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Online Innovators Disrupting CPD?

The ABA released its usual “Websites Lawyers Love” list earlier this spring. The list highlights author picks from the “60 Sites in 60 Seconds” session of the annual ABA TechShow. Included among the “More Websites..” follow-up is free online course provider Coursera.

Another sign that CLE may be ripe for disruption? I think so. Looks like lawyers may be starting to catch up with the online revolution that’s sweeping the education industry. Check out Websites Lawyers Love here and More Websites Lawyers Love here, and Coursera here.

Drama Class

Lawyers’ love for the stage is as old as the legal profession. The ABA, in its annual focus on lawyers and culture, last August devoted its cover story to the Theatre’s 12 Greatest Courtroom Dramas. With so much interest from lawyers in the craft of the actor, it makes sense that we may have something to learn from actors.

Acting workshops for lawyers have been offered in the U.S. since at least the 1970’s. More recently, mandatory CPD has led to a resurgence of these programs on both sides of the border. Can acting classes improve lawyers’ presentation skills? I think in most cases they can. Perhaps more importantly, I’m convinced they can improve lawyers’ confidence levels in the courtroom. But be warned – it’s a bit of a mind shift. The first time I hosted one of these workshops I cynically thought “breathing and vocalizing exercises? How are we ever going to get people to stay beyond the first break?”

I overlooked how open-minded and extroverted lawyers can be. They not only stayed through the first break, but also through lunch and then the afternoon break, and at the end of the day, they were singing the presenter’s and the program’s praises. That workshop, The Powerful Performance, was presented three years ago by Touchstone Theatre Director Katrina Dunn. Today, Touchstone Training is Canada’s best known provider of acting-based presentation skills training for lawyers. Dunn’s one-day course is offered in BC through the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, and in Ontario through The Advocates’ Society. So go ahead, get on stage. And get CPD credit for it.

10 Money Saving AV Tips

Audio visual equipment is probably the number one budget line where hidden costs can quickly spiral out of control, so it’s an important line to keep in focus. At the same time, experienced program coordinators know that the “right” AV budget is all about balance – cutting corners (verses excessive costs) can lead to serious problems. Here are 10 suggestions for making the most of the budget you have:

1. Work with the venue’s existing inventory of equipment. As soon as they have to source out, your costs go up.

2. Don’t assume you need extra audio. In many cases, particularly in newer venues, the house sound system will be adequate.

3. If your presenters are stationary ie. do not walk and talk at the same time, consider a podium and wired microphones. Wired microphones are less expensive and also less prone to interference than wireless microphones. Unless you absolutely need a lavaliere, don’t order one; they’re expensive and they usual entail babysitting.

4. Internet charges almost always have lots of room for negotiation. If you take the standard package rate, you’re probably paying too much.

5. Scrutinize labour costs. Some AV suppliers will try to charge you as much for for tear down as they do for set up. Tear down takes less time so should be about half or three-quarters of what you pay for set up. Minimums are a killer.

6. Skip the dress kit. Don’t order draping for screens unless you need it; most of your audience won’t know the difference.

7. Rent only the projector quality and screen size that you need. Ask for recommendations for minimum requirements, and photos of similar set-ups in the past.

8. Think carefully about how presenters will use PowerPoint. If the screens aren’t for camera feed and instead will be used only for PowerPoint, you might be able to get away with fewer screens.

9. Lighting costs are in many cases unnecessary and can quickly outspend traditional audiovisual components. Most venues, including hotels, usually have adequate lighting options as is. Spend your money on other AV upgrades or save it all together.

10. Reconfirm presenters’ AV needs just before the program. Few things are more frustrating than paying for equipment you don’t need because presenters’ original needs have changed.

Saving money on AV usually comes down to a few key questions. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for explanations. Like Dick Cheney said “I plead guilty. I ask a hell of a lot of questions. That’s my job.”

15 Ways to Stretch your F & B Budget

Sooner or later nearly every CLE provider has to run a program off-site. Especially if venue options are limited, it’s easy to become held hostage to inflated catering costs. Before you know it, food and beverages are your make or break line. Here are fifteen ways to try and keep your F & B budget grounded:

1. Make your guaranteed minimum cut-off date for food orders as late as possible – if you can, 48 hours before the program.

2. Always reduce your guarantees for the “no-show” factor – attrition at larger CLE programs is usually in the 10 to 12% range.

3. Consider ordering a la carte from the add-on menu instead of ordering the full continental.

4. Use breakfast breads (ie, banana, cranberry, etc.) instead of more expensive muffins or danishes (the latter of which are often syrupy and go to waste anyway).

5. If you order bagels, ask that they be quartered. It cuts costs and avoid a lot of waste.

6. If you order fruit, you can often pass on juice (which is outrageously expensive). Whole fruit is usually less expensive and can be recycled for meals and breaks later in the day.

7. If you order juice, this can often be provided by the pitcher less expensively than in bottles. You can usually be pretty conservative with juice orders too – fewer people want it than you think.

8. Order coffee by the litre, not the person, and ask the venue to provide smaller cups.

9. Always order breakfast breads and afternoon snacks by the dozen, never by the person.

10. Order as much food and beverage as possible by “consumption.” Canned and bottled drinks, and uneaten packaged food like chips and granola bars, can often be returned and not charged.

11. Bottled water is expensive. Compare the cost of water coolers and water service with bottles. Consider ordering cases of branded water if the venue permits this, for example, to be provided by a sponsor.

12. If you haven’t advertised lunch as part of the registration fee and there are lots of quick lunch options nearby, don’t offer it.

13. If you do include lunch, consider box or bag lunches rather than plated.

14. Save desserts included with lunch for the afternoon coffee break. Most people don’t expect dessert with lunch, and it saves on a second sweet/snack order.

15. Re-use what you can. Cover uneaten breakfast breads and save them for the coffee break. If you order juice by the bottle and it isn’t on consumption, make it available at lunch or the afternoon break.

In my experience, when you have to go off-site, a little creative thinking goes a long way to achieving a manageable F & B budget. Honesty doesn’t hurt either. If a venue wants your business, they’ll help you work with the budget you have. So do yourself a favour and know your budget in advance.