Imagine sitting through a two-hour presentation during lunchtime but you are unable to eat. Additionally, imagine this presentation has a handout distributed that is identical to the word document projected at the front of the lecture hall. Finally, imagine the presenter reading verbatim the document without contributing any other thoughts.
I experienced this ineffective presentation in a law school course on my first day. The presentation was redundant, bland, and disengaging. Realize that I am not holding the presentation to a Steve Jobs standard that unveils a new apple product. Rather, I am comparing it to what a competent law professor would present on the first day of class to narrate the highlights of the upcoming semester.
The professor could have modified the presentation to engage the students. Breaking down the word document into captivating slides, as shown below, could have highlighted specific points while retaining the attention of the class. Even simply asking students to go around reading the portions of the documents would have been better.
The Prime Importance of Presentations
While it is clear that presentations are critical component of a trial attorney’s practice in the courtroom, presentations are also an essential part of almost every lawyer’s business efforts. There are blogs and books written specifically to strengthen a lawyer’s presentation skills. Attorneys practicing outside the courtroom need to make effective presentations as a marketing tool for themselves to attract potential clients and to their own firms. Lawyers are trained to be persuasive, informative and logical, and their presentations should reflect their abilities. Effective presentations are important for the simple task of relaying information to clients. Additionally, attorneys should have effective Continued Legal Education (CLE) presentations to qualify as a source of accreditation for other attorneys. No matter the setting or subject of the law, presentations are vital component of an attorney’s practice.
3 Tips to Make a Presentation a Performance
1. It is important to craft a story that sets up the audiences expectations about what they will get out of the presentation and why they should care. Eventually by the end of the story, the audience will be prompted to ask what action is needed now. When creating a presentation, start with paper not PowerPoint.
2. Use effective slides. Images are extremely powerful and people can learn and recall information better when presented as pictures rather than words. And when using words, make sure to write and speak in plain language that is consistent and concrete. Avoid using bullet points because they can be over-used and don’t relate the same way images do. Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do.
3. Rehearse the presentation through multiple practice rounds. While it may be time-consuming and feel repetitive, a presenter will increase there speaking ability and “flow” through practice.