The Fairmont Miramar hosted the National Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association annual conference last month. I attended to see what these people are all about. In theory, they are my people. As lawyers, we have much in common, a love of language, a soft spot for the underdog, an inherent rebelliousness and willingness to stand up to authority and say No when it is both appropriate and inappropriate.
There were about 100—150 people of many different stripes at the event. As usual with criminal defense lawyers, there was the aging, pony-tailed, hippie lawyer who had the faint aroma of marijuana and contempt for authority. This being a “White Collar” defense convention there were more than the usual number of buttoned up, suited types than normally would be at a criminal defense convention.
It was a well-produced event, and unlike most of the legal based conventions and conferences I attend, had far fewer exhibitors than normally attend these events. The companies and industries that are working so hard to capture the legal dollar for support services usually send a team of super attractive, charming people that are trying to get into our wallets.
As a group, lawyers are intriguing to me. Sometimes they are very social, those are the Personal Injury and Family Law attorneys. Usually they are far more reserved and shy. Many lawyers are the studious kind who would be content if they were left alone in a lower sub-basement with some books and the occasional pizza tossed in for sustenance.
The typical image of a lawyer is usually one of aggressiveness, in your face, defending someone’s rights, always striving for the tv news camera. While I certainly know more than my fair share of them, heck I resemble that often, the truth is that most lawyers run from the limelight and want to avoid being that character. It’s a classic example of the squeaky wheel syndrome.
I’ve thought of myself as a member of this tribe, the lawyers, for almost 20 years now. And I certainly have my moments when I can be aggressive, in your face, and defending the rights of the downtrodden.
But lawyers are not really my tribe.
I found my true people. The ones who I have an instant affinity with. It’s the speaking industry.
This weekend I’ve been at the National Speaker’s Association annual conference Influence. I’m in Dallas Texas with 1300 other people who love to get up on a stage, be in a conference room or training facility sharing what they know with others. It is amazing to see the number of ways that people use their passions and skills as professional speakers to help educate, energize and empower others.
As a professional speaker, I’ve had the opportunity to be in front of a room full of people and share what I know, whether that is about domestic violence, podcasting or any myriad of topics. Being in Dallas with 1300 other people who do the same thing, but in unique ways, has been an exhilarating and inspiring experience.
The community of professional speakers is very different from that of law. These people are outgoing, funny, open, warm, charming, inspiring and helpful. The lawyers, not so much.
When I was in Auckland, New Zealand in March, I met many people from across the globe who speak professionally. Then when I was in Johannesburg, South Africa in April, I met more, but also some of the friends I made in New Zealand came to S. Africa. This weekend, again I was meeting up with friends that I had been to both of those countries with. It’s a wonderful experience to travel the world and see friends, and share stories with new friends about traveling the world.
Saturday was the ice cream social day. I found myself in a conference room with a bowl of ice cream and but one other person at the table. Before I know it we’re having a very personal, intimate conversation about life goals, inspiration and family history.
The nature of being a professional speaker is making connections. If you cannot connect with the audience, you cannot be a good speaker. The nature of being a lawyer is being objective, if you cannot be objective you cannot be a good lawyer. That is why the personal injury and family law attorneys are more outgoing. It’s about making connections with a judge or a jury, connecting with your clients and their needs.
But there’s something more I have found, that is the community which gets built. With the lawyers, they come together for professional education and keep their distance from each other. Not so with professional speakers. They come together to shorten the distance between each other and get some professional education. This community wants to be connected with each other, to support each other, to support our industry and to create more opportunity for all of us.
I am a proud member of the National Speakers Association, and the Global Speakers Federation because of the friends and connections I have made around the world. That is the point of conventions and conferences – to bring us together. To be a tribe.