Of PowerPoint, Presenter Mode, and Surface Pro 3

Of PowerPoint, Presenter Mode, and Surface Pro 3

Over the course of this past week I’ve had a chance to watch and judge our office’s annual law clerk closing argument competition. These 1L and 2L students are all very talented and come up with some great arguments and visual aids but I cannot help but believe that we should expand our training as trial lawyers to include PowerPoint presentations for the courtroom.

Most of our attorneys are familiar enough to put a slide deck together that gets the basics down. However, most of these presentations are too wordy, and don’t mesh well with presentation in a courtroom. We had a discussion prior to our competition about banning PowerPoint to force “trial advocacy” skills, I argued against that because effective PowerPoint use is an integral part of trial advocacy these days.

Allow me to show you what I mean. In one of my recent Paperless Prosecutor seminar presentations I was asked to present on developing an App Toolkit for a prosecutor’s smart phone. Now, since I don’t usually present on that topic I had to come up with a fresh slide deck, and boy did I butcher my first draft. Take a look!

These were seriously bad slides. The entire slide deck was 16 slides long, for a 15 minute presentation, not terrible but really quite boring. I had to rework it, and this is what I came up with;

This single slide contained my entire original slide deck. Instead of words, and bullet points I used icons on a smart phone start screen as visual cues to push my presentation along. This was a slide I was pleased with. I incorporated animations that would trigger off the “click” of one of the icons. In the sample shown I have the Office Lens demo video appear when I click on the Office Lens logo on the page.

The linear nature of most slide decks limits the presentation, the fact that each icon on this slide can trigger a separate piece of multi-media to appear on screen allows for a non-linear presentation with audience interaction. I can ask them what they want to see first and adapt my presentation to match!

The thing that makes this shine though is PowerPoint’s Presenter Mode. This is one of the most powerful features of the newest edition of PowerPoint. It allows you to control the presentation with a dashboard that appears on your device screen while the slide alone appears on the projector screen. Gone are the days of using a clicker device to page through linear slide by linear slide, with presenter mode you can black out the screen as needed to return focus to you, move through the slide deck in a non-linear fashion as you see fit and have all of your presenter notes available right in front of you. Take a look below.

1 PowerPoint Presenter Mode Dashboard with annotations

Presenter Mode might seem intimidating at first, but it really allows a litigator to improve any courtroom presentation.

  1. Screen Interaction Tools
  2. Preview of next “Click” (this will show your next animation if you have any, or your next slide)
  3. Notes – this allows you to keep your attention on the jury, you won’t ever have to look back at your projection screen to read a slide, all your notes are right here in front of you! (These will show all the notes you have written for each particular slide.)

While preview and the notes reading pane are immensely useful and if those are the only features you wind up using with Presenter Mode you will vastly improve your presentation, it is the screen interaction tools that can take your arguments to the next level.

First, with a pen-enabled tablet PC such as the Surface 3 or Pro 3 models you can use the digital pen to actually write on the screen, turning any slide into a digital whiteboard. You can forego complex animations and just write/draw on the screen to emphasize a point. In addition to writing on the tablet you can enable an on screen laser pointer useable with touch, mouse or the digital pen, this laser pointer can help you point out things on your slide without modifying it.

The next icon is navigation mode. When you click this your presenter mode shifts to a navigation interface where you can select any slide on your deck and immediately jump there. This feature, especially on a tablet PC which can be in your hands or on a podium nearby, can be used to flow through your presentation in a non-linear fashion.

2 PowerPoint Presenter Mode Navigation Screen

Navigation Mode can be used in so many creative ways for trial. Some of my own uses include sections on the law, facts, and key concepts, as my argument gets to those topics I can quickly transition to them without wasting screen time with a slide on the facts when I’m talking about a key legal concept. It gives you the freedom to present, un-tethered to a slide show, and avoids the habit many of us have developed of clicking through slides because we get well ahead of ourselves.

One final tip for this article, using the Screen Interaction tools you can of course black out the screen, many presenters know that one, but Presenter Mode gives you one more powerful tool – the magnifying glass.

Take a look below;

3 Zoom tool being used in Presenter Mode

The possibilities here are fairly obvious, zoom in on evidence photos or key phrases fluidly and as needed during your closing argument.

The courtroom is one of the most difficult places to present, it is often not friendly to the things a good presentation wants to have, lighting, acoustics, modern technology. Attorneys don’t want to be tied down to a laptop tethered to a projector, we move around for emphasis, we have multiple exhibits to show and many topics to cover. Sometimes those topics organically flow one from another, other times we are arguing one point and a thought pops into our heads and we run with it, changing the direction of the presentation.

Trials are not scripted events, they are living breathing affairs that involve many moving parts and many attorneys don’t leverage some of the best presentation tools. I think the juries of the next 5-10 years will come to expect better digital presentations to go along with our closing arguments. Whether we like it or not, tools like PowerPoint are an integral part of courtroom advocacy, it’s time we started embracing it, teaching it, learning it and using it to its fullest potential.

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