nnaba National Native American Bar Association logo

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure to meet with Mary Smith, lawyer and Immediate Past President of the National Native American Bar Association.

The specific reason we met was to tape a CLE Snippet, “a unique opportunity to hear directly from the author of an article in the upcoming Arizona Attorney Magazine.”

The topic of our conversation: a recent groundbreaking survey of Native American lawyers, available here.

Last April, I attended the annual Indian Law Conference of the Federal Bar Association, held in Scottsdale. There were some terrific panels, but I was particularly interested in a report about the first-ever survey of Native attorneys.

Panelists for April 9, 2015, “Strength in Numbers: Native Attorneys from Pre-Law to Practice,” L to R: Helen B. Padilla, Director, American Indian Law Center, Inc.; Mary L. Smith, Special Counsel and Estate Trust Officer, Office of the Special Deputy Receiver, and then-President, National Native American Bar Association; Dr. Arin Reeves, CEO, President, Nextions; Makalika Naholowaa, Attorney, Microsoft Corporation; and Francine M. Jaramillo, Staff Attorney, American Indian Law Center, Inc. (Photo by Federal Bar Association)

Panelists for April 9, 2015, “Strength in Numbers: Native Attorneys from Pre-Law to Practice,” L to R: Helen B. Padilla, Director, American Indian Law Center, Inc.; Mary L. Smith, Special Counsel and Estate Trust Officer, Office of the Special Deputy Receiver, and then-President, National Native American Bar Association; Dr. Arin Reeves, CEO, President, Nextions; Makalika Naholowaa, Attorney, Microsoft Corporation; and Francine M. Jaramillo, Staff Attorney, American Indian Law Center, Inc. (Photo by Federal Bar Association)

Mary presented on the survey along with a great panel. The early reports about the survey were that it explored subjects that previously have been shared openly too little. The ultimate survey results more than bore that out. At the conference and afterward, I spoke with Mary about sharing a summary of the results in Arizona Attorney. She kindly agreed, and her article is in the September magazine.

When we met, Mary was kind enough to indulge our tradition of a photo:

Attorney Mary Smith and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo, August 25, 2015.

Attorney Mary Smith and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo, August 25, 2015.

In my videotaped dialogue with Mary Smith, I mentioned how impressed I was with the survey. Not only was the survey smart and the responses candid; the report also folded in numerous personal stories and compelling sidebars. I recommend the survey to anyone interested in improving the legal profession or in launching and reporting on survey results.

The videotape will be available here after September 1. I hope a few of you get to watch it, as well as the article on the topic in the September Arizona Attorney Magazine.

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Screen-shot from Federal Bar Association video on its Women and the Law conference, to be held on July 11, 2014.

Screen-shot from Federal Bar Association video on its Women and the Law conference, to be held on July 11, 2014.

How do you visually preview your events? Not at all? Maybe you need a new plan.

I became a convert to the in-person conference about a decade ago. That’s when I attended some events that provided an educational experience that could not be replicated in a webcast or podcast.

Many people agree with that sentiment. But far too few use all available channels to tout their upcoming event. Among the channels that are underused? Video.

Federal Bar Association FBA logo_optI previously shared my take on how the State Bar of Arizona and Niche Media proclaimed their coming educational conference. (And more on Niche later this week.)

But today’s thumbs-up goes to the Federal Bar Association. Many of you attorneys who practice in federal court may already be FBA members (and if not, you should consider it).

On July 11, the FBA hosts its Women in the Law Conference. You can read more about it here.

If I were in DC later this week, I would attend. But in the meantime, thank you to Stacy King, the FBA’s Deputy Executive Director, for sharing the organization’s video touting the conference. Here it is:

Well, if there’s one thing all my conference experience has taught me, it is to replicate the best ideas you see floating around. So congratulations to the Federal Bar Association for a terrific video; hello to wideo, a portal I will grow familiar with as I muddle through creating my own video.

Is anyone else planning to make a video in the near future? Let me know if you try wideo. Let’s get people looking even more at our content.

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.