This week, I get to interact with many communications and PR professionals, and that leads me to wonder: Could their best practices align quite a bit with those of lawyers?

That thought occurred to me as I prepared to moderate a Wednesday panel at Snell & Wilmer for the Legal Marketing Association. The panel was comprised of in-house corporate counsel, and the audience included both lawyers and communications folks.

It was a blast, and I continue to be impressed by the deep level of commitment and quality that emanates from the LMA. As I said in my opening remarks, their story pitches and sharing of information are what allow us to cover our beat well.

But story pitches—and lawyers—are much on my mind this week, mainly because of a panel I will sit on this Saturday.

The “8th Annual Publicity Summit” is co-hosted by the local chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Society of America. (Could those organization names be a little more intimidating, please?) I’ve been in the SPJ for years, and I’ll be on a panel of magazine editors, writers and reporters.

Here is how the PRSA describes the event:

“Now is your chance to secure that challenging story you have been working on or meet face-to-face with your favorite media person. [Beat] Join PRSA Phoenix Chapter and Society of Professional Journalists for the 8th Annual Publicity Summit and the opportunity to network with peers, meet key members of the Phoenix media and get your stories placed. More than 20 of The Valley’s top journalists and reporters from various media outlets across multiple beats will be in attendance.”

You can find more information and registration pages online. (Registration may be closed by the time you click the second link.)

It will be in the downtown Phoenix ASU Cronkite Journalism school. Please stop by to say hi if you’re there.

If Saturday’s group could learn anything, they should hear from members of the LMA, who routinely impress me by how well they can educate the media about lawyers and their accomplishments.

So what will the journalists be telling the PR folks? What we love love love in story pitches—and, conversely, what may be less than effective when trying to get your content placed.

The lessons that will be explained on Saturday should help those communications professionals (and us media attendees who may get great pitches). But it occurred to me that they are the same lessons that lawyers should take to heart when connecting—either with magazines or with each other.

Here is some of what I’ll discuss at the SPJ event. What other lessons would you add?

  1. Learn before you call: Like most media outlets, our magazine is available online. Plus, my own material is available via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, our website, etc. Given that, opening with “So what do you do there?” or “What kind of stuff do you guys publish?” is the path toward a very short conversation. And that’s true for lawyer connections, too: Read all you can about someone before striving to make a connection.
  2. Read our stuff: This is related to the first point, but it’s worth being explicit. Lawyers and magazines have an awful lot of their record “out there,” and it’s available via the web. Using Google to spot significant verdicts that have gone their way (or not) will help make your ultimate conversation more informed (even if you don’t explicitly bring up that searing loss!).
  3. Connect where it makes sense: Sending blanket queries to everyone and her sister simply does not work. Story ideas should be tailored to the publication and its audience. Similarly, lawyers don’t cotton to outreach that looks to have all the individuality of a widget.
  4. Reveal yourself: When you reach out to someone, let him or her know something about you and/or what you represent. Be sure your email signature provides access to relevant information. And don’t hesitate to provide links to other content that you think will make your connection to the other person more sensible.

Here’s to valuable connections! Have a great weekend.

Nashville, a city for music and creativity

When was the last time you wrote a song? And when was the last time you had a truly fine educational experience?

For me, the answer to both questions is “Last week.” And, yes, they were related.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. I wrote before about attending an annual workshop in Nashville, where communicators from bars across the country gathered to share ideas, trends—and the odd song or two.

If you have ever sat through a continuing legal education seminar—or any educational seminar—the prospect of days of them can give you pause. For although a large number of them are well done and conveyed in a compelling way, a substantial portion of them may be, let’s just say, lackluster.

And is a little luster too much to ask for, I wonder? Am I shooting for the moon to expect that a subject-matter expert might lend a moment or two’s thought to the manner of presentation?

I say that is not shooting for the moon, and that we should expect nothing less.

Well, I am pleased to report that the seminars were pretty uniformly stellar. They engaged me and others, and they delivered important material without any of the drip drip drip of the educational I.V., draining a pedagogical bag while doing the same to attendees’ spirits.

Dan Wise, New Hampshire Bar Association

Of course, these presenters are communicators. Our jobs require that we focus not just on content, but also on presentation (like how I did that, how I shoehorned my own non-presenting self last week into the ranks of those who actually performed? Pretty good, eh? That’s what communicators do!).

But amidst all the good programs, let me explain how a few truly captivated attendees, not through a bludgeon or a tantalizing promise of a pee break. No, they did it by engaging people on a deep level.

I have to remind readers that I did not attend all the seminars offered, because the two tracks competed for attendees’ time. So these stories are examples, not a complete picture. But each of these developed a strategy that put the listener first, rather than subjected them to the grandeur and majesty of the material.

One of the most appealing was titled “The Title Fight: Print vs. Digital.” Audience members likely arrived expecting a mildly rousing rendition of some of the trends facing publications today.

What we got was quite a bit more. In the 10 minutes between sessions, panelists dervished through the hotel conference room, lofting chairs up, down and into a huge semi-circle. Perspiration on brows, they raised an old-time prizefight microphone. And then, in a moment of genius, a bowtie was affixed to the collar of the event’s moderator–referee, Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Stunned and surprised, I failed to snap a picture of the redoubtable Dan—my last disappointment of the day.

A spirited seminar led by Dan Wise, referee

So before even one word had been uttered about pages or bytes, the panel had already busted their you-know-whats to serve the audience.

Their delivery was just as impressive. Staccato yet substantive, Wise and his cornermen (and -women) launched us through multiple rounds of challenging topics. Speaker lectures and audience questions could not drag on, for a ringside bell (via an iPhone) would signal a new topic. It may have been a prize fight, but audience members were the winners.

A second notable event was a seminar titled “The Un-Conference.” There, the Tennessee Bar Association’s CLE Director, Mindy Thomas-Fulks, led attendees to the water of conference alternatives, and encouraged us to drink.

Now, I don’t put on too many conferences, but I was interested in how to increase reader engagement, which is a similar topic. How do we encourage participation and make people feel at home in our pages or our conference rooms?

Mindy Thomas-Fulks, Tennessee Bar Association

A few of the topics Fulks covered included opportunities for hands-on learning, more audience involvement, even changing how we create nametags and handle registration. Each of those steps in the conference process, Fulks pointed out, is a chance to engage attendees and lead them to adopt the meeting as their own.

Could we create alt-conferences for every single portion of our meetings? Probably not, Fulks said. But altering even part of the experience may lead to more involved and attentive attendees.

Fulks did not just talk to us about these topics. She encouraged us to interact with each other and develop our own ideas. Despite my more solitary inclination, I have to admit that it was, well, fun.

The last example from Nashville also has to do with sharing ideas—and songwriting.

Gary Burr

The “Songwriter Session” was led by four noted (you guessed it) songwriters. They divided the attendees into two groups, and we brainstormed and wrote a song.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t that, but it was certainly enjoyable. The session opened with audience members offering song titles that would anchor our efforts. The winning idea was “I Drink Because,” served up by Stacy King of the Federal Bar Association. Now that’s a federal mandate we can live with.

Our group’s assigned songwriters were Gary Burr and Jim Photoglo, accomplished industry professionals both (go ahead, click their sites and even Google ’em). They exemplified the creative process for us communications folks, and they did it with humor and talent. At the end of 40 minutes or so, we all had collaborated to pen a hilarious rendition.

Jim Photoglo

I’ll see if I can post some audio from the song. In the meantime, though, here’s what I took away:

Creativity requires engagement. Engagement must be encouraged. Encouragement requires creativity.

Congratulations to those who put together a successful workshop. Now let’s see how much creative encouragement we can muster in our own shops.

Have a great—and creative—weekend.

Last week, Nashville was the site for a great conference attended by me and a few Arizona colleagues. Now, I’m pleased to report that the Bar won awards in two communications categories at the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) workshop.

NABE is an affiliate of the American Bar Association. Last week’s meeting was the annual gathering of the NABE Communications Section, one of NABE’s oldest and most established (I am privileged to be a member of the NABE Communications Section Council, though I was not a judge in this year’s awards).

In addition to the many great educational programs the Section offers at the annual meeting, it also honors bar products and services in multiple categories and based on bar association size (the State Bar of Arizona is considered a large bar). This year’s awards were sponsored by legal research service Fastcase, which is a partner to a growing number of bar associations nationwide (click here to see the list).

At Friday’s awards luncheon, State Bar products were recognized in two categories: Website Design (click here for the Bar’s site) and Special Publications (recognizing the annual report).

Congratulations to everyone who helped brainstorm, design and produce the projects.

Here are a few photos from the event:

State Bar of Arizona Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl and Art Director Karen Holub, center, hold Luminary Awards. Also pictured: Christina Steinbrecker, Fastcase Bar Relations Manager, and Philip Rosenthal, Fastcase President

2011 Luminary Award winner representatives, National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section, Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 21, 2011