The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Ten PowerPoint Tips for the Courtroom

PowerPoint Tips for the Courtroom

(Originally published on ABA Law Technology Today)

Since everyone has a different level of comfort and experience with something used as infrequently as PowerPoint, the objective for this list is to approach the topic from several different perspectives, in hopes that each reader might find at least two or three helpful tips. We’ll begin with some very basic design and layout ideas, and move on to some more technical and advanced features. With about 20 years’ experience in trial presentation, these are a few things I’ve seen used/misused most often.

1. Slide Layout

If you’re using PowerPoint slides, you may select widescreen (16:9) or standard (4:3) slides. The current version of PowerPoint defaults to widescreen, but that may not be the best for courtroom use.
On wide computer monitors, widescreen fills it up. Most court presentation systems still use a standard projector and screen, however, so although you will fill the side-to-side area, your top and bottom may have a lot of blank space. The projector may be adjusted to compensate, unless someone else is using the standard 4:3 layout. Find out what will be used in your courtroom, and set up your presentation accordingly.

2. Color Choices

Volumes have been written on color theory and the visual effects different colors can communicate. Without getting too deep on this, you should consider going with a soft, neutral slide background, as opposed to something that becomes the primary point of interest. You should also avoid using a black text font on a plain white background when possible, as it can actually cause visual fatigue when viewing for long periods of time.

3. Templates

Do use a template. Don’t use a bad template. Using a neutral template will help prevent viewers from becoming distracted by “busy” backgrounds, and can ensure that all slides have a visually similar theme.
Bonus Hint: This is NOT a good legal slide template.
Make sure to use an appropriate font and image sizing. Too much text on a slide, or a small photo in the middle of a slide are common mistakes you should avoid. Make sure any sound effects are disabled, and if you do use animated text fly-ins, use a consistent and subtle effect.

4. Recycling Graphics

With a bit of forethought, you can reuse your graphics, making them even more effective in your closing argument. For opening statements, avoid any argument or going beyond “what the evidence will show in trial.” You may be able to tweak it a bit if you use it during testimony with an expert witness, and later adding an argumentative title or comments to the closing version.

5. Backups and Redundancy

Never assume that everything will work properly. If you plan on using the courtroom system, you should bring a backup with you. Ideally, this would be another computer or iPad with your presentation already loaded, but a thumb drive or even a hard-copy printed set might save the day. Fortunately, many courtroom systems still include a document camera (e.g., ELMO).

6. Video Problems

If you’ve added video to presentations before, you may have experienced an issue where you can see the first image of the video, but it won’t play, leaving you with a great opportunity to explain to the jury what they would have seen if only the video had played properly. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, the media file should be located in the same folder as the PPT file. If you are prompted to upgrade your media file to the current standard, do it, which should embed the media into the PPT. Finally, make sure you test it ahead of time, both in editing and presentation modes.

7. Save Money

Cost is always a factor when it comes to bringing technology into trial. One quick and easy way to reduce costs is with a cost-sharing agreement for equipment rental. In many cases, you might also be able to share “neutral” access to a trial tech for presenting the trial exhibits. This should all be negotiated with opposing counsel well in advance of your trial date.

8. Blowups and Screen Size

Ideally, these decisions are made based on the courtroom layout. In very small courtrooms, or perhaps for a bench trial, you might be able to use a 2’x3’ blowup, with perhaps a 42” monitor. In larger courtrooms, the jury may be seated thirty feet or more from the screen, so you will want to go with a minimum screen size of seven or eight feet. Blowups can then be printed at 4’x6’ or larger. Jurors straining to view a postage stamp at twenty feet is generally not a good strategy.

9. Monitors or Projector and Screen

If your courtroom has technology installed, you will obviously be able to use that.
If not, you will need to decide what sort of equipment to use. While there are several options, and as many opinions, in most cases, I would recommend going with a large screen and projector over several smaller monitors. Your image will be larger, giving you and the jury one central and common point of focus. Plus, you can’t effectively use a laser pointer on a monitor.

10. System Connections

You may be familiar with the terms, “VGA” and “HDMI.” These are the two common video connections used in courtrooms today, and your laptop must be able to utilize one or the other.
Left to right: USB, HDMI, VGA
 You may need an adapter (i.e., USB, mini DisplayPort), and if you’re planning on going wireless with an iPad, you will need a complete system such as Apple TV to do so. The courts generally do not have the Apple system installed, nor any adapters you might need to connect anything other than VGA or HDMI.

Bonus Tip: Blank Screen

Have you ever been presenting and you wished you could quickly blank the screen? To blank the presentation screen at any time, simply hit the letter “B” key on your keyboard. To resume the presentation, hit the key again, or resume and advance the slide with the mouse, clicker, page-down, or the arrow key. The “W” key works the same, although it projects a white screen instead of black.

Bonus Tip: Navigation

If you need to jump directly to a specific slide without going through several others to get there, simply type in the slide number and then hit the “Enter” key. If you do expect to use this feature, make sure to have a printed set or other slide directory with page numbers, since few things can be quite as humiliating as getting lost in your PowerPoint presentation.

About Ted Brooks

Los Angeles, San Francisco
Ted Brooks is an experienced Trial Presentation Consultant with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His company (Litigation-Tech LLC) has been recognized with many awards, including Best Courtroom Presentation Providers.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Who's YOUR trial tech?

We work on both sides of the table, and although our primary market is the California courts, we do cover other areas now and then, including a recent  $200M arbitration in New York City. Coincidentally, we recently won awards in New York Law Journal for Best Trial Consultant, and Best "Hot Seat" Trial Technicians!

We have enjoyed our share of successes in the "W" column for both plaintiff and defense, including a recent Defense verdict in Los Angeles, and an SF Bay Area case in which an elevator was repaired with a zip tie, resulting in a $5.6M verdict. Plaintiff was represented by Andy Schwartz and Stan Casper,

Wrapping up the year, here are a few of our latest Honors & Awards

  • New York Law Journal Magazine, Best Of 2017

    New York Law Journal Magazine
    September 2017
    Best Trial Consultant
    Best "Hot Seat" Trial Technicians
  • The Recorder Best of 2017

    The Recorder
    August 2017
  • Best of Corporate Counsel

    Corporate Counsel
    June 2017
    2017 Best of Corporate Counsel
  • 2016 Best Courtroom Presentation Providers

    The Recorder
    Litigation-Tech and Ted Brooks are proud to be recognized as the best trial presentation providers in California. With offices in the extremely competitive markets of Los Angeles and San Francisco, it is a great honor and privilege to be named as "The Best Courtroom Presentation Providers."
  • Best Courtroom Presentation Providers - Hall of Fame

    The Recorder
    This is the 3rd time readers have voted for Litigation-Tech as Best Courtroom Presentation Providers, and as a result, we will also receive the Hall of Fame Award. Thanks so much to all who voted! It is truly humbling to be recognized among the many fine trial presentation providers in the Golden State. I can say that we love what do, and we're glad others do too!