Overhead projectors are the draft horses of multimedia presentation equipment. They are sturdy, easy to use, and extremely effective for leaving lasting impressions with juries. But, in the wrong hands or without proper training, an overhead projector can produce a multimedia disaster at trial. Before you or your AV technician rolls your overhead projector through the courthouse doors for your next trial, remember these few quick tips for success.
- Preparation. We’re frequently surprised by how many lawyers neglect to practice their overhead projector presentations before trial. Preparation is the key to success with an overhead projector. Don’t roll the projector cart into court with the assumption that all will go well. At least one week prior to trial, power up the overhead, treat your staff to Hardee’s, and do a dry run of your presentation. Feedback from colleagues (already thankful for the free grub) will be invaluable.
- Transparency Transition. Clumsy transitions between transparencies can lead to jury disengagement. It can be jarring for jurors, who are likely transfixed by your presentation, to be brought quickly out of their reveries by a single dropped or mishandled transparency. Our advice? Practice, practice, practice. Videotape your presentation to highlight potential transition errors and to improve the throw-down of your transparencies. Better yet, hire an assistant for trial whose job it is to hand you the transparencies on your cue.
- Animation Fail. Believe me, I’ve seen my share of attorneys who cut out stick figures with construction paper, add a popsicle stick, and attempt to recreate an automobile accident through animation on an overhead projector. Don’t go there. If you insist on animation, keep it simple and use professional stencils to create your characters and props. While popsicle sticks work fine, consider using a more professional presentation tool, such as a shish-ka-bob skewer. Better yet, use your hands and fingers to animate shadow puppets on the big screen. Simple steps like this work well to recreate important scenes in your case. Overhead projection animations do work, and often work extremely well. But done the wrong way, they can backfire and lead to snickers among the jurors and a damaging comment from the judge.
With the right amount of preparation and top quality transparencies, you can master the skill of overhead projector presentations at trial. But don’t expect it to go right the first time. While you may encounter your share of initial miscues, you will eventually be rewarded.