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Are You Doing What Needs to be Done? Are You Using Your Power?

“If you don’t use your power, it will leave you for someone who will.”

This is an old Irish proverb that my Grandmother Annie O’Donnell used to tell us when we were children.  She’d say it in her Irish brogue when we felt like skipping swim team practice in the wee hours of the morning, or when we’d do poorly on a quiz in school.  It was an adage that could cover all the bases: physical, intellectual – even moral.  Moral you ask? Well, yes, that’s exactly what popped into my mind recently: that Irish proverb in the context of MY moral being.

Let me explain.  Who’s had a bad day!?  A Bad week? come on, I know we all have them! My Board commitment at a non-profit requiring a 15 hours commitment one week, my volunteer project at GirlScouts looming closely around the corner, a promise to a local business-man friend to help with marketing his company,  the half-marathon a few days later and then, what’s left? what’s left? oh yes – WORK!  Hello! I do work for a living !  and it seems that some weeks my work that pays my bills is the low man on the totem pole, the last thing on the To Do list, to do today.  I’m self employed for goodness sake!  What I slack off, I suffer!

That’s it!! I said to myself after a particularly stress-filled day!  Stick a fork in me, I am DONE! I’ll just Say no! No more helping GirlScouts no more free speeches 40 miles away at a rotary club, no more commitment to the photo club, or to the running club or to the book club…I mean really: I hadn’t even gotten my mail in weeks!

So, decision made to cut back, I drove to the Post Office, emptied my overflowing PO Box, and sat in the car going through the pile of mail…and found a Christmas Card for heaven’s sake!  and it was  almost the end of January!!

Look at this there are loads of cards! Lots of Cards! Lot and lots and LOTS of cards! So I tore into them to see “who should I have sent a  card to that left off my Christmas list in ‘05″ and suddenly

I was jolted back into reality.  These other cards weren’t Christmas cards at all.  These were….[quietly] well..[slowly]…they were thank you cards!.  Thank you cards, for me.

Here I am complaining to myself about the cards I should have sent and they are thank you’s to me.

One from a woman at SafePlace who said “your story about what you’ve accomplished since your battering husband is an inspiration to me! I can’t wait to see what wonderful things are out there waiting in my future! thank you for sharing your story”

This one from a young high school student who said “thank for speaking our group about appropriated business attire and how to act on an interview: your stories were so fun”!

here’s one from an old lady at a nursing home: “your storytelling as our entertainment last week brought back so many great memories of my girlhood in Ireland – thank you for helping me to remember so many happy times!”

a college student in Florida who said “thanks for finally letting me grasp the concept of compound interest and saving for my future – you made us all laugh a lot AND learn something too – that rarely happens.”

~then finally, just a blank white business envelope – not a card. I tore into it and it almost appeared empty.  barely taking up room in the paper was a small photograph cut out from the Austin Business Journal: A photo of me, with red face, sweat dripping down my nose, baseball cap – the only way to recognize me truly is because my name is in the caption! – loading 25 lb water cases for Katrina evacuees – the post-it note attached stated: “you are an inspiration to girls everywhere”.  no signature. no return address.

If you don’t use your power, it will leave you for someone who will…  That’s when it hit me – this is my power.  that I can do this type of thing – that I can have this sort of impact on another person – THIS is my power!

If you don’t use your power, it will leave you for someone who will – that is quite the thought.  What would I d o if I couldn’t speak to these kids? these young people, these battered wives? this is ultimately who I am, this is the power I have.

What do you do?   What is YOUR power? is it baking goodies for the office that makes everyone’s day?  it is visiting with an elderly neighbor on your street to see how her day is going? is it tutoring young students to helm them get  a leg up in school? is it creating the best garden in the neighborhood that dog walkers and exercisers and admire while out walking? it is reading a story to your child, or grandchild before bed??

Your power.  YOUR …. POWER… you might fear (suspect) you don’t have power – when like me, you may not realize every thing you do is representative of your power!

Discover your power.  Cultivate your power.  But whatever you do, USE your power.  Remember:

If you don’t use your power, it will leave you for someone who will.


Prospects are Not Human!

Stop labeling every human you meet at a networking event as “a prospect” in your mind. You’ll miss some great opportunities to make meaningful connections.

I went to a breakfast meeting this week, where I witnessed the following:

New Shareholder at Firm: Hello, I’m John. I’m at Arrow, Bear & Claw (*no, this isn’t a new English pub – this is a fake law firm name used as an example. God knows I can’t do a shout-out and tell you what firm this guy REALLY works for!) — how about you??

Unknown Stranger: What’s Arrow, Bear & Claw? Me, uh, I work for a company in Houston.

New Shareholder at Firm: Arrow, Bear & Claw!?! We’re a law firm! Don’t you know us? We’ve been in Washington, D.C. for years. Opened our office here two years ago.

Unknown Stranger: No, sorry – I don’t know you. How big is the firm?

New Shareholder at Firm: We have 4,500 attorneys world wide, We do everything from IP to Product Lie. (yes, he said “product lie”)

Unknown Stranger: Oh. Hmmmm, sorry. These are good breakfast tacos, aren’t they?

New Shareholder at Firm: Yeah. Not as good as El Arroyo, but they’re ok.

Unknown Stranger: Yes, well, I see a friend over there. Nice to meet you.

New Shareholder at Firm: Yep, me too. Later.

Unknown Stranger looks at me, rolls his eyes, and walks over to another group of people.

Here’s just a few things wrong with this conversation:

In a networking event, when you’re wearing your name and the company (or firm) you work for on your nametag, you should NOT introduce yourself repeating what’s already there! How about a more conversational line? “Wow, breakfast tacos! I sure like these at business breakfasts, way better than fruit and yoghurt!” It shows you are 1) human and 2) not aggressive about business, 3) not a vegetarian (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).


Wait to see if the person acknowledges your company/firm name from your tag. If not, make sure you inform the person, so they know who you really are. Use this as a chance to feel out the person’s thoughts on your company: “So, it’s pretty obvious (you point to your name-tag) I work for A, B &C – that’s a law firm and I’m a product liability attorney. Are you familiar with our reputation?”


Don’t sound incredulous if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know something – whether it be the biggest company in town, the biggest news story of the day, the most famous rock star on the planet….. If you make them look stupid or uninformed, you are NOT winning any friends! “Ah, we’re a law firm here in town. Been around for 40 years in quite a few countries, just expanded to Austin around 2 years ago.” You want to continue the conversation, not piss them off!


Instead of contradicting their opinion, use it as an opportunity to expand your conversation. Him: “These are good breakfast tacos, aren’t they?” – see – he likes the tacos! “No breakfast taco is a bad breakfast taco: some are just better than others! Have you ever tried some of the new food trailers opening up all around town??”


At this point, I SHOULD make a comment how you didn’t get their card. But really – do you think this guy would ever be interested in talking to you again? I don’t think so. If you find out later it’s someone who would really REALLY help your business or career, it could be salvageable. (more on that in a future post).

Your goal at any networking event is this: meet, greet, and get to know new people. Not prospects: PEOPLE. If they become prospects, wonderful. If not – you’ve met an interesting (probably) person who you might be able to help, and who may be able to help you.

That’s it. Go forth and multiply – er, meet people!

What You Need to Know for the ALM National Conference. Or ANY Conference!

Since I sit here at SXSW as I write this, music is on my brain. So I’ll answer with a bit of music interlude.
1) You can’t always get what you want. (Mick Jagger). Have a goal as to who you want to meet. Either “Jonathan Deaux” or “the senior partner at that big firm in L.A.” – you won’t get what you want if you don’t KNOW what you want – out of the conference, I mean.
2) Don’t be “Dancing in the Dark” (Bruce Springsteen) Think up small talk in advance. I had the thrilling experience of meeting Bruce Springsteen once. A friend knew I was a huge fan, and she said “practice the first 4 sentences of what you’re going to say, or you’ll be so tongue-tied you will look like an idiot!” so, I did. “Thank you so much for your donation to our foodbank, Bruce. You gift is way larger than our standard donation, and the impact on our ability to feed the hungry in our community is huge! Thank you!” – that got us talking about something we were both passionate about (ending hunger) and then I was able to entertain him with stories of jumping around in college to “Rosalita” – or at least, I THINK I entertained him with those stories…. The big topics in Fort Worth could be – “wow, I was expecting cowboys to be walking down the street, not a 5 star hotel!” or “I hope you enjoy talking to total strangers, because I don’t – and I’m counting on you to keep this conversation going!” or something that will move the conversation, forwardl
3) “Please release me, let me go” (Englebert Humperdinck) – don’t dominate one person’s time and don’t let one person dominate yours. If you meet someone who is perfect – someone you can learn from, someone you can help out, someone who can help you – get their contact info and move on. A conference like this is a great place to make many contacts; you can cultivate the relationship more at the next coffee break, or when you get back to your home office.
4) “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways” (Michael Jackson) You may be telling yourself “I’m not charismatic! I don’t meet new people easily! I hate conferences like this that I’m required to go to!” Well, too bad. We’re grown-ups, here. Networking is a part of a successful career path, and that’s what you want, right? A successful career path? So, change starts now – change starts in Fort Worth.
5) “I’ll be there, I’ll be there, whenever you need me, I’ll be there (Michael Jackson – again). I help lawyers navigate the big world of conferences. Call me (or better yet, text me 512-789-3678) and I’ll be there to help you break the ice and meet new people. I AM that charismatic person who can talk to anyone that you watch from afar and say “how do they DO that?!” – so grab me at the conference, and I’ll show you how it’s done.
6) “In my younger days I was so bad, laughing about all the fun we had!” (Jimmy Buffet – One Particular Harbor) – There’s nothing wrong with having fun. You may have left the kiddos behind and it’s the first time you’ve slept in the peace and quiet of a hotel room alone in years; you may have a ton of stress at work and that third martini at the meet-up cocktail party looks oh-so-inviting (it can’t be THAT strong, can it?); you may drink Micholobe Ultra at home and try the scotch your senior partner offers you so you look mature and experienced. Whatever the reason, don’t have TOO MUCH fun! Drinking too much at a business function never leads to good experiences. Be careful – you’re making an impression every waking moment – don’t screw it up, people!

Need to Practice Your Public Speaking Skills?

Recently I attended  a meeting of the West Austin I Toastmasters Club.  That day,  two politicians (or actually, candidates) came to give speeches so that they could be critiqued by our club.

What a great idea!  Haven’t we all heard HORRIBLE speeches by candidates (or, worse yet, already elected politicians) and said to ourselves “why don’t they get speech training??” – I’m sure you’ve said it to yourself, no matter your party affiliation, no matter who was speaking.  There is room for improvement on all levels!

I’m thrilled that these two candidates are willing to DO WHAT IT TAKES to get their skill level up to par, and to step into the arena of public service in the first place.  It’s a rough road out there: I admire their stamina, dedication to a cause, and thick skin ( a necessary requisite these days).

How about you? Are you an attorney that has a big client presentation, or public presentation to a group, coming up — and you’re just a little unsure of how well you might do?  Certainly I advocate hiring a professional to coach you through the process: but that might not be your “thing.”  So check out a local Toastmasters group! Not all allow non-members to speak, but some certainly do!




Public Speaking Tips


  • Let go!  Never “grab” or lean on the lectern (you’d be amazed how many are not attached to the table.
  • If you’re over 40, like me, print your notes or bullet points in LARGE PRINT!!  You never know how weak your light might be, and you’re paper is farther away from your eyes at the lecturn.
  • Look at one person at a time – if you’re not comfortable looking at one person in the eye, look at one shape and blur your eyes…keep your eyes on one person for each THOUGHT – don’t move your eyes around alot or you will look shifty-eyed!
  • Make a point – tell a story. Make a point – tell a story.  This tip from David Brooks, World Champion of Public Speaking in 1990.  Telling stories is easier to remember than a speech.  If you forget one, no one knows except YOU!
  • Don’t read a speech — it’s amazing how bad your eyelids look when you’re reading from a page – no matter how lovely you might look face to face!  Remember your points, maybe use bullet points on the page — but don’t READ!!
  • If you don’t have a podium or lecturn – DON”T HOLD YOUR NOTES!  The slightest shake of the hand makes paper flip, flop and flutter!!  Best to use file cards if you must!

10 Tips For Successful Public Speaking*


Feeling some nervousness before giving a speech is natural and healthy. It shows you care about doing well. But, too much nervousness can be detrimental. Here’s how you can control your nervousness and make effective, memorable presentations:

1. Know the room. Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.

2. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.

3. Know your material. If you’re not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech and revise it if necessary.

4. Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises.

5. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear, and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.

6. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative, and entertaining. They don’t want you to fail.

7. Don’t apologize. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you may be calling the audience’s attention to something they hadn’t noticed. Keep silent.

8. Concentrate on the message — not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties, and outwardly toward your message and your audience. Your nervousness will dissipate.

9. Turn nervousness into positive energy. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

10.   Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need


*rom web site – a wealth of information!

Speaking Engagements for Lawyers: yes or no?

For some lawyers, speaking engagements can potentially be a good strategy to include in legal marketing.  As you go out into the public — speaking to alumni groups, trade associations, networking organizations, conferences – – you build awareness of your brand. Never forget: you are your own brand.

Certainly, not all groups are worthwhile for all attorneys.

You do estate planning? An alumni group could be a wealth of new contacts for you. A tip: don’t immediately go to your local college alumni group. I live in Austin, Texas and the alumni groups for Rice University, Cornell University, and even M.I.T. are quite large.  Some people forget the out-of-town-school alumni groups.

You’re an IP attorney? That same M.I.T. alumni group has quarterly meetings for entrepreneurs who potentially could use an attorney a few months to a few years down the road as they lock in their designs and inventions.

You’re a corporate attorney? Same as above!  Potentially, almost everyone in a business networking environment is a potential client for an attorney who writes business contracts and the like.  So, it goes without saying, that those business networking events would be a great place to speak, as well!

You’re a divorce attorney? The local singles club. You think I’m kidding? Many “singles” are just not quite single yet. And let’s face it – many will divorce in the future, so why not have your name in their mind if that sad day comes along?

Another thing to remember: most industries have trade associations – you know that. Did you know that some trade associations get so specific that you can really target who you want to get in front of to an amazing degree? Obviously the Association of Corporate Counsel is a good choice to investigate.  The Association of Steel Manufacturers is another one that might not have rolled off your tongue.

The first thing you should know – don’t cast a wide net. Why not? Because you’re an attorney, not a sales person, and if you target 50 different groups or events (or even 25…..) you won’t possibly follow up with them, so why waste the time on the front end?

Here’s your assignment: take five.  Take five minutes and sit back and think “who is a potential target for my legal work?”  Write it down. (yes, now).  Since that probably only took 90 seconds, you have a few minutes to think up a few other types of clients. Go ahead; do it!  Now take another 5 minutes and think about organizations, or clubs, or other entities where those types of people might just be hanging out.  I only want you to write down FIVE!  You’re on your way to creating a “speaker target list” for contacting, later. (oh, wait – that might have scared you, huh? Ignore the phrase “for contacting, later.”  Don’t want you to chicken out before you start.)

Now, hand the list to your secretary and say “please research contacts in these organizations for me, would you? I’m going to try to get a few public speaking gigs to build my business.”  Now – you’re doing this for more than one reason.  You’re busy, chances are your assistant is not (oh, please, you know they read magazines and post on Facebook from work!).  Secondly, you probably won’t actually DO this part of the assignment. And third: now that someone else knows you are thinking about doing this, you’ll have some accountability.

When she gives you the list of contacts, it’s time for the fun part!

[see the next blog post]