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Capturing our Audience in Trial

Our fundamental goal in trial is to persuade. If we are to persuade we must first capture the attention of our audience. Without an audience who pays attention to us and our presentation we have no hope to persuade. Today, jurors have shorter attention spans than ever before. Therefore our trials must be more entertaining than ever before. There are various techniques which, if used correctly, will allow us to gain the attention and interest of our jurors.

The first and fundamental concept for attaining and retaining the interest of our jurors is to introduce variety into our presentation. If we maintain the same routine method of presenting evidence to our audience we will find our audience sleeping or appearing awake but daydreaming of being anywhere but with you in trial. So when you first go through your evidence determine what issues are most important to your case and what evidence supports those most important issues. For these big ticket items determine how you can introduce the evidence in the most dramatic way possible. For other items of evidence that play to less important issues think about presenting this evidence in an effective manner but in less dramatic affect than you do for your most important evidence. What you are doing here is creating variety in the way you present evidence. Important information should be treated as such. Give the method of presentation for important case dispositive issues the attention it deserves.

To add variety to your presentation try to juxtapose different types of evidence. Thus if you put on a medical expert follow this witness up with a fact witness. If you present oral testimony try to follow it with a visual presentation. If you cross examine one witness from location A in the courtroom move to location B before beginning the cross examination of the next witness. This is one of the reasons why it is so good to bring in demonstrative evidence into trial. Demonstratives break up the monotony of oral testimony. To this end you can use a variety of different demonstratives throughout trial. When you give your opening or closing statement try to add variety into your presentation. You can do this a variety of ways such as changing the tempo of your words, changing the volume of your words, alternate being happy with being serious, create movement in your presentation both by means of your actual location of delivery but also by gesturing with your body. The point is, you want to break up the monotony of trial as much as possible. Be an entertainer in the courtroom.

As you present your case to the jury think about breaking the information you will present into various chapters. Then when you present your case you can present your case chapter by chapter. It is usually best to present your case chronologically as that is the way in which humans are most adept at processing information. When you divide your information into chapters consider how each chapter will have an impact on the following chapter. Whenever a juror hears and sees new information that juror is processing this new information in part based on what the juror most recently heard and saw in your case. Thus think about setting the presentation of chapters up in a way which will allow for maximum affect upon the listener.

For instance, let's say that in your case the plaintiff was injured because of inadequate training of an employer. It might be wise by first presenting a chapter on the lack of training given to the new employees. Maybe focus on the fact that the employer chose to save money, greed, rather than adequately train his or her staff. Once you present this chapter the next chapter should be the chapter describing the result of this negligent training. Now that the jurors have heard the chapter regarding the greedy employer who chose money over safety the presentation of your client being injured as a result of the negligent training will be much more dramatic. Now the jurors are seeing the injury causing action within the context of an employer that inadequately trained its employees. You have also wisely demonstrated motive, greed, prior to your presentation of the injury causing event. You are essentially building context by presenting information in a layered approach where the next piece of information is dependent on the prior item of evidence.

On this same note of layering your chapters one on top of the other to create context also focus on what David Ball calls build, which is a theater technique. The idea here is that you need to focus on continuously building the interest in your presentation. You start from a state of low intensity and low interest of the jurors and slowly build the story up to higher and higher intensity. In addition to doing this throughout trial as a whole you can use the concept on a miniature level at all stages within trial. Use the build technique in opening. Use the build technique with each witness that you examine. Use the technique again in closing. You will continue to build each story up until you hit climax. Just as you use the build technique on a smaller level with each new part of your presentation you should also have a corresponding mini-climax to conclude chapter. When deciding what order to present information, besides considering chronological order, also think about organizing your presentation so that each new chapter concludes with a mini-climax which is slightly more powerful than the last mini-climax. In this way we continue to build interest in our story as the story progresses forward. David Ball makes an important point that after you present a climax or mini-climax to the jurors you should let the point delivered through climax sink in. One way to do this is to take a pause after the climax. Let the point you just made settle in with the jurors before moving on. After your final climax you can recap with your most significant points. In this way you let your climax sink in while reiterating points that support this same climax.

As you move from chapter to chapter it is essential that you use headnotes. Headnotes give the listener indication as to what topic or chapter you will be presenting on next. The benefit of the headnote is that it allows the jurors to more easily follow your presentation. Trials are complicated affairs. Break the information into digestible pieces and then give the listener direction as to what you will be presenting topic by topic. If your presentation is well organized your chapters should naturally progress from one to the next. Along with using headnotes you should also use transition statement which show the cause and effect of the preceding chapter upon the one that follows. Don't force the jurors to make this linkage by themselves. It is best to use transition statements to show not only that you are transitioning from one chapter to the next but also to demonstrate that the next chapter is the natural result of the actions which took place in the first chapter. Going back to the negligent training and supervision example above. After you discuss the lack of training and supervision you can go on to the next chapter by telling the jurors how this lack of training and supervision ultimately resulted in the defendant employees actions. Then continue on by showing that the defendant employee caused the injury to the plaintiff because he wasn't adequately trained. Don't make the jurors tie all this information together even if the linkage between chapters seems obvious to you. It might not be obvious to the jurors.

The information above comes from theater techniques. I personally learned this information from David Ball, who has a strong background in theater. David Ball is a renowned jury and trial consultant and an excellent trial advocacy teacher. If you have the opportunity to attend any of his seminars or read any of his publications I highly suggest you do so as they are amazing.

Categories: Personal Injury