I’ve been participating in some discussions on the LinkedIn group Expert Witness recently by answering some questions about communication, in particular, about communicating one’s complex expertise to a judge or jury. I also posed the question, “What is your biggest challenge being an expert witness?” The group’s members had a variety of responses with a central theme of getting the jury to understand them. From there, the administrator of the Expert Witness Network blog asked me to write a guest post about expert witness presentations.
Here is a snippet from my Expert Witness Network guest post entitled “How to Speak Simple in a Courtroom”:
Simplifying Your Testimony
One of the first steps to ensure understanding is to remove jargon, acronyms, and high-level vocabulary from your presentation. If you cannot eliminate these elements, then you need to explain them the first time you use them.
Simply put, you cannot talk to a jury like you would a colleague. Simplification does not mean “dumbing down” your presentation. Instead, you are ensuring that everyone understands what you are saying and why it is important.
Some experienced presenters and expert witnesses are keenly aware that there is a necessity to simplify their technical explanations. This understanding for the need to simplify has numerous misunderstandings, however. I’ve heard some technical professionals suggest that there are high, medium, and low levels of knowledge, and as long as you speak to the middle section, you should be good.
In my experience and observation, that is not the best suggestion. When addressing a jury, expert witnesses must convince all of the members of the jury of their side to win the case. When speaking to the middle, you are not explaining to the entire jury. Those jurors (or judges) whom you left out hinder your desired outcome simply because they did not get all of the information. Humans naturally fabricate what they perceive to be true, so when they do not understand something completely, they misinterpret what you say to fit their reality. To prevent this confusion, you need to create a foundation and build up from there to get everyone on the same page.
Read the entire guest post on the Expert Witness Network – How to Speak Simple in a Courtroom.
If you’re an expert witness yourself, learn more about how I work with and train expert witness presentations to help them simplify their message to be understood (by the jury, judge, & lawyers), which leads to winning more cases and increased fees.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.