Jannine Hanczarek is a Technical Illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio.
Recently I had the chance to participate in a mock jury exercise at FORTE. Trial attorneys from all over the country came to hone their opening statement presentation skills. FORTE focuses on non-verbal communication (our fave), and workshops, while designed for attorneys, include tips that are generally helpful to everyone in attendance. The subject matter for these workshops are open, active cases, so while we can’t discuss case specifics with anyone outside the “courtroom”, we get insight into how attorneys prepare for trials. Opening statement is the jury’s first chance to hear the full story behind a case, and it's up to the lawyers to offer a “road map” to a making a decision.
While waking up early on a Saturday to sit through fake jury duty might not sound like fun, it's surprising how engaging the workshop is. For me, the time seemed to fly by. The attorneys are given a strict 20-minute time limit for their statements, and then there's a feedback session where we share our impressions and suggestions. Attending an opening statements workshop is like taking a public speaking course where someone else gets grilled and you get a mimosa when it's over. Jury duty should be this exciting.
What I liked most was learning non-verbal presentation techniques alongside highly skilled professionals. Non-verbal communication is much more powerful than people give it credit for, and includes a lot of what we do here at Fat Pencil Studio. Our minds and memories operate on many levels, so communicating with every medium available is important. It doesn’t do to overwhelm a single channel with too much information. People will tune out what they deem is too much to process, things like:
- Too much text on a presentation slide
- Wordy, hard-to-remember terms or definitions spoken out loud that can’t be later referenced
- Flow charts on flow charts in flow charts
- Definitions of every-day items that really aren’t necessary
Confusion can turn into anger and defensiveness, especially when an important decision is hinging on how well the information was presented. A straight-forward presentation that regulates the flow of information is best. For those that weren't there, here’s a quick summary of what we learned:
- Don't put too much text on a presentation slide
- Avoid wordy, hard-to-remember terms or definitions spoken out loud that can’t be later referenced
- Flow charts on flow charts in flow charts aren't effective
- Be authoritative in your gestures and speech, no matter how weird it feels. It looks great from our end!
- Don’t be afraid of pauses. They work great to emphasize that last great thing you said.
- Make and maintain eye contact (as appropriate) with your audience. Be human.
- ...and breathe!