If you’re planning to use electronic technology in your court presentations, such as in your opening statement or closing argument, consider these six tips to make your use of technology as effective as possible while avoiding common pitfalls.
- No substitute for practice. The most important advice in making effective use of electronic technology for courtroom presentations is simply to “practice, practice, practice.” You want to make your presentation more focused, more organized, and more effective; this won’t happen if you can’t run the equipment properly or you struggle with the software. Practice until you can run the equipment and software smoothly—or have an assistant run it for you.
- Take advantage of programs’ features but don’t let them get in the way of your story. A program like PowerPoint has many impressive effects and graphics built into it. In using such a program, however, focus the jury on your case, not on your visual effects and animations. Stick with fairly simple and straightforward backgrounds and effects until you’re comfortable using the programs and are sure that they enhance your presentation.
- Back up your work. To prevent mishaps, bring to court a printout of all of your exhibits, presentation slides, and other documents that you might use in the courtroom. You’ll also want multiple backups of your data.
- Have the same setup in your office, or “war room,” as you have in the courtroom. If you set up a configuration identical to what you’re using in the courtroom, you can practice under the same conditions and you can substitute an identical component from your office over a lunch break if needed.
- The client makes the call. Although you may fall in love with courtroom presentation technology, the use of it probably makes the most sense in document-intensive cases or cases in which charts and graphics will help reduce complexity. The technology also probably makes more sense in longer trials than in shorter ones, although a program such as PowerPoint could be used for openings and closings in any trial. Your client, however, may be more willing to use this technology in a jury trial as opposed to a judge-tried case, or may deem the cost to be prohibitive regardless of who will hear the case. The decision to make use of technology often becomes a matter of educating your client and showing him or her the benefits of this approach.
- Don’t get so caught up in the technology that you forget its purpose is communication. As wonderful as the latest technology is, sometimes simpler is better. A blowup or overhead projection with the key information can be just as, or more, effective at communicating your case than an extensive computer presentation. Also, spending too much money on demonstrative items can signal to the jury that the plaintiff doesn’t really need money, or that the defendant has plenty of money to pay a huge verdict. Think carefully about what message you’re conveying and tailor your presentation to your case.
There’s much more expert advice on the practical aspects of presenting yourself in court, including preparing and presenting statements and arguments, in CEB’s Persuasive Opening Statements and Closing Arguments, chap 2.
Other CEBblog™posts you may find useful:
- How to Use Technology for Effective Cross-Examination
- Jazzing Up Trial Presentations with New Technology
- 4 Keys to Using Your Opening and Closing to Persuade
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