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The Litigation Consulting Report

21 Steps I Took For Great Public Speaking Results

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 @ 02:19 PM

ken lopez a2l consulting presentation conferenceby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Public speaking does not come naturally to me, but I know I can deliver good results -- so long as I am prepared. Last week, I spoke at a conference session of about 300 people, and here was a piece of feedback I received from one lawyer in the audience, someone I had never met before.  

"In more than two decades since I started studying and practicing law, I have seen 1000 experts speak in person on 1000 topics. Rarely do I feel compelled to write about a lecturer. Ken Lopez presented an incredible live program at the Inbound 2013 Conference, an event which attracted 5300 people from 35 nations. His advice stands out as unique and memorable - not only for attorneys - but for anyone in any business. Ken's phenomenal seminar proved that he is clearly the best at what he does."

Incredible, right? So how did I get such good results when public speaking does not come naturally to me? Here’s how.

My goal in telling you is to give you a sense of the level of preparation that we hope to see from most of our clients at A2L. After all, they have millions or even billions of dollars at stake in their presentations. I was merely giving a conference presentation where I was not likely to earn business or gain anything other than kind words.

First, some background on me. Even though most would describe me as outgoing, I am actually more introverted than extroverted. I simply chose, modeling my dad's behavior growing up, to adopt extrovert habits as I watched him win favors, airline upgrades and the best tables just by being outgoing and charming.

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But, as long as I may have practiced acting extroverted, I still hate an event if I cannot connect meaningfully with one person. I actually prefer written communications to speaking, and I generally feel pretty awkward in a public speaking role. For the most part, my audience would not notice, but this is only the result of my hard work.

For the presentation I gave last week, I knew I’d be speaking to a group, half of whom knew more than me about the topic and half of whom knew less. Rather than try to research the topic extensively, I spoke simply about my experience. My topic, for what it's worth, was using publications like this blog to meaningfully connect with existing and future customers.

My scheduled talk was 40 minutes with 5 minutes of questions. Below are the 21 steps I went through to reach a great result.

Here is my exact preparation methodology. Where applicable, I make a comparison to trial preparation.

1. Getting Started (93 Days Prior to My Presentation): I became aware that I might have an opportunity to present at a high-profile marketing conference that I would attend anyway since I took on the Chief Marketing Officer role a couple of years ago.

2. Forced Early Preparation (90 Days Prior to My Presentation): I prepared a good but rough version of what I might present at a conference and presented it to a group of local CEOs. They were very happy with the content, and I indeed winged it for the most part with only a couple of practice sessions on my own. I got some valuable feedback from this group. This session was quite similar to the Micro-Mock session that we conduct at A2L, which I find helps trial attorneys gage how well their presentations are being received EARLY in the trial preparation process.

3. Theme Design (82 Days Prior to My Presentation): I worked with a person familiar with my actual audience to rough out my themes. In the trial presentation space, this discussion would be considered similar to my meeting with a jury consultant on a general topic.

4. Theme Decisions (62 Days Prior to My Presentation): I made the decision about what general topics would be included and those that would not be included.

5. Mind Mapping Session 1 (52 Days Prior to My Presentation): I use a technique called Mind Mapping that is useful for organizing most complex presentations -- whether an opening statement or a presentation like this.

6. Rough Outline (43 Days): I developed my first 12-point rough outline at this stage and shared it with my point of contact to solicit feedback.

7. Specific Outline (40 Days): Based on feedback from my point of contact, I refined my outline.

8. Mind Mapping Session 2 (37 Days): Whereas I had earlier only developed my mind map to the point where high level topics were fleshed out, I now took it to a deeper level and tried to consider the three points or so I'd like to make under each major topic.

9. Begin Graphics Work (33 Days): Although I had picked the designer I would be working with on my team a month before, we had our first serious walk-through of the subject matter about a month before I actually presented. He began work on a draft that was a combination of what I presented months before, what I developed in my mind map outline, and what he felt needed to be included.

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10. Finalize First Presentation Draft (23 Days): I shared my first fully developed draft of the presentation with my point of contact at the conference.

11. Rehearsal 1 (21 Days): My first rehearsal via online meeting platform Go-To-Meeting occurred on this date with a couple of conference representatives.

12. Rehearsal 2 (20 Days): I believe that you are not really practicing unless you are practicing in front of an audience. I used a CEO peer group (my Vistage group) as my focus group for what works and what does not. I learned a lot.

13. Rehearsal 3 (19 Days): Another online presentation with my contact at the conference.

14. Graphics Refinement (18 Days): Although, there had been daily tweaking going on for two weeks, we did major refining of the graphics presentation at this point, mostly combining slides to cut out fat. As I always say, the slides you don't use are just as important as the ones that you do use.

15. Rehearsal 4 (14 Days): To help get new feedback, I invited 50 friends to one of 4 online practice sessions using Go-To-Meeting. This was the first. Each was attended by about 20 people. 

16. Final Presentation (12 Days): I finalized my visual presentation.

17. Rehearsal 5 (8 Days): I presented to an online group of 20 and collected feedback. I also recorded this session to watch myself and adjust accordingly.

18. Rehearsal 6 (5 Days): I presented to an online group of 20 and collected feedback. I made some mistakes at the beginning, so I used one of my favorite memory techniques to memorize the first two minutes for my next sessions. What I do is assign each key thought to a room in a structure I know well, and then I mentally walk through it as I am speaking. I have fond memories of the house I grew up in, so I use that. For example, the sound of the doorbell reminded me to "invite" my audience in, the foyer reminded me to tell them exactly what I wanted from them, and so on. It's a very useful memory trick.

19. Rehearsal 7 (2 Days): I presented to an online group of 20 and collected feedback.

20. Day Before: I got plenty of sleep, I drank lots of water and I used my voice as little as possible.

21. Day Of: I continued to use my voice as little as possible and practiced my 2-minute intro in my head, walking through my childhood home.

All told, I devoted roughly 50 hours to the preparation of a 45 minute presentation. I think this ratio of roughly 1 hour of preparation for every 1 minute of presentation time is appropriate for any high-stakes presentation.

For trial, a preparation timeline along these lines is possible but probably a bit too compressed, unless it is a small case. For a medium sized case, I would double the days I indicated for each stage. If it is a large case, I would increase the prep time by a factor of 3x to 5x the number of days indicated.

Notice that I did not start prepping what I had to say in PowerPoint, and neither should you.

Here are some related articles covering topics such as practice, trial preparation and making great presentations:

Science Issues Experts Trial Litigation Litigation Graphics  


Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Mock Trial, Jury Consultants, MindMaps, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Practice

7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 @ 08:00 AM

opening statement litigation consultantsFor any trial lawyer, writing an opening or closing statement is one of the best parts of a trial. It lets us use our writing skills, speaking skills, and persuasion skills like no other moment of trial. I happen to believe that the opening statement is the single most important part of a trial.  

Blow the opening by showing documents not yet in evidence, reading your opening from a script, misusing your time, not telling a story -- and you put yourself at a severe disadvantage from the outset. Nail the opening and you are doing more than just starting off on the right foot. Some astute trial observers believe that 80% of cases are won or lost in opening.

Sitting down and drafting an opening, especially one of more than an hour’s length, can be especially daunting. Fortunately, the great speakers of today and of the past, as well as persuasion theorists, have developed practical ideas that can be applied to the drafting of an opening statement.

One technique that should be avoided, though, is simply sitting down to write your opening in Microsoft Word. Like setting off on a hike without a good plan, this technique will usually end up leaving you feeling lost. 

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Instead, here are seven approaches to drafting an opening statement:

1.  Go old school. It is said that Abraham Lincoln kept notes in his hat as a technique for writing speeches. Lincoln, of course, wasn’t able to resort to a smartphone, but you are. Today, leaving snippets in a notepad application is an excellent way to build up an opening statement. Each time a great idea comes to you, you simply store it in the same app, and if you use iOS devices, this ends up getting synched across your iPhone, iPad, laptop and desktop instantly.

2.  Use mind mapping techniques. We've written about mind mapping before, and we offer it as a service to help trial teams organize their thoughts around an opening or the overall case strategy. Mind mapping describes the very useful and sensible process of making large outlines that are usually printed poster size and tapped up on the first chair litigator's wall.

3.  Follow the Post-It approach. Although I tend to prefer the use of mind mapping, this is still a favorite technique of mine. It works as follows: First, use a pad of Post-Its to write down all your thoughts about an opening statement, one thought per Post-It. Second, put them all up on a wall. Third, put related concepts together, using no more than five or six groups.  Fourth, title those groups. These will be your chapter headings.  Fifth, put the Post-Its in order under the chapter headers, and now you have a well organized speech.

4.  Use an integrated graphics approach in your notes. Using Microsoft Word, speakers’ notes in PowerPoint, or a mind mapping program like Mind Manager (the one we use), prepare your slides so that they are laid out next to your text. This technique can be see in video #9 in our recent article on closing statements.

5.  Join Toastmasters. One problem most litigators have is that they do not have enough time to practice their speeches. Some advocate practicing in unexpected places such as the car, and doing so in small segments. One easy place to practice in a structured way is at a Toastmasters meeting

6.  Memorize your opening. My favorite technique for memorizing a speech is to use a spatial technique. Since I remember my childhood home very well, I make sure to associate elements of my speech with places in my house, starting in the foyer, moving to the living room, sitting on the sofa, and so on.

7.  Test your work with a mock jury or mock judge panel. There is no substitute for presenting a case in front of mock juries or judges. You will likely prepare earlier than you would have, and the feedback from the mock jurors or judges will guide what to include in your opening statement at trial.


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Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, Articles, MindMaps, Opening

Trial Graphic: Could a Wall Chart Change How Litigators Prep Cases?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 @ 09:45 AM

I have had the great pleasure of working closely with hundreds of world's best litigators since 1995.  One common theme they communicate is that they see simplifying their case, prior to walking into the courtroom, as part of their job.  Today, I am writing to share about a 'new' tool designed quite precisely for this purpose.

The new tool is a modern software version of a decades-old technique modeled on centuries-old principles.  In general this tool facilitates the visualization of complex and interrelated ideas. Specifically, I am talking about a process called mind mapping.

Mind mapping is a 60s-era-sounding term for an activity that seems, at first glance, like it must have certainly been born on the left-coast.  In a sense, both of those things are true.  It was in fact developed in the era between the 50s and 70s, and it was born on a left coast of sorts. However, this 'left coast' is really the western suburbs of London.

Regardless of mind mapping's nonconformist origins, I believe it has a place in the toolkit of the modern litigator.  After all, many thought-leading litigation trends were born in California or places like it (e.g. demonstrative evidence, jury research, courtroom animation, etc.).

A small version of a 30 inch x 90 inch litigation mind map is shown below. I encourage you to download a full-sized .pdf version of the actual chart to get a feel for how it is laid out.

litigation mind map case analysis trial graphic

This sample mind map is based on a group of cases where we have used mind mapping as a system for quickly understanding a complex case in a short period of time, brainstorming a trial presentation approach and laying out specific exhibits.  In this chart, green circles represent likely demonstrative exhibits, red boxes represent problems with our case that require additional strategic attention and the yellow boxes contain the background information on the case, trial team and strategy.

The same approach we take for trial graphics development can easily be taken by a trial team organizing a complex case with many experts, theories and potential trial strategies. In addition to the obvious organizational benefits, the beauty of using this approach is just how easily one can pick up where one left off.  I have gone a month or more between deeply complicated meetings and been able to start precisely where we left off without spending time trying to re-teach the team everything that was discussed weeks or months before.  This is one of those benefits that I think one has to experience to believe.

While litigation-specific tools do exist that offer a some of the features in today's mind mapping software, I prefer using a flexible tool that works very well.  I have used two products:  1) Tony Buzan's iMindMap (he is considered the father of modern mind mapping); and 2) Mindjet's MindManager.  I prefer the latter, as I find it to be a bit more business-oriented.

When working with our firm on trial presentation strategy, we will likely be using mind mapping either internally or overtly.  However, we are interested in testing this approach with a trial team at the front-end of a case rather than within the time period we are more typically consulting with the trial team (6 months prior to trial).  If you would be interested in testing this technique with your trial team, we are willing to do so gratis for a limited number of trial teams working complicated cases with at least $10 million at stake.  The output will be a wall chart for your team that you can refer to on an ongoing basis.

free litigation mind map

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Litigation Technology, Trial Consulting, Litigation Management, Articles, MindMaps, Trial Preparation, Information Design, Antitrust Litigation

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Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.

dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting

Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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