I have the privilege of working on a regular basis with many of the top trial lawyers in the nation, and they are an impressive bunch. In addition to their knowledge of the law, their capacity for hard work, and their practiced trial skills, they tend to carry an unquantifiable charisma. The great trial lawyer is a person who, when he or she enters a room, knows how to command the room. And although they are not arrogant, they do know that they have that ability and that they can turn it on or off.
This means that the great trial lawyers can develop an ineffable rapport with jurors, a connection that is hard to explain and remarkable to see in action. Trial consultants are well advised to leave well enough alone, to “do no harm” when that connection is clearly operational; their job then is to simply sit back and observe this meeting of the minds and hope it will carry them on to victory.
But these top trial lawyers, who have developed great sensitivity to issues of rapport and communication, often voice a concern to me. The concern is that they may be using some PowerPoint slides, say to highlight the themes of an opening statement, and then they wish to move on to a point that is not on the slides. But the jurors, they point out, are still staring at that screen, and the personal connection, instantly made, will instantly be lost. Should the jurors be looking at the screen or continuing their focus on the lawyer?
It must be noted that the great trial lawyer knows not to make his or her case strictly via PowerPoint and knows how important it is to limit the use of this seductive trial technique. Still, there is a place for PowerPoint at trial and thus a corresponding concern.
The trial lawyers’ concern is, fortunately, overblown and easily remedied. The remarkably simple solution is to press the “B” key on the computer keyboard. In PowerPoint, this instantly makes the screen go black, thus removing all competition for the jurors’ attention. Just learn to switch fluidly back and forth, using that key. This will not only preserve the crucial emotional connection between lawyer and jury; it will also lay the groundwork for the lawyer to assume the role in the jurors’ minds of trusted counselor and friend, someone who can make sense of all the evidence and tell a convincing story that puts it all together.
I wish all trial lawyers’ dilemmas were so easily resolved.
Other A2L Consulting free resources related to PowerPoint, connecting with jurors, and what makes a great trial lawyer include:
- 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams
- 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint
- The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make
- Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom
- How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial?
- The Redundancy Effect, PowerPoint and Legal Graphics
- 12 Things About PowerPoint You Probably Never Knew
- How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document
- New Webinar - PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design
- Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation
- Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors
- How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?
- 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide"
- Do Professionally Designed PowerPoint Slides Get Better Results?
- 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)
- 14 Tips for Delivering a Great Board Meeting Presentation
- 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You
- Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know
- 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said
- Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That?