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Rocking Your First (or Next) CLE Presentation

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By: The NBI Team

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Rocking Your First (or Next) CLE Presentation

How do you start teaching CLE courses? And once you decide to speak, how can you make it a highly valuable experience for you and your audience? Whether you’ve yet to present a CLE, or you teach on a regular basis, here’s what you need to know to rock your first or next CLE presentation.

Why Present a CLE?

While preparing for and presenting CLEs takes hard work, many speakers find that the personal and professional benefits make it worth the investment.

When you teach in your profession, you not only have the satisfaction of advancing others, but the great advantage of sharpening the saw.

– Attorney Douglas Horn, NBI Faculty


The process requires you to review the material until you know it inside and out. It also provides an opportunity to promote your practice, hone your public speaking skills, add to your credentials, and give back to the legal community. Presenting CLEs can be a great way to get your name out, like in our Faculty Directory. Some states offer additional credit for presenting CLEs versus attending them, so it can help you fulfill your CLE requirements.

Proposing and Selecting CLE Topics

You should present on topics you feel passionate about and that you fully understand. If you love the content and you know it cold, it will show in your presentation.

Try to pick a topic that appeals to attendees. Whether it concerns an interesting legal development or a traditional topic that new attorneys need to know, it should garner interest and fit your audience’s learning needs.

Stick to topics that fall within your expertise and experience. The best CLE presentations come from attorneys with years of hands-on experience with the content. If you want to speak for us, fill out a form on our Speak for Us page. And if there’s a specific topic you want to teach or learn about, you could recommend the topic within your My Account.

Tips for Preparing PowerPoints and Materials

Keep Slides Short and Sweet

Sticking to main points on your slides makes it easier for everyone to follow along and improves comprehension. Attendees don’t like when presenters read directly from slides or use them to convey lengthy rules of law like statutes, so leave the details for your written materials and hit the highlights in your PowerPoint presentation. Some ways to do this include using bullet points, using key phrases, and avoiding long paragraphs. In addition, think about how color scheme and visual design affects readability. Incorporate graphics and visual aids to add flavor to your presentation, and make sure the font size is large enough for attendees to read.

Preparing Written Materials

When preparing written materials, aim to provide resources that will help attendees in practice—flow charts, checklists, case law, documents, letters, top ten lists, sample forms, and intake questionnaires are a few good examples. You should also provide additional details and supplemental information that you couldn’t fully cover during your presentation.

Start Preparing Early

Keep the agenda, copy, and learning objectives in mind as you prepare to ensure your presentation aligns. If something in the agenda or copy doesn’t make sense, or you want to omit/revise a topic, contact the CLE provider ASAP. CLE providers are often happy to adjust the agenda, however, if you skip topics without letting them know, attendees will be disappointed that topics weren’t covered and it could potentially impact CLE credit for the event.

Check Your Technology and Your Surroundings

Regardless of your technology skills, test out all the equipment prior to the day of the event. You should use high-speed internet to present and test your connectivity on our system test page prior to the presentation date. Your physical surroundings will be on full display and you don’t want them to distract from your presentation, so keep it professional, declutter, check your lighting and camera angle, silence your cell phone, and limit any and all potential distractions.

Promote Your CLE on Social Media

Want more people to sign up for your program? Share the CLE announcement on LinkedIn, your website, and other social networking sites to drive attendance and show your network what you’re up to. As we mentioned in our LinkedIn & Networking Tips for Lawyers blog, this is a great way to start conversations with your network.

Best Practices for Presenting the CLE

Case Studies and “War” Stories are Your Friends, in Moderation

Attendees want to learn from your personal experience. Telling stories and going over case studies are great ways to get points across and explain concepts in more detail. However, try not to get off track. Stick to the agenda and always tie things back to the subject at hand. It’s one thing to tell a story to add practical context to the law being discussed, but it’s another thing to go on an unrelated tangent. Along the same lines, tread carefully with jokes.

Engage and Interact with Your Audience

One benefit of virtual CLE presentations is the variety of engagement tools available on modern streaming platforms. Take advantage of polls, pose questions to your audience, and interact with attendees to enhance your presentation.



Another way to encourage engagement is to refer to the materials throughout the CLE presentation. Say things like, “On page 9 of your materials, you’ll see x.” However, don’t read directly from the materials or PowerPoint slides. One of the biggest CLE mistakes is presenting dry data without storytelling and examples. You should also avoid reading directly from slides or materials and reciting excerpts from legislation or cases.

Finally, get comfortable with the subject matter and rehearse your CLE presentation ahead of time. As stated by Attorney Rebecca Bowman, NBI faculty, “storytelling loses its punch if you stumble around.” If you can, practice with a timer, too; make sure you aren’t rushing through any points and that you have enough material prepared to fill the time slot . Going the fully allotted agenda time helps ensure the program stays on pace and attendees get the advertised CLE credit for the program.

Touch Base with Co-Presenters Ahead of Time

If you are presenting the CLE with another person, try to contact them prior to the event to make sure your presentations complement each other. Also, try to follow the order of the advertised agenda; when presenters jump around, it makes it harder for attendees to follow along. One suggestion from Bowman is to make an outline within the outline provided to you. “It will help you stay on point and associate like topics together.”

Speak Up

Make sure attendees can hear and understand you. “Your voice is the most important component of your presentation,” Bowman shares. “Some voices could read a dictionary and be engaging. Other voices could announce invasion by aliens and be boring. Clarity of speech, projection, variety in vocal pitch, and variety in vocal texture make up the components of successful (or dismal) delivery.”

Have any tips you’d like to share for aspiring CLE presenters? Let us know!

Wondering what types of topics we typically cover in our CLE programs? Check out our Course Catalog, and sign up for an Unlimited CLE Subscription today!

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