Number 9 of 20 for 20 – Video Appearance Nitty Gritty

#virtualappearance #decisivetrialdesign #covid-19 #courtroomsavvy #presentandaccountedfor #togetherwewillgetthrough #podiumperfect

Courtroom technology
Standing electronic podium, from which I attended and also presented at the recent conference of the American Society of Trial Consultants.

To follow up on my commentary about the Kansas Supreme Court 4/11/20 hearing, this serves to dive a bit deeper into the nitty gritty for attorneys headed to court via technology given our observations over the past few months.

1. History with the judge, witnesses, co-counsel, opposing counsel, clients, etc. helps current online-only interactions. Find ways to remind people that you already have a familiarity with one another that goes beyond the screen;

2. Importance of showing up early cannot be overstated. “Technology is a fickle beast,” my friend Matt Pierce likes to say. The best and most robust rehearsals will not be able to prevent all unexpected lags in transmission of images and sounds. Getting into the virtual room early will calm you to troubleshoot for when hiccups happen;

3. Find ways for silence that are natural. While you can’t start each video conference with a moment of silence (though current events would benefit from this practice), model by thinking before answering questions and pausing before commenting whenever possible. If you are the questioner, allow for pauses almost to the point of discomfort;

4. Study your frame and be deliberate about what’s in it. Books are nice, but if viewers are more interested in your titles than your face and words, it might be time to fill your screen better with your face;

5. Invest in a good microphone. There are many reasons why you may sound inaudible on a video call, not the least of which is that approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. A good microphone will help combat this;

6. Be aware of the angle of your face. Eye level (an angle that allows you to look straight into the camera) is better than one that has you looking up or worse, looking down at your audience. Thinking from the seat of the observer, I am less distracted if I don’t have to adjust to a somewhat unnatural view of the speaker. Watch a recording or review a snapshot of the screen to be sure you appear the way you most want to appear;

7. Prepare, prepare, prepare. This is long standing good advice that takes on a new significance in this present moment. Especially given that many presentations are recorded, you’ll want your work to stand up to future viewing;

8. Know and be deliberate about the many online meeting platforms available. Google MEET view has an interesting advantage because you as speaker are not as prominent in the view as the other people in your meeting are speaking. You can double-click on your thumbnail to see yourself, then go back to the meeting participants “gallery” view (that does not include you), which seems to be a more natural way to communicate in this unnatural environment;

9. Do not underestimate the energy boost your presentation will get if you stand while talking. But remember to raise the camera level instead of pointing it upward at an awkward angle.

Courts are adapting faster and better than they are traditionally known to do when it comes to technology. The 4/11/20 Kansas Supreme Court hearing is just one example. So even if you’re holding out for in-person opportunities, make the best of any chance to show up virtually before then.

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