By Meg Bucaro
Meg Bucaro Communications
I found myself in a courtroom observing the state prosecutors as part of my preparation for an upcoming training for their office. When it came to this specific trial, I was an outsider and a new face in the hallways. Although the prosecutors had heard I would be popping into courtrooms unannounced to observe them, the defense, of course, did not get the memo.
After almost two hours of observation, I was sitting in the hallway, waiting for a verdict to come in. The defense attorney walked by me a few times and finally stopped to ask who I was and what I was doing there. I stood up, introduced myself and my purpose. He then chuckled and asked me my opinion of the prosecutor’s skills. It was now my turn to laugh as I certainly was not going to give my assessment to him about his opposing counsel, my client. Realizing what was happening he then asked me, “Ok, well then how did I do?” I hesitated as I had an opinion but I was not confident he was ready to hear it. After sensing my pause, he said, “No really, I can handle it, I am curious what you thought about my closing argument.”
Since I am a sucker for anyone who requests feedback on their presentation skills, I briefly summarized my analysis which included how his multiple attempts at humor, fell on deaf ears each and every time. I took note of the negative reactions the jurors expressed and then retold what I witnessed. He stood there and when I was done he replied, “Yes I know, I have been told those things before, but I talk like this in my personal life so I want to have authentic voice in court at well.”
I smiled and we returned to the courtroom where he learned he lost the case…which was no surprise to me.
An authentic voice does not mean a mediocre one. Presentation skills can always be improved, like any skill in which you are willing to put forth some effort. While I respect his desire to be authentic as we should always strive for genuine communication, he simply stopped short.
Nick Morgan, author of “Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma” recounts what leaders too often say about authenticity.
“…I’d rather just be me. That’s more authentic” What they really mean is, I don’t want to do the hard work on practice. I’ll just wing it. “
Do not stop short. Do not wing it. Organizing the facts, lining up witnesses and developing a theme is important but not complete. One of the biggest mistakes I see trial lawyers make is undervaluing the role that presentation skills preparation take during persuasion. This is also the case within law enforcement and frankly, most professions, however persuasion is THE #1 job for attorneys. Do not rush through preparation without focusing on how you show up in court.
Luckily, evidence-based techniques exist to increase your influence in court during persuasion. How non-verbal language, storytelling, organization and witness preparation can heighten your impact, credibility and influence will all be discussed in the March 19th program “Increase Your Influence in the Courtroom” for trial attorneys in partnership with Georgia Lawyers CLE. Register now and don’t miss an opportunity to increase your change of success next time you are in court!
As a communication trainer and consultant, Meg Bucaro works with attorneys and law enforcement professionals to increase their effectiveness through customized communication skills training for high stake situations. Meg is coming to Georgia Lawyers CLE for the March 19, 2020 program in Atlanta to discuss how to increase influence in the courtroom.