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I love the summer! Even in the UK, where we can reasonably expect four season’s worth of weather in one week, the summer is glorious! BBQs, weddings, hosepipe bans (not so much any more but still a stalwart indication of the British summer) are all things we come to enjoy during the summer months here upon the Isles of Blighty.
Let’s start with weddings – I have been to two this summer, one of which I had the honour of being best man. This is a duty I have taken on several times now over the last 3 or 4 years and with this comes the obligation (or more the pleasure) of the speech. There are many who will fear the speech, will stress about it or perhaps even obsess over it. I however relish the opportunity; not least because I do genuinely enjoy being the centre of attention but more because it’s an opportunity to make a grown man cry with fear. I’m not actually that cruel – so far I have actually been very nice in delivering speeches, mostly because I fear the repercussions that I may endure one day if I am on the receiving end of such a speech. But, let me bring you back to the fear; you’re in a room attempting to hold the attention of people you may know very well, some you don’t know so well and others that you have never laid eyes on before let alone spoken to. This fear can be likened to that which you might feel when attending an interview for the first time. You’re nervous, your lips start to tremble and your hands start to shake. Suddenly, you completely forget how to speak or that you’re even conscious of what you’re doing and soon enough you start to panic and have absolutely no idea why you’re there or what to say to these people. It can be truly terrifying! Or, it can be the best opportunity of your life. The expectations in delivering a best man’s speech are no different to being the interviewee. You want to make a good impression and your audience want you to make a good impression. You want to prove your worth for the role and your audience want you to prove your worth for the role. On both sides of the table in an interview (and a wedding) both sides want the same outcome: success! The same can be said for BBQs, whether it’s a £3 disposable from Morrisons scorching a patch in the grass on your local park, or the extravagant gas powered lean mean cooking machine from B&Q that will only get used once a year, both the hosts and the guests want the same outcome, to leave with happy memories and not feeling sick (stories of undercooked meat and copious amounts of cider are saved for another blog…)
Without the overall message getting lost I think it’s important I draw your attention back to the purpose; what is there to fear? On a day to day basis I will speak to recruiting Partners at leading firms about the needs for their teams, what they’re looking for in candidates and how a person can make the right impression at interview. On the other side of the coin, I also speak to candidates about what said Partners are looking for, how they can fit within the team and how to make the best impression at interview. Some of the techniques you can employ to quell these fears are no different to the same I have used to before delivering a speech:
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. Researching your interview panel ahead of schedule can really help you to understand more of what they’re looking for. Keep in mind they have already seen your CV, so now it’s just up to you to talk to these people and make a mark.
2. KEEP IT RELEVANT. There is no harm in striking a rapport and going slightly off topic, but bringing it back to the point allows you to maintain the professional impression and highlight how serious you’re taking the opportunity. There are horror stories of fainting grandmothers and angry fathers of the bride following wedding speeches so, keeping this in mind, sticking to the point is one of the keys to success.
3. PACE. No, not the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (given that I specialise in Commercial Property, it’s highly unlikely that I am giving you interview tips for a meeting with the CPS) Keep a steady flow, not speaking too fast or too slow. This ensures that your audience will both understand what you’re saying and be engaged in what you’re saying.
4. PRACTICE. I spent several hours delivering my speeches to other groomsmen, my brother-in-law and even my Dad before the actual performance. Before you make your way to an interview consider what the key questions might be, why they want to know that and what you would say. Also, what questions do you have for them and why?
5. RELAX. Take a deep breath and just remember to be yourself. Remember, everyone wants the same outcome.
The reality is whenever you attend an interview you have the chance to seize an opportunity that could very well change your life. Yes this can be daunting, but it can also be exciting. It’s worth embracing, it’s worth relishing and it’s certainly worth enjoying. Whether you’re an NQ, an associate, a paralegal or a Partner all signs point to a wealth of opportunities in the legal world (and a few more weeks’ decent weather) on the horizon, and you have nothing to fear. So, if you’re a Lawyer within the Private Practice sphere or In-House looking for a new challenge, firms are looking to recruit across all levels from NQ to Partner. BCL Legal can help you find that new role.