PowerPoint in opening statements?

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PowerPoint in opening statements?

Some judges will allow PowerPoint presentations in opening statements. You likely will have to show it to the opposition before you can use it. They may agree, but do not count on it. Avoid argument in the PowerPoint. Use it in good faith. Opening is to be an overview. Confirm with the judge your right to use it and provide a written copy to the court and your opposing counsel in advance. A good time might be with your pretrial documents submitting it with a request to use it along with a copy for review. Yes, the other side will have it but still it will be of value. You may need a written copy of it for the record as well.

Think of the goal of getting the jury to understand the case instead of “one upping” your opposition. This has many advantages.  It is important to determine if there are any restrictions, and it is wise to do this well in advance of opening statement, so you have time to make any changes that are necessary. If you cannot use the PowerPoint be adaptable and a good sport. 

The earlier you start your PowerPoint in your case, the sooner you have visual guideline to improve and guide your view of the case and how you develop it.  Use it in small focus groups which provide an excellent opportunity to see if you are clear in your presentation. Show it to friends and anyone who will watch it. The more feedback the better. It is not about selling your case, rather it is about communicating a foundation for the issues  to be understood.

Remember that problems can occur in technical applications so make sure that your equipment is ready to go on trial day.  A technical presentation may detract from you as a person so make sure you still connect to the jury and are not lost in the PowerPoint. Find a balancing point between technology and connection. Stay away from too many points. Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication. Some great attorneys just get stipulations on exhibits that both want to use and present them on the screen and discuss them.

To the extent you can put personality into your PowerPoint without looking fake, condescending, or pretentious it can helpful. Be nice, be real. A well thought out picture for a point is success.  

Give the jury the courtesy you would expect. Be to the point, precise and understand it is all new to them. Use the PowerPoint not to impress but to guide them with the big picture and complex points you endeavor to make simple.

It is important to understand your case has a beginning and an end. Chapters in between like a book. You have limited time in opening. Use it well, be honest, be fair. Think in advance of what you would want to know and what you need to explain to avoid confusion. Let that be your light and compass.