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Trial teams frequently wrestle with questions surrounding how simple a trial presentation should be. It’s a good thing to worry about. They worry about coming off as condescending. They worry about the story being impossible to simplify. They worry about what order to tell the story in. These are all understandable questions to wrestle with. Unfortunately, on the question of how simple a case should be made, I think most trial teams end up talking themselves out of the right answer. So here’s the answer in five parts.  A trial presentation should be so simple that: 

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If you're one of the nearly 10,000 long-time readers of this litigation consulting blog, you know that periodically, we list the recent articles that have proved the most popular. We measure popularity based on the number of times an article has been read, so these really are reader rankings. In today's article, I want to do something a little different. This time I'm listing not only the top three articles of the last quarter but also the current top three articles of all time (since 2011 when we started writing this blog). In a particular quarter, the top article may see a few thousands of individual readers reading it. However, an article on our blog for five or more years may see tens or hundreds of thousands of readers. Consistently, topics related to jury selection rank higher than those related to litigation graphics. I think this is because litigation graphics tend to be used primarily in large civil cases, whereas jury selection occurs in large and small cases and in both criminal and civil cases. These top articles should be interesting to many different types of readers. If you are interested in presenting at trial most effectively, the Netanyahu article should be studied carefully. If you participate in jury selection or hire people who do this kind of work, the voir dire article is a foundational piece. Top 3 Articles of Q2 2018:  Netanyahu Persuades and Presents Better Than Most Trial Lawyers     What Steve Jobs Can Teach Trial Lawyers About Trial Preparation     How Much do Jury Consultants, Litigation Graphics, and Hot-Seaters Cost -- Honestly?     Top 3 Articles Since 2011 (the life of our blog, The Litigation Consulting Report):   5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always   The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses   10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman

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Because (apparently), if we only had 15 more minutes, we could all save 15% or more on car insurance, GEICO has run a series of amusing TV commercials that imagine surreal sources of wasted time, including a Pictionary-playing sloth, Emperor penguins betrayed by faulty GPS, and an interstellar commander who loses his spaceship’s keys in the midst of an alien attack.

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At A2L, we work on many disputes and trials of various types and sizes. Before starting work, we routinely provide our customers with estimates of what we think it will cost to engage us to conduct a mock trial, prepare trial presentations, assist in the development of the opening statement, and run the courtroom technology.   While it’s never easy to estimate the final costs of fast-moving complex litigation, it's something that firms like ours and large law firms do every day. We've been doing it for 24 years, and we've even pioneered some innovative pricing strategies for litigation graphics and trial tech work. However, I've noticed two schools of thought when it comes to estimating, and one of them seems to lead to better outcomes.   In shorthand, I'll call these two methods a top-down method and a bottom-up method. In my experience, the top-down method leads to more successful engagements, more wins, and much better and trusting relationships.  

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Roughly half of our business involves the creation of PowerPoint presentations for opening statements, closing arguments and expert witnesses. To create these presentations, our litigation consultants, typically seasoned trial lawyers and communications experts, work with our creative staff to turn the trial strategy into presentations that will motivate decisionmakers to make the “right” decisions. In a trial with millions or billions at stake, our final draft for an opening is typically version 30 or higher — and I've seen version 80 in a very large trial. Why so many versions? This is the result of what great trial lawyers do: They work with our team and iterate until perfection is achieved. However, every presentation starts with a first draft, and after three decades in this industry, I can say that a first draft sets the tone for the entire engagement. Handle it well, and trust is formed and there is a nice creative arc free from anxiety. Handle the rollout of the first draft wrong, and trust never kicks in, micromanagement dominates, and the deck becomes a “horse designed by committee.” So what’s the magic to the rollout of a first draft?

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I’m far from alone in asserting that Steve Jobs was an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and CEOs of all ages. For many of us, his contrarian thought process, rigorous attention to detail, and spectacular showmanship formed a model for how to innovate, run a business, and find new customers.  I tracked Jobs’ career during my college and law school days and went so far as to email him a couple of times to thank him for the inspiration that he provided to me. Over the years, his 2007 speech introducing the iPhone served as a model for me. It showed me how to make a presentation that is both informative and inviting. I’ve written about that here. Later, when I was preparing to deliver a commencement speech, I used his 2005 Stanford commencement talk as an example. Steve Jobs’ presentations were admired by many. But not as many people have looked behind his presentations to understand that level of preparation that was involved in each presentation. An article earlier this year from Inc. magazine said it very well: Every product launch was brilliantly performed. Every move, demo, image and slide was in sync and beautifully choreographed. If I sound like I'm describing a Broadway show, you're right. A Steve Jobs presentation had more in common with an award-winning theatrical performance than a typical product launch. Apple still uses the time-tested formula including the final secret ingredient: Jobs rehearsed relentlessly. Carmine Gallo, the author of this article, pointed out that Jobs’ presentations looked effortless precisely because he put so much effort into them. These ideas are totally in keeping with the conclusions that I have reached in three decades of observing trial lawyers. I’ve heard far too many first-chair trial lawyers claim that the reason they didn’t practice their opening statement relentlessly was because it wouldn’t appear spontaneous if they did. Quite the contrary; the openings that I have heard that appeared the most spontaneous were precisely the ones that were the most thoroughly rehearsed. Apparently, Steve Jobs shared that approach. His grueling hours of practice became legendary in the tech industry. The Inc. article, in analyzing the desirable amount of practice time, concluded that the ideal is the 20-20 rule, which means that for a 20-minute presentation, one should go through the whole thing at least 20 times. This is consistent with the conclusions that I’ve reached about trial practice. We like to use a rule that a 60-minute opening should be practiced for at least 30 hours. We all want to look relaxed, confident and conversational in making our presentations. That is a good instinct because that style is in fact persuasive, but the way to get there is not with last-minute cramming, an opening statement practiced privately in a hotel room with no one listening, or an off-the-cuff talk relying on a few bullet points. The best openings I’ve ever seen are the result of countless hours of practice — often done in one-to-one sessions with an A2L litigation consultant. As is the case with any presenter, practice is what separates good trial lawyers from great trial lawyers. You might say, great trial lawyers just “think different” when it comes to practice. Other free A2L articles about trial preparations, delivering great presentations, practice, and developing opening statements include: $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About? Free 144 page A2L E-book download: Storytelling for Litigators Free A2L webinar - Storytelling as a Persuasion tool The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement In Trial Presentation - A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)

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Trial Lawyers, Relinquish the Clicker

It’s a phenomenon that I’ve seen countless times – renowned first-chair trial lawyers seeking to maintain hands-on control of their trial presentation by literally holding on to the clicker. Unfortunately, despite these lawyers’ sometimes desperate efforts to keep control, something almost always goes wrong in these situations. For example, lawyers can lose track of their place and get ahead of their presentation in PowerPoint or another form of presentation software. They can try to go back a slide or two and find that they can’t get back. They can even click around so wildly that they crash the software during an opening statement. As one can imagine, these scenarios can lead to a cascading meltdown for the presenter, who can become increasingly flustered. I’ve seen trial lawyers stop using their presentation software just because of an unanticipated “clicker crisis.” This level of crisis can be highly destabilizing for the lawyer’s team, as the lawyer’s frustration can spill over to the judge and jury. It can cause an immediate lack of credibility. At the very least, it can create distance between the trial team and the judge or jury, just at the moment when the team should be building rapport. The solution is remarkably simple. In a recent article, I wrote about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities. If you watched Netanyahu for even a few seconds, you noticed that he wasn’t controlling a clicker. He looked prepared, confident and convincing – and one reason for that is that he used the political equivalent of a trial tech or hot-seat operator to take charge of the clicker.

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I've written about people who present well using PowerPoint many times before. Some of those articles include: President Obama: Presentation Graphics: Why The President Is Better Than You Law Professor Lawrence Lessig: Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation Dan Pink: Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom Nancy Duarte: Litigators Can Learn a Lot About Trial Presentation from Nancy Duarte Scott Harrison: Every Litigator Should Watch Scott Harrison Deliver This Presentation Me: 21 Steps I Took For Great Public Speaking Results Each of these articles offered some useful lessons both in designing good trial presentations and in the art of presentation. Yesterday, the world saw one of the great PowerPoint presentations of all time. If it were given in a courtroom, this presentation would be in the top one percent of courtroom presentations (not for beauty but for effectiveness). However, this presentation was not in a courtroom at all. Still, which famed trial lawyer do you imagine gave this presentation? As the title suggests, it wasn’t a trial lawyer at all. The presentation was delivered by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  If you don't agree with the man or the content, put aside your politics and learn from the presentation. Every trial lawyer should do AT LEAST this well in the courtroom. There are few excuses not to, and every client should demand a performance at this level. If you have (or are) a client who understands the outsized value of investing in the most critical presentations of your case, our team can get you to this level. Every time. This is exactly the kind of work we do with the world's top trial lawyers every day. Watch all or some of Prime Minister Netanyahu's presentation and read my commentary on it below to understand why this presentation is so effective and how any trial lawyer can learn from it. The list of things done right in this presentation is very long. Let's look at a handful, and I will link back to an article where we made these recommendations. Each of these underlying teachings is a technique that our litigation consultants use to help coach trial lawyers and maximize their chance of winning.  He looks the part: 10 Things Litigators Can Learn From Newscasters He chose the right tie: Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning He delivers on all five of these promises: 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You He establishes a clear narrative and drama early: Are You Smarter Than a Soap Opera Writer? He uses an immersive style: New Study: A Graphically Immersive Trial Presentation Works Best He uses surprise to engage and persuade: Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? Persuasive images are used immediately: Persuasive Graphics: How Pictures Are Increasingly Influencing You The use of deposition-like video is brilliant for setting the stage: 6 Tips for Effectively Using Video Depositions at Trial He presents in a modern 16x9 format (like an HDTV not an old tube TV): Free Webinar: PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design™ He does not talk over the messages: 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations Captioning is well handled on videos: 6 Tips for Effectively Using Video Depositions at Trial He is very practiced: The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio The core opening introductory message is clear and compelling: How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or Presentation Netanyahu used a hot seater: What a Great “Hot Seat Operator” Can Add to a Trial Team The theatrics in the form of the binders and the CDs are just brilliant: Using Scale Models as Demonstrative Evidence - a Winning Trial Tactic The level of preparation is clear and is what is expected of elite presenters - even by juries: Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well The hand gestures are well done: 5 Things TED Talks Can Teach Us About Opening Statements The call outs are simple and excellent: 3 Styles of Document Call-outs Used at Trial The translating of scale and size into terms people understand is clear and convincing: 6 Ways to Convey Size and Scale to a Jury You don't have to read Farsi to understand the nuclear materials, he says: Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That? He makes limited use of bullet points: 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) He organizes his message into five points and enumerates on the slides: Litigation Graphics: The Power of Checklist Trial Exhibits He uses limited text on slides throughout the presentation!: How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? His slides are clean, uncluttered and generally have a single message: 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" He includes animated graphics: 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint He contrasts what the Iranians said vs. the reality and deploys other credibility attacks in one evidence-backed attack after another: Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom He tells you what to conclude: Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That? He repeats (language and video) for effect and clarity: A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial His use of storytelling throughout the presentation is excellent: 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 2 He makes NONE of the 12 mistakes in this article: The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make He has been well coached by presentation consultants like us: Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere Nothing about this PowerPoint presentation is particularly sophisticated. In fact, there are many things that could be done to make it considerably better and more persuasive. However, above all else, it shows what a well-practiced presenter can do. VERY few trial lawyers prepare to the point where they can present at this level and if they would work more closely with elite litigation consultants, whether A2L's litigation consultants (pdf) or others, they could do even better than Benjamin Netanyahu. Here's the ultimate takeaway: it's not some innate gift that helps a presenter be world-class. Instead, it's the humility that allows someone to practice over and over getting these critical presentations just right that makes anyone appear to be world-class.

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