Trial and Error: Polish Up Your Presentation
Practice makes perfect
The statement practice makes perfect is true in any skill-based endeavor, and being a successful attorney requires a combination of talents including knowledge, endurance, persuasion, improvisation, eloquence, and charisma.
From that initial client meeting to the culmination of events that occurs in the courtroom, there are plenty of opportunities for professional improvement, and you may be doing yourself and your clients a disservice by not challenging yourself to grow through practicing your skills.
Although it’s easy to feel like your work day is long enough, or that rehearsing may make your performance feel stale or contrived, practicing is the perfect way to polish up your presentation skills and is an investment that will pay off.
You probably do know what to say, you most likely even know how to say it, but pushing yourself past your pre-established limits through the act of practice makes your clients safer, your cases stronger, and eventually, your job easier.
So, what are we talking about here? Practicing your closing statement in the shower? Actually – yes. Setting aside ten minutes a day where you can incorporate the improvement of your presentation skills while otherwise occupied is the perfect way to hold yourself to it. Set the timer on your phone and practice in traffic; better yet, turn on your audio recorder so you can give yourself accurate feedback afterward.
More formal options for practicing your presentation would include focus groups and mock trials. Remember, practicing is not just for amateurs – every case and client is different, and each audience is unique, whether it be judge or jury. Getting feedback from a diverse group about not only the case but also your options for presenting it can be invaluable.
A focus group should be utilized early and often during trial preparation to gather information and gauge reaction, and it involves recruiting several people to provide feedback on both sides of the case being presented, as well as the methods for doing so.
Typically, participants are given the opening or closing statements, or paragraphs of information relating to the case, and asked for their informal opinion, without receiving instruction on the law in question or learning the full background of the case.
This is a casual process and can be worked on independently by the participants through reading the given data versus a full in-person production. The feedback is an important part of the preparation process and can assist attorneys in structuring their arguments.
Mock trials are a more formal approach and are also harder to organize. Think of a mock trial as a dress rehearsal – a focus group is utilized to help you organize your strategies for maximum effectiveness; a mock trial helps you refine, polish, and predict possible outcomes.
Ideally taking place in a simulated courtroom setting, a mock trial should include acting attorneys and a judge. Participants may get to listen to opening and closing statements, hear simulated testimony from witnesses or experts, evaluate potential evidence, and deliberate on a verdict.
Afterward, participants are asked about presentation techniques, the believability of witnesses, their opinions of evidence, and what was important during deliberations. For maximum effectiveness, participants can even be split into two test groups to experiment on the appeal of different approaches to a closing statement.
Focus groups and mock trials are both excellent methods to get a preview of your presentation in front of a pretend jury of peers so you can refine your methods for maximum impact.
Of course, all the above takes time, effort, and energy – valuable commodities that seem all too scarce on top of a regular workload. In order to ease the burden of additional job duties (and decrease the dread involved with the idea of practicing), delegate the set-up of focus groups and mock trials to a staff member, recruit family members and friends, or ask for volunteers among interns and undergrads.
Make these exercises a regular part of your calendar and challenge yourself to improve on a personal level. After all, that’s why it’s called a law “practice” and not a law “perfect.”
Looking for more information to improve your practice? Check out the Boss Reporting blog for Three Ways to Hook and Capture Attention in Presentations.
Boss Certified Real-Time Reporting provides accurate, fast, and fair court reporting services for everything from trials and mediations to dispositions and conferences. For more information call us at 954-467-6867, or connect with us online today!