Our 15th Year – Timeless Technology Tips

Listen to this blog post:

I recently shared an At Home in the Courtroom blog post that was relevant to a conversation and was pleasantly surprised that although it was written ten years ago, for the most part, it still rings true: https://www.suanningle.com/the-blackslide/. That could also be a commentary on how slowly the courts move, but we’ll save that topic for another post. Meanwhile, a significant proportion of PowerPoint presentations have likely been produced and presented in courtrooms and conference rooms in the ten years since I wrote that.

A few small adjustments in the way one uses prepared slides in these settings, could make big improvements in the effectiveness of the delivery.

1. With eyes and ears trained on you the speaker, try previewing what the audience is about to see by describing it. This not only creates a healthy anticipation, it helps repeat a theme without the feeling of repetition (“tell them what you’re going to tell them, then show them with all your documents, then in your summation, tell ’em what you told them!” Joyce, an oft-quoted mock juror from a decades old mock jury research exercise);

2. Once you acknowledge that you’re going to refer to any visuals that appear, do not begin with, “I realize this is difficult to read, but…” – either make it easier to read or don’t use it;

3. Bravely give your audience time to actually take in what they are seeing in light of your invitation to view it. I say bravely because it’s difficult to accommodate silence when standing in front of an audience, especially one in court or during a mock jury research exercise. There are myriad reasons why we rush to fill any pauses or silences. Some lawyers avoid this by trying to read along with their audience, not sure this helps either. Just direct them to it, and give them time to read silently to themselves. That is of course only if you have insisted on filling the slide with words, another habit that is a fine process oriented step. It is more fruitful if a heavily worded slide eventually leads to the creation of a great image by the time the slides are used in a presentation;

4. If you are planning to use your own laptop (because you couldn’t help yourself and kept tweaking until beyond that last minute) to plug into the display, test it out beforehand. It is ill-advised to walk into a presentation, plug in your laptop and expect it to work the way it did when you were practicing in your office;

5. Save your presentation file to a portable drive and have it in your pocket (or online accessible), so that you can pop it into a different computer that has already been hooked up and works with the display equipment in a pinch. And trust me, sooner or later, there will be a pinch;

6. And speaking of backup plans, have hard copies available. An attorney kicked a power plug that cut off the display feed during a closing argument in a high-stakes civil trial in a well-wired SDNY courtroom. Hardly missing a beat (while technicians scrambled), the speaking attorney switched to the document display camera and when that didn’t work, simply held up the color prints, and delivered the rest of her closing with paper.

In conclusion, just as I wrote ten years ago, make your final point with nowhere for the jury to focus, but on you.

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