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Presentation Is Key

After all of the painstaking discovery work that goes into a case, what a win or loss really comes down to is presentation during trial. A successful presentation will prove its point through a combination of words and visuals in a manner that builds confidence and trust with the audience. Attorneys are often very well versed in the art of language, but are not always so comfortable with the creation and use of visual aids. Visual communication can play a major role in persuading how a jury interprets information.

Studies show that over a 72-hour period, visual aids can increase viewer retention by 45%! Statistics like this make it obvious that a tool as powerful as visual aids should not be overlooked or underutilized, as it could be the key to ensuring a win. The two most common forms of presenting visually in the courtroom are traditional hard boards and digital projection, both of which have benefits and shortcomings that should be taken into consideration.

Traditional hard boards are not given the credit they deserve in the technological society in which we live. Many seem to think that high tech is the way to go, but boards definitely still have their place, and probably always will. However, they do have some faults, such as the fact that they can be cumbersome transporting to, and maneuvering within, the courtroom. They also need to be completely finalized ahead of time, because last-minute edits and reproduction can be problematic.

The benefits of boards when applicably used are vast though. There are no surprises or technical mishaps to worry about. Even if boards have an interactive aspect such as flipping pages or dry erase capabilities, their performance is a known entity. In cases that are document heavy, boards are ideal for key exhibits in conjunction with a digital presentation. They remain in front of the jury box, emphasizing their point, burning into the memory of the jurors, and are often taken into deliberation. Boards have an unspoken tangible value due to the increased use of the internet. Technology allows anyone to post anything they want or be anyone they like, from the far reaches of the universe with anonymity. Thus, boards are subconsciously given more validity, “It’s here, it’s real, I can touch and see it, so it’s true.” Boards also offer an interactive aspect which many disregard. They allow the attorney a reason to get up close and personal with the jury. Pivotal information can be left off and scribbled in by hand for impact and shock value, drama that typing just doesn’t achieve. It also allows for theatrical embellishments such as waving arms, pointing and thumping to emphasize an argument. This sort of passionate execution has an immeasurable impact on jury attentiveness, retention, and the attorney-juror relationship.

On the other hand, digital presentations are extremely popular. They are the premium solution for document-rich cases, where not every item is a crucially important exhibit. Pretreatment and on-the-fly customization can be made to exhibits. For example, you can easily highlight and call out one important sentence within a text document so that the jury doesn’t lose focus on extraneous information. Digital presentations are good for maintaining attention (especially that of younger jurors), because they are more similar to watching television or surfing the World Wide Web. The two most widely used trial software programs, Sanction and TrialDirector, have wonderful tools for the organization of documents. Folders can be created for the various stages of trial, and there are various methods of searching to find specific exhibits quickly and easily. One of the most impressive benefits of using these programs is the capability to import video testimony or depositions and have the synchronized transcript scrolling right beside it.

Digital presentations are absolutely sensational if done properly, but if not, the consequences can be punishing. Creating a precise presentation magnifies the authors’ responsibilities. First and foremost, they must be completely comfortable with the software and hardware being used, or be willing to hire someone who is. A lot of practice is required in making sure the presentation is seamless and error free. Planning and preparation for any foreseeable problem, such as bringing extra projector bulbs, is a must. The propane always runs out during your game day barbecue, not when you’re just cooking for yourself. Even with all of the rehearsal in the world, the potential for computer issues beyond your control still exists.

Regardless of the presentation style that works for the attorney, or if it is a combination of the two, there are some key factors to keep in mind for success. A complicated, confusing, or poorly executed presentation can do more harm than good, as it reflects those attributes on the attorney and their client. Train with the chosen media and play to its strengths while working around its weaknesses. All presentations should be clear, simple and brief (a good rule for most things in life). “Our life is frittered away detail . . . Simplify, simplify.” – Henry David Thoreau.

Lori McElroy

Lori McElroy is the Creative Director of REDROMAN creative, a design studio specializing in legal communications. Lori contracts through DTI and Esquire Solutions, consulting with attorneys and paralegals throughout San Diego County to develop concise and professional corporate identities, marketing materials, newsletters, presentations, proposals, and trial exhibits. Lori McElroy, REDROMAN creative : 619.772.3335, redromancreative@gmail.com Alex Marjanovich, DTI: 619.572.9226 alexm@dtiglobal.com Bay Mitchell, Esquire Solutions: 619.517.0240 bmitchellesq@esquiresolutions.com

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Filed Under: Featured StoriesPersonal Development

About the Author: Lori McElroy is the Creative Director of REDROMAN creative, a design studio specializing in legal communications. Lori contracts through DTI and Esquire Solutions, consulting with attorneys and paralegals throughout San Diego County to develop concise and professional corporate identities, marketing materials, newsletters, presentations, proposals, and trial exhibits. Lori McElroy, REDROMAN creative : 619.772.3335, redromancreative@gmail.com Alex Marjanovich, DTI: 619.572.9226 alexm@dtiglobal.com Bay Mitchell, Esquire Solutions: 619.517.0240 bmitchellesq@esquiresolutions.com

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