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Should lawyers bother speaking at industry events if they’re consistent and prolific content creators?

Consistent, prolific content creation can provide lawyers more—and better—opportunities to build their prominence and their books of business than speaking at industry events can.

Conventional wisdom says lawyers should be speaking at industry events and conferences to build their prominence, their authority, and their books of business.

But if you’re a prolific and consistent creator of thought leadership content, do you need to be speaking at industry events like conferences to achieve these goals?

I’m not so sure you do.

If you’re a lawyer who consistently produces thought leadership content that’s calibrated to your target audience, you should be asking yourself whether you need to speak at industry events anymore.

Or, more specifically, can speaking at industry events provide you benefits that your content isn’t providing you already?

Prefer to watch a video about this topic instead? Here you go!

Consistent content creation can be more beneficial than speaking at industry events

When I compare speaking at industry events to ongoing consistent, prolific thought leadership content creation, I see benefits that you get from consistently creating content that you won’t get from speaking at events.

First, there’s the frequency. If you were pumping out blog posts a couple times a month; a weekly, biweekly, or monthly podcast; and/or videos at a similar clip, you’d be getting more bites at the apple than you could get by speaking at industry events.

Even when factoring in virtual events and webinars, if you’re a consistent and prolific content creator, you are almost always going to get more chances to get out in front of your audience when you are creating content than if you are speaking at industry events. There are only so many industry events you could speak at in a given year.

Second, with respect to your audience, there’s a good chance the audience you’re speaking to online is going to be bigger than your audiences at industry events.

If you think about all the ways you can disseminate your thought leadership content, such as through aggregators like JD Supra or Lexology, through third-party publications targeting the legal industry or the industries served by your clients, or through your law firm’s email blasts, you are almost certainly going to be reaching more people cumulatively than if you’re speaking at industry events.

Third, there’s the permanence of your content. When you produce a blog post, article, client alert, video, or a podcast and people are searching for you, or they’re searching for a topic you’ve covered, or they’re browsing and they somehow come across your content, your thought leadership content gets found. That’s because it is living on the internet and is discoverable by anyone on it.

When you speak at industry events, the presentations you give are ephemeral and probably not discoverable online down the road. Maybe they’re recorded and posted online, and maybe your slide deck will be posted online too. But even if they were, it is not likely to be done in a way that makes them as discoverable as your blog posts, videos, and other pieces of content.

Not every content creator will benefit more from content creation than from speaking at industry events

While prolific and consistent content creators will likely benefit more from thought leadership content creation than from speaking at industry events, occasional content creators will not.

Occasional content creators probably do not have established robust content distribution networks because they’re not consistent and serious about their content creation and distribution and/or haven’t spent the time to build up their followings.

If a content creator is not leveraging JD Supra or Lexology, is not getting published in third-party publications, only occasionally posts on LinkedIn to their 200 followers, and they’re otherwise not making an effort to be found by their target audience, they’re unlikely to have their content seen by more people than would see them speak at industry events.

Also, occasional content creators are unlikely to be as efficient as prolific creators.

Prolific content creators have their creation process down to a science (at least to them). They can easily pump out thought leadership content within a few hours that can last them weeks if they (or their colleagues) are ardent repurposers of their content.

This can make their content creation efforts more efficient than speaking at industry events when factoring in travel time and the time needed to create presentations for each speaking opportunity. But occasional content creators will likely find it more efficient to occasionally travel to and prepare for a speaking opportunity than to consistently churn out content.

Of course, there’s something to be said about the return on investment of content creation versus speaking engagements. If it takes three times as long to consistently create thought leadership content than it does to travel to and prepare for speaking opportunities, but an attorney sees five times as many business development opportunities or five times as much revenue from their content efforts versus speaking opportunities, it is easy to see which path the attorney should continue down.

A word about networking at industry events

I’m not advocating that attorneys skip industry events entirely. These events provide important networking opportunities, opportunities for serendipitous conversations to take place, and opportunities to spend quality time with clients and referral sources.

My point is that attorneys may not need to focus as much on speaking at industry events as conventional wisdom says they should given the benefits that consistent, prolific content creation can provide.

(There will be people who say that if during COVID attorneys were able to network virtually via Zoom, LinkedIn, and other tools, they can do it again even with in-person events back in the picture. I don’t disagree with them. But in-person networking should not be avoided if possible given the magical relationship-building benefits of face-to-face interactions.

To speak or not to speak?

If you create, publish, and distribute a consistent stream of thought leadership content, will you reach more people through that content than you would by speaking at an industry event?

Could you avoid spending time and energy preparing for speaking opportunities at industry events because the content you’re consistently creating is building your thought leadership, your authority, and your prominence in the eyes of your audiences by living on the internet and being discoverable?

For certain lawyers, the answer is “Yes!”

It might seem crazy to not actively attempt to speak at every industry event your target audience will attend in favor of consistently producing blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, and other forms of thought leadership content.

But given the frequency, reach, and permanence of those types of thought leadership content, for consistent and prolific content creators, the crazy thing to do might be to focus on speaking opportunities at the expense of continuing to build their authority and audience by building their libraries of content.

Thinking about bringing on an outside writer to help your law firm strategize and create compelling thought-leadership marketing and business development content? Click here to schedule a 30-minute Content Strategy Audit to learn if collaborating with an outside writer is the right move for you and your firm.

Wayne Pollock, a former Am Law 50 senior litigation associate, is the founder of Copo Strategies, a legal services and communications firm, and the Law Firm Editorial Service, a content strategy and ghostwriting service for lawyers and their law firms. The Law Firm Editorial Service helps Big Law and boutique law firm partners, and their firms, grow their practices and prominence by collaborating with them to strategize and ethically ghostwrite book-of-business-building marketing and business development content.

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