Developing Graphics for Litigation? Ask Yourself This Question….

I was recently working on a case with a long time client, when this question popped into my head: Why does this matter?

We were assembling case themes, and subsequent graphics, for his opening presentation and struggling to condense his 55-slide presentation to conform to a 45 minute time limit.  This client is a well-respected orator, so I had no worries that he would be able to persuade the audience with his dialogue, but I was genuinely concerned that he would overwhelm them with his dense visual presentation. As I culled through the slides, trying to find materials that I could cut, I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: Why does this matter?

Knowing that we had to cut this presentation in order to not overwhelm the jury, as well as get our point across, our goal was to strategically eliminate slides that didn’t hold up to the scrutiny of this imperative question.  We have to remember, that our opening presentation isn’t the time to put on our entire case, but rather provide a road map of why were are here, where we are going and how we are going to get there.  These three questions can easily be answered in less than an hour, through engaging your audience with a mix of an oratory and carefully selected visuals.

If the answer to this question is glaringly evident, particularly with your opening presentation, then most likely need to cut whatever it is you’re looking and save it for later, or not at all.  Remember: our goal in opening is to simply lay the foundation of our story in an abbreviated time frame.

It’s no coincidence that as I’m writing this article, a client (partner at a large NYC law firm) emailed regarding a current matter we are working on.  He had reviewed the presentation, created by two associates, and commented “we need to cut this down; the jury will be asleep in under 20 minutes.”  He knew what his associates should have been asking from the start, and if they did, could have saved valuable time, and money, as trial quickly approached.

 

Why does this graphic matter?  Because it combines three case themes, represents critical data and has an immediately recognized takeaway.

So, the next time you are creating your visual presentation for trial, arbitration, meditation or a hearing, don’t forget to ask: Why does this matter?

If you need assistance with this imperative question, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or at DMykel@VisuaLexLLC.com

 

Don’t Use PowerPoint as a Crutch in Trial or Anywhere

by Ryan H. Flax

The goal of a presentation is always the same — to engage the audience, to move them.  This rule of thumb holds true regardless of the stage. It’s so in the courtroom, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, in the boardroom, and in the classroom. Litigators engage a jury to win their case for their client; professors engage their students so that they can best teach the subject matter. Engagement leads to better understanding, which then leads to better retention and enhanced persuasiveness. Retention and understanding are the keys to success.

As a student of presentation technique, I was especially lucky over the last summer to have two terrific sources of experiential information on the subject and a good deal of insight in to what works and what does not.  My sources were Ms. Shawn Estrada and Ms. Jessica Dunaye, two of our summer interns at A2L, who have some pretty specific thoughts about presentation style after having sat through over 2,000 lectures from many, many professors and students throughout their college careers. After having spent a summer with A2L, learning first-hand how great litigators operate and now they are counseled themselves by litigation and jury consultants, they strongly believe that the litigation presentation techniques espoused by the A2L team are relevant in many aspects of life.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from these two.  They had so much to offer, I’ve divided their points into a series of articles.

Read more here: http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/68012/dont-use-powerpoint-as-a-crutch-in-trial-or-anywhere?source=Blog_Email_%5BDon%27t%20Use%20PowerPoint%5D

 

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Consider How You Come Across With the Volume Off

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

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We know communication is visual and not just verbal. But when litigators think of that, they tend to think of demonstrative exhibits and technology. But what about themselves? As a speaker, you’re making a visual impression as well. Most know the basics: stand up straight, look the jury or judge in the eye, use a few gestures. But in practice, attorneys want to expect that in court, content is king and what we say matters more than how we look when we say it. But some surprising research shows that more than we expect is coming through the visual channel.

The studies use the technique of asking research participants to assess a communicator without the aid of sound. Watching a music competition with the sound off, for example, (Tsay, 2013) both amateur and professional musicians were able to correctly predict the competition winners, and did so at a level that was better than those who heard and those who both heard and saw the performance. Similarly, experimental participants unfamiliar with the candidates were able to identify the election winner after simply watching ten-second silent video clips of a gubernatorial debate (Benjamin & Shapiro, 2009). As with the music competition research, turning the sound on tended to worsen the accuracy.

 

Read more here:

http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2013/09/consider-how-you-come-across-with-the-volume-off.html

Looking to Engage Multiple Audiences at Trial? Try this…

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

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If you returned with me to Shakespeare’s original theater, the Globe in London around 1600, you would notice one important architectural feature: There is a gallery and there is a pit. The gallery, the seats in the bleachers that ring the outside of the theater, are the pricier seats occupied by the more well-to-do theater goers. The pit, the straw-covered floor of the theater, is where the less affluent would stand and watch the show. Based on this class difference, there is also a difference in the kind of show that each audience wants to see….

A recent panel at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco focused on what Shakespeare had to say to lawyers (it turns out the ‘first, kill all the lawyers” thing is presented as a route to tyranny). I wasn’t able to attend, but I do wonder if the panel touched on this “multiple audiences” lesson from Shakespeare. Litigators addressing a jury have the same need for complexity in focus. But in addition to addressing differences in social class, age, education, race, and gender, attorneys are also speaking to differences in whether jurors are naturally favorable or naturally skeptical of your kind of case.

Read more here:

http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2013/08/learn-from-the-bard-engage-multiple-audiences.html

How Interactive Timelines Build and Strengthen Opening Statements

By

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Timelines are probably one of the most common things we create at Cogent Legal for clients in all types of cases. Employment, business and personal injury cases are ideally suited for laying out the facts in chronological order to enhance jury understanding. When discussing the various options of timelines with clients, there are basically two main types to consider: Static and Interactive.

A static timeline can be done on a blow-up board and shown to the jury during any key moment of the case. The downside of a static timeline is that, unless it is really simple with only a few entries, you risk overwhelming the audience with so much information at once that it can be hard for them to understand.

For this reason, we generally recommend attorneys start with an interactive timeline that shows events one at a time so that the jury focuses on a single point as the attorney makes it. The interactive format also allows for document treatments so you can choose a button to reveal key documents that relate to the timeline entry.

Read more here:

http://cogentlegal.com/blog/2013/03/interactive-timelines-for-opening-statements/

The Perils of Arrogance in Preparation

By:

Trial attorneys, by nature, have (or at least display) a great deal of confidence.  It’s an essential component of the job. Success in the courtroom demands confidence.  And this confidence is well-earned. After all, you must be doing something right to be where you’re at in your career. But don’t let that confidence create unnecessary barriers. A law degree is not a certification in effective communication.  Thinking through an idea is a fundamentally different task than communicating that idea. Attorneys supremely capable of the former still struggle with the latter, perhaps because communication is so fundamental to our existence that it’s easy to assume we are naturally skilled at it.  That would be false. Perhaps we tend to forget that, while our own ideas are immediately and clearly accessible to us in our minds, they need to be packaged as best as we can in words and images for others to  understand. The challenge is akin to trying to share with a friend the experience of viewing a Picasso by merely describing it to him or her. Even the best words fall short.  Here’s three areas where effective communication often departs from effective strategy at trial:

Read more here:

http://tsongas.com/blog-posts/my-38-minute-5k-and-the-perils-of-arrogance-in-preparation-buy-now-and-get-a-free-zimmerman-epilogue-and-keychain/

Want to Become a Better Speaker in and out of the courtroom? Read this…

Presenting in court is the ultimate test in public speaking: your on stage in front of dozens to hundreds of people, with a few dozen listening intently & scrutinizing every word out of your mouth, with millions of dollars at stake.

Vivek Wadhwa breaks down some critical steps in delivering your presentation.  i’m particularly found of this one:
“If you use a PowerPoint, just put the highlights on it and don’t read from the slides. Have the PowerPoint supplement and substantiate what you are saying and give the audience—and you—a roadmap of what your talk is about. Graphics are better than words.”

Your visual strategy should be prepared as diligently as your oratory presentation.

This came with practice and perseverance. Let me share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

  1. Don’t try to memorize every line—it is a hopeless cause. Have notes in your hand or use a PowerPoint presentation which highlights the key points that you want to make.
  2. Know your material and rehearse it several times beforehand. Record yourself giving the talk and note what you did right and wrong. Have your friends critique you.
  3. Make it personal. Talk about yourself, what you think about the things you are speaking about, and most importantly—what this means for the audience. This means that you have to know your audience—who they are and what they are interested in. Remember: this is for them—not for you. Don’t do what most academics do—impersonalize the material and repeatedly give the same dry, dull, and boring lecture.
  4. Tell a story…..

Read more here:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130614025137-8451-how-to-go-from-being-a-disaster-to-a-great-speaker?trk=tod-home-art-large_0