This post was written in collaboration with Nancy Hupp.


There is a time and place for big meals—on Thanksgiving for example—but generally we’d all be a lot healthier if we ate less. Health concerns aside, eating big meals makes you tired. Likewise, attending a “big” CLE can wipe you out.


A glance around in the middle of an all-day CLE inevitably reveals some nodding heads, some doodlers, empty seats, and a crossword-puzzler-doer or two. Most try to stay engaged, but after three or four hours, often find themselves listless.


Sometimes the big lunch does you in.


Sometimes the culprit is the topic. Not sure Ellen DeGeneres or Jimmy Fallon could do much with the intricacies of the UCC.


Sometimes, the presenter in a problem. Some are worse than others and the dull factor has nothing to do with how well they know the topic. Even the most erudite speakers can dull the wits of an audience by reading their materials aloud. The only thing worse than a bad PowerPoint presentation is a bad PowerPoint presentation read to you.


Even engaging speakers lecturing on fascinating material, however, can wear one down. The culprit? Information overload. For a while you sit attentively and try to absorb information, but then supersize factor kicks in—you become overwhelmed and tired. You start resenting those who lengthen the presentation by asking questions. You start thinking, “I can zone out a bit. The written material is well done, and I will study it when I get back to the office.” I suspect few do, but rather, refer to the materials as needed.


I am, no doubt, preaching to the choir. You know CLEs are required, you all attend, and you’ve all nodded off. So why my rant? To inspire you to rise up and take your place as a discerning consumer.


Tips for attendees

  • Look at who is presenting. Knowledgeable and riveting don’t always inhabit the same body.
  • Cut lunch short and go for a walk.
  • Check out webcasts, on-demand CLEs. Stand or walk or do sit-ups while you listen.
  • Fill out the surveys distributed at presentations. Let CLE providers know about good and not-so-good speakers.
  • Suggest topics to CLE providers.
  • Laugh at speakers’ jokes. At least they are trying.
  • Don’t wait and force yourself into fulfilling 45 hours of CLE into one month!!! (I know, best laid plans . . . )
  • And the most obvious of all–go to shorter presentations. Half-day seminars, lunchtime or breakfast presentations work well. Or check out my earlier post on free CLEs. They tend to be short.


Tips for presenters

  • PowerPoint slides—less is more. Fewer slides, fewer words on each slide.
  • Create materials and organize them for easy reference later.
  • Remember—a picture is worth one thousand words . . . how about including a screen shot in your materials?
  • Always, always put yourself in the position of the listener. Think about what seminars you’ve gotten a lot out of and emulate them.
  • Take advantage of the bells and whistles available with current software to make your presentation interesting.
  • People learn differently, use visuals, written materials, lecture, questions etc. Think about what makes a good teacher.


Ah. I am done now. Thanks for listening.


Karin Ciano
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Karin Ciano

Attorney at Law at Karin Ciano Law
Karin Ciano is a former federal career clerk in solo practice who likes to meet good people, work on interesting cases, and get back into federal court whenever she can. She practices civil rights and employment law, and she is also a freelance attorney who assists other attorneys with putting their best foot forward in federal cases. She is also the Twin Cities director of Custom Counsel LLC, the freelance legal network, and one of the co-founders of the Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network.
Karin Ciano
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