Making the Most of Presentation Technology: Software, Equipment, People

Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)
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Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS)

Presentation technology is a powerful persuasive tool. Sophisticated demonstratives, deposition video clips and exhibit callout and annotation tools help lawyers advocate more effectively. Moreover, using technology is efficient and reduces the total time of the proceedings. That cuts costs for the client and wins points with judge and jury.

Two Things Legal Professionals Need to Know About Presentation Technology Software

The first step in using presentation technology is selecting the best software for your needs.

As background knowledge legal professionals should know two things. First, the distinction between dynamic and non-dynamic content. Second, the comparative advantages of trial presentation software for exhibits and video depositions.

Dynamic content is most often associated with demonstratives. PowerPoint slides are familiar and ubiquitous. In addition to opening and closing argument, I’ve seen PowerPoint used to good effect to illustrate expert witness testimony. Animation and timeline builders are other commonly used types of dynamic content.

The same software is typically used both to create and display dynamic content demonstratives. The goal is to derive maximum value from content created with feature-rich software.

In contrast, exhibits that started life as dynamic content (e.g., PowerPoints) are ordinarily converted to a non-dynamic file type like PDF for display. However, an exhibit should be displayed in native format using the file-creation software if evidentiary value would be lost in file conversion.

Deposition transcripts and audio/video files, multimedia file exhibits and (the great majority of) document exhibits are non-dynamic content. This content can be displayed using trial presentation software such as TrialDirector and Sanction. Alternatively, it can be displayed using common desktop software like Adobe Acrobat, Word and Windows Media Player.

Presentation software’s considerable advantages over desktop software include:

  • Zoom and callout tools, including single or multiple callouts that can be freely arranged on the page;
  • Annotation tools such as highlight, arrow and underline with multi-color selection;
  • Side-by-side display of two exhibits;
  • Robust clip creation and editing functions specifically designed for video depositions;
  • Side-by-side display of deposition video and an exhibit that is the subject of testimony.

Factors to consider in making your software selection include matter type, venue, presentation length and complexity, anticipated use of video depositions and the number of exhibits. Of course, budget and staffing availability also play a role.

Equipment Basics for Courtroom Display

Once you’ve selected your software, the immediate next step is to confirm you have a laptop computer with the recommended hardware specifications. For desktop software, confirm you’re on the latest version of the program.

The bigger piece of the equipment puzzle is the venue display system. There are three basic configurations:

  • Single screen – Large flat screen or projector and screen.
  • Monitors – Individual monitors at the tables. The standard federal courtroom system has monitors at the bench, clerk’s desk, witness stand, counsel tables and built into the jury box.
  • Hybrid –Single screen with supplemental monitors placed where there isn’t a good sightline to the main screen; for instance, witness stand is next to the main screen facing the jury box.

Follow this simple decision tree to evaluate display system options:

  1. Does the venue offer adequate audio/visual equipment? If not,
  2. Can your firm or client supply the necessary equipment? (If all you need is a projector and portable screen, the answer may well be yes.) If not,
  3. Is there a local equipment rental vendor?

If you reached the third question and answered yes, the concluding step is to assess equipment needs, cost and budget.

Good Teamwork Makes Good Presentations

Technology doesn’t run itself. You also need the right people on your team.

A successful presentation is a collaborative effort before and during the proceedings. The principal roles are:

  • Preparing exhibits and depositions;
  • Creating demonstratives;
  • Presenting evidence and demonstratives (commonly referred to as “trial tech” or “hotseat”);
  • Equipment assembly, setup and teardown;
  • On-call technology troubleshooting.

It’s common for team members to fill multiple roles. Nonetheless, it’s helpful to consider these roles separately because the tasks require different skillsets and experience. Time commitments – both how much time and when it will be needed – also vary.

This is the second installment in a three-part series. Part one was an overview of presentation technology for legal advocacy. Next up is strategies to avoid three of the most common mistakes in using presentation technology.

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