Friday, January 29, 2016

Take A Page From Oscar Winning Actors: Read Your Openings/Closings Out Loud Before The Trial!

Your opening may read brilliantly on paper, but here’s the thing: the jurors won’t be reading your opening, they’ll be listening to it. Listening involves different pathways in our brains. What may make a great deal of sense when read, can come across as just so much nonsense when heard.

The best example I know of is the classic “Eats, shoots and leaves.” A comma is all that distinguishes a murderer from a friendly Koala bear (“Eats shoots and leaves”)! Yet when spoken, the listener has little way of knowing which is which, unless of course, they are attending to the context.

If you want to make sure your opening will be heard as you want to be, read it out loud.

Step one is to read your opening out loud to yourself, because I guarantee you will pick up all sorts of issues with your written version that need to be addressed. You may even wish to record yourself speaking your opening, since it can be difficult to spot problems at the same time as you are speaking. Things to watch out for, for example; run-on sentences. Or the use of “they” “he” “she” or “it” without a referencing noun close enough to the pronoun. Or sentences that have so many conditional clauses, the meaning is lost long before the end of the sentence.

Step two is to read it out loud to a friend or family member who is NOT intimately acquainted with the material, and from whom you are willing to hear constructive criticism. In addition to whatever comments your friend makes, ask: “Is there enough emotion in this to grab your attention? Is my language clear enough so you never went “huh?” as you listened? Are my sentences short enough? Am I using repetition in a way that helps or hurts? Does the way my opening unfolded appeal to your common sense, or is it too complex?” and so on.

Do the same with your closing argument. Any actor worth his/her salt always rehearses out loud. A courtroom is, in many ways, a theatre.

The small amount of extra effort required to speak your words out loud may make all the difference between convincing the jurors of your case, or watching their eyes glaze over as your case peters out.