If you're like me, you've probably never had the opportunity to be in a courtroom during a jury trial. The closest most of us get is watching our favorite TV lawyer -- be it James Spader (Boston Legal), Sam Waterston (Law and Order) or James Woods (Shark) -- appeal to the jury to convict or acquit based on evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Whatever your opinion of lawyers, they offer a terrific lesson on how focus on their audience -- the jury -- informs their entire strategy and delivery in the courtroom. Their choice of language, examples, timing and tone are all purposefully designed to elicit a specific outcome.
SO...IS THIS RELEVANT IN THE BOARDROOM?
Absolutely! Understanding the needs of your audience and what will resonate with them helps you enormously in delivering your message. Ask yourself these questions:
- what is the knowledge level of my audience?
- what are their likely concerns?
Is your audience well versed in your topic or are you indeed the expert? Will they be ready to agree with your message or might their experience base lead them to a different perspective?
This analysis is a critical "to do" before every presentation. I know it's easy to skip over when you're delivering the identical presentation multiple times. But failure to take an up-to-date temperature reading of your audience is what makes for a stale, canned presentation.
Choose language that is easily understood by your audience. Everyone can grasp plainly spoken sentences; more complicated sentence structures and vocabulary may be appropriate in certain situations, but consider whether they make your message any more compelling.
Examples an audience can identify with are the most powerful. If you are able to use stories of people they know or stories about you, even better. Of my TV lawyer examples, Spader is the master at this. He stands directly in front of the jury box, looks the 12 jurors right in the eye, leans in and says, in a conversational tone, "I don't know about you, but when I was growing up...."
TONE AND TIMING
Varying your tone and timing makes it easier for your audience to listen to you. Your tone can be forceful, enthusiastic, confidential, informative, humorous...to cite just a few possibilities. Tone gives your audience clues about how to respond to what you're saying. Timing also offers clues. Every sentence in your presentation does not need to be delivered in a staccato, urgent pace. Slow down when telling stories or sharing impactful facts. Speed up when you're getting ready to ask for a call to action.
So go ahead...steal some presentation tools from the courtroom...you'll help your audience stay engaged with your message and greatly increase your chances of a favorable verdict.