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ABACLE Speaker Guide and Best Practices

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.”  –Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Thank you for volunteering! 

We couldn't do what we do without dedicated members who volunteer their time and expertise to ensure the success of ABA programs. Your ABA staff team is here to guide you through the process of creating your program, organizing your content, and presenting in a manner that your sophisticated audience expects.

Here are your key speaker responsibilities: 

  1. Finalize your proposal - Prepare your program for a legal audience. If the program qualifies for specialty credit (e.g. Ethics), prepare appropriate learning objectives.
  2. Complete the ABA Speaker Release - The legal form that the ABA requires all speakers to sign beforehand, to present at an ABA program or event.
  3. Plan your presentation – Schedule a planning call to discuss how you would like to organize the content, engage with the audience, and which presentation tools to use.
  4. Create substantive course materials - Thorough, high-quality, and substantive documents that reference the actual content presented during the live program (e.g. presentation slides/detailed outline).
  5. Prepare for your presentation - Avoid technical issues by preparing your space and pre-testing your device’s connection to the webinar platform. Familiarize yourself with the webinar technology and run-of-show.
  6. Connect for the pre-call review and present - Before the program starts, do a formal soundcheck, review the technology, and discuss last-minute details. During the live presentation, follow the run-of-show.
  7. Answer questions during and after the program – Give priority to audience questions during the live program and afterward when the program becomes an On-Demand course.

Finalize Your Proposal

‎‎Being mindful of MCLE accreditation standards will help get your final proposal approved.

‎‎Being mindful of MCLE accreditation standards will help get your final proposal approved.

Finalizing your proposal is the first step to starting the program planning process. Once your proposal is approved for production, ABA can start setting up your webinar and open registration.

Your proposal should target attorneys with a focus on practicing law, discussing law, or on topics that impact the legal profession. Programs that discuss marketing, business development, rainmaking, or career development do NOT qualify for CLE credit. If the program qualifies for specialty credit (e.g. Ethics, Elimination of Bias/Diversity, Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Professionalism, or Wellness), include the appropriate learning objectives.

Your final proposal should include: 

  • Brief Description: 2-3 sentences summarizing what the program will discuss.
  • Long Description: 3-5 sentences or more providing additional details about the program discussion.
  • Learning Objectives: Action items that your participants should be able to do by the end of the program.

ABA Programs that Qualify for MCLE Credit

Complete the ABA Speaker Release

Please complete the online Speaker Release form as provided to you by ABA staff. The ABA requires each speaker to complete this form beforehand, to present at any ABA program or event. Each form is content‐specific, so we must have one for each speaker at each program/event. Any changes to the ABA speaker release must be approved by the ABA General Counsel’s office. Since the review/approval of changes can take a few days, we recommend completing the speaker release form as soon as possible.

The main components of the release are:

  • Confirmation that the presented material (spoken or written form) is original to the speaker or that the speaker has permission to use the material.
  • Permission for the ABA to use the speaker's presentation and materials at the presentation and for post-program use including any on-demand sessions.
  • Acknowledgement of the ABA Open Meetings Policy

Plan Your Presentation

Don’t let the program day be the first time you meet with your panel! Instead, ask your ABA Staff Contact to schedule a brief meeting that will allow you and other webinar panelists to discuss the webinar topic and get to know each other.

On the planning call, you can:

  1. Organize the presentation and assign who will present each portion.
  2. Discuss MCLE requirements and ABA Copyright Guidance so that you know how to structure your content and course materials.
  3. Select which presentation tools you would like to use and decide whether to schedule a technical call before the day of the program.
  4. Designate a moderator to introduce the other speakers, field questions, and close the program on time.
  5. Review the program run-of-show and what will happen on the day of the live event.

ABA Best Practices 

  • It is good practice to increase faculty interaction by breaking up the discussion with questions and comments. A change in voice every 10 minutes keeps the audience focused and enhances retention.
  • Use the ABA PowerPoint template provided to be consistent with our branding.  We also encourage adding visual elements and keeping information on slides to a minimum. For presentation slides, a good rule of thumb is 10 slides for every 20 minutes of content.
  • The substantive portion of the program must run to the scheduled end time including the opportunity for Q&A. If there are no live questions you should plan to fill in this time with any content-related discussion (e.g. additional content, pre-planned pocket questions, takeaways, etc.)

Test-Drive BeaconLive CLE Studio

‎‎Test your webinar technology to see how the equipment and interactive components work together.

‎‎Test your webinar technology to see how the equipment and interactive components work together.

To comply with MCLE regulations, the ABA has partnered with BeaconLive to host CLE programs. BeaconLive is fully integrated with the ABA’s systems for membership and registration. This allows the platform to track attendee participation and issue CLE certificates. Additionally, BeaconLive provides reporting and a dedicated Operator/Technician for each webinar.  

Speakers should try to participate via a laptop, desktop PC, or Mac. Participating via an iPad or phone will create issues in the speaker's ability to see the webinar platform and their ease of participation. Google Chrome is the preferred web browser, but Firefox and Microsoft Edge are acceptable too.

Your BeaconLive web session includes:

  • Slide Player: Presentation slides are directly uploaded into the web session so that you can advance them in the studio without sharing your screen. PowerPoint animation support is NOT available (i.e. moving text, slide transitions, etc.) but you can achieve the look of animation by duplicating slides or by simply using the screenshare tool.
  • Webcam: Connect to your laptop’s webcam or select external devices for video and audio output. To reduce connection issues, close VPN and any other software that might be taking control of their camera or microphone (e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams). Virtual background support is NOT available so be mindful that what’s in view of your camera is visible to all.
  • Poll/Survey: Poll questions are set up at your request. Single-choice and multiple-choice polling formats are both supported and can be launched one at a time or simultaneously. This tool can also be used for finding out the makeup of your audience, posing hypotheticals, pop-quizzing, or requesting feedback.
  • Studio Chat: Use to send private messages to the other speakers and supporting staff throughout the program. The attendees do not see these communications.
  • Public Chat: Use to send messages to the attendees throughout the program. Attendees can view and respond to these communications as well as messages from other attendees.
  • Video/Audio Playback: Media files are uploaded into the web session so that you can play them during the live event. Send the original file(s) to your ABA Staff Contact by email along with copyright permission, if required.
  • Screenshare: Use to show slides that contain animation, to demonstrate software applications, and to navigate websites from your computer. This tool is NOT needed for presentation slides that are uploaded directly into the platform.
  • Audience Q&A: A private queue that holds live audience questions.  Attendees do not see this queue, nor do they see questions submitted by other participants. So, feel free to pick and choose the questions you would like to answer during the program and skip the ones you prefer not to address.

Test-Drive BeaconLive CLE

Watch a few ABA program clips!

Create Substantive Course Materials

All MCLE state regulators require thorough, high-quality, and carefully prepared substantive written materials for each CLE program or session. Although each speaker does not have to submit written materials, it is the collective responsibility of speakers to prepare written materials that meet these requirements. Failure to submit written materials by the deadline may result in no CLE credit or cancellation of the program.

Why are substantive written materials required?

There are three reasons that MCLE regulators require written materials be provided to attendees for all CLE programs:

  1. It ensures thorough course preparation by the provider and speakers.
  2. It ensures that the attendees will be provided with materials that are useful after the course is completed.
  3. It allows MCLE Boards to evaluate the quality and nature of the course and ensure that the actual subject matter is being covered and is appropriate for accreditation purposes.

What happens if my course materials do NOT meet the requirements?

MCLE regulators will deny CLE credit for a program that does not have thorough, high-quality, carefully prepared substantive written materials. So, the more robust the course materials are, the better chance we have of appealing those decisions. Also, some jurisdictions require the ABA to ensure the quality of written materials even when they don’t review them directly. This means that the ABA’s reputation as a CLE provider can be jeopardized if course materials do not meet the requirements. Thus, we will review the course materials for sufficiency and provide feedback to ensure that they will meet MCLE requirements.

Here's a Good Example of Course Materials

Download the CLE Course Materials Guide

ABA Best Practices

There are generally two ways to satisfy/exceed MCLE requirements:

  1. Minimalist slides along with a good paper
  2. Robust slides that eliminate the need for a paper

If you don’t plan to use presentation slides, you must include substantive content with some sort of item specific to the presentation (e.g. a detailed outline with citations and quotes)

You can also include additional course materials such as these:

  • Articles, White Papers, and Book Chapters
  • Court decisions, Statutes, and Regulations
  • Templates, Forms, and Checklists
  • Links to online articles and other resources

ABA Copyright Guidance

‎‎Use royalty-free and creative common licensed images to avoid copyright infringement.

‎‎Use royalty-free and creative common licensed images to avoid copyright infringement.

Copyright protects works of creative authorship that are fixed into a tangible medium of expression (e.g. text, photographs, artwork, movies, and music). Copyright infringement occurs when copyrighted works are used without permission from the copyright holder.  Speakers should seek copyright permission for the use of all copyrighted works in their presentation and course materials unless they are public domain/record, royalty-free or self-created. ABA publishings are available upon request through your ABA Staff Contact.

Areas of risk for the ABA:

  • Photographs, videos, articles, or other materials from the Internet: While work published on the Internet may be publicly accessible, it does not mean it is in the “public domain”. A work falls into the public domain once copyright expires; in the U.S. this will be 70 years after the author’s death. It is safer to assume the work is NOT in the public domain and needs permission to use.
  • “Fair Use” Defense: The understanding that because we are a non-profit, most of the copyrighted material we use is considered “fair use”. Fair use factors (purpose of use, nature of work, amount used, economic impact on work) are part of a subjective analysis decided on by a judge or jury. Fair use is a complicated and difficult defense to assert. The bottom line is to err on the side of obtaining permission.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement:

  • Royalty-free Images: Use websites that offer royalty-free images (no compensation due to owner -- e.g. Pixabay, Pexels, Pikwizard, Freerange, Unsplash, Microsoft Office Stock Images)
  • Creative Common License: Pay attention to the specific restrictions of the license – many times attribution is required. That means that you must credit the author/creator of the image (e.g., Photo Credit: First Name, Last Name). On Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, check the “Creative Commons” box when searching for images.

Prepare for Your Presentation

‎‎Practice your presentation and familiarize yourself with the webinar technology.

‎‎Practice your presentation and familiarize yourself with the webinar technology.

A week before the live program, the ABACLE Program Associate will send you a program script which is essentially an outline of what will happen on the day of the program. You can review this outline to familiarize yourself with the run-of-show and rehearse any language designated in the script for you to read.

Add a personal touch to your ABA Speaker Profile by uploading a photo, bio, or resume. You can update these details by logging onto myABA. If you have issues accessing your profile, please contact your ABACLE Program Associate.

Do your best to avoid technical problems by testing your location and device well ahead of time. ABA staff will provide testing instructions and coordinate tech support if you need assistance. If your location and device pass testing, plan to use the same location and device for the live event.

Make sure to:

  1. Pick a quiet location, preferably one that has a door that you can close.
  2. Tidy up if you need to; what’s in view of your camera is visible to all!
  3. Test your webcam connection: 
    1. Use only a PC/Mac.
    2. Use Google Chrome web browser for the best experience.
    3. Disconnect from VPN, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams before connecting.
  4. Place soft, indirect light in front of you and adjust the webcam so it’s at eye level.
  5. Compare your Wi-Fi and hard wire connection to see which is the most stable.
  6. Review the program script to familiarize yourself with the run-of-show.
  7. Prepare pocket questions in case the live audience doesn’t ask much.

Connect for the Pre-Call Review and Present

‎‎Present your webinar in a quiet, non-distracting location.

‎‎Present your webinar in a quiet, non-distracting location.

We request that speakers connect at least 45 minutes before the program start time for a formal soundcheck, technical review, and to allow time for any last-minute details to be discussed before going live. ABA staff will remind you to silence anything that might make noise in your location before the recording of your program begins.

Once you go live on the air:

  1. The program will start with the Beacon Live Operator’s housekeeping notes. The Operator will introduce the moderator who will introduce the rest of the panel and kick off the discussion.
  2. The speakers will present their planned content using the tools/features they selected.
  3. The program ends with a +/- 15-minute Q&A. Speakers have the option to amend that time or take questions throughout the program.
  4. The program ends with the moderator’s housekeeping notes. The moderator will hand the program back to the Operator who will close the program for the attendees and stop the recording.
  5. The Operator will let you know it is safe to speak off-air so that the speakers can debrief and discuss how the program went.

Don’t forget to collect your CLE credit. On the day of your program, you will receive an email from ABA MCLE containing a link to complete your CLE request affidavit online. Please contact the ABACLE Program Associate if you cannot locate your form.

Answer Questions During and After the Program

The program must have an opportunity for question-and-answer to meet interactivity requirements. The speaker designated as “Moderator” should field the questions submitted to the panel. Decide how you would like to address questions (in real-time, at the end, intermittently, or a combination of these). If no questions are asked, speakers should prepare “pocket questions” to ask each other or additional content to continue the discussion until the scheduled end time. Ending early may jeopardize CLE credit.

You may receive additional questions after the live presentation. These questions are rare and generally come from attendees who couldn’t ask them during the program or from attendees who watch the On-Demand course over the next 3 years. The ABA must offer the option for On-Demand attendees to ask questions to be sure credit is available in all jurisdictions. ABA staff will forward post-program questions to you for a response. Please be prepared to answer via email.