Using PowerPoint for Presentations to the Bench

A few weeks ago, I assisted on a multi-day motion for new trial hearing in Barrow County, Georgia. My co-counsel used a PowerPoint to present his opening statement. I had not thought of using a PowerPoint in a bench proceeding, but I have frequently used them in jury trials. My colleague did such a great job using the technology to supplement his persuasive style, that I decided to use a PowerPoint in mine as well. I want to talk a little bit about why I did it and what I learned.

  • It is probably not for every case or every situation. What my case last week and the case in Barrow had in common were complex facts that could be simplified and packaged up in a persuasive package with graphics. In both cases, for instance, the timeline was critical to the case. And It was helpful to put some snippets from the pleadings and relevant statutes up for the judge to see while we spoke.
  • It is important to know your courtroom. I made the false assumption that the courthouse, an older building, did not have the technology built in for a presentation. It turned out that I was wrong. I posted on the local bar association’s Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the courtroom was equipped with a “smart tv.”

I made the sound decision to stick with my original game plan where it comes to courtroom technology. Allow plenty of time to test everything out, and leave ample time to practice. One of the worst things that can happen in court is that you have a technology problem right at the beginning of a hearing when all eyes are on you. I came an hour and a half early. And it was a good thing. The Smart TV did not have a port for VGA input. My only option was HDMI. But neither my computer nor tablet had a computer with HDMI port. And I did not have the HDMI adapter. A colleague from the courthouse, however, did have a laptop and was kind enough to assist. So, we hooked everything up and put the PowerPoint file on his laptop. And I practiced going all the way from the turn on of the computer to the beginning of the presentation 2–3 times before I left the courtroom to grab a quick lunch.

When it was “go time,” everything worked. But I cannot imagine how horrible it would have all been if I had shown up with my laptop and said, at the beginning of the hearing, “where do I plug this in?”

The other thing was that I was prepared to go “old school” had everything failed. However, everything went without a hitch, and I think that the PowerPoint was a big help.

I have now written a thank you note to the helpful attorney. And I have ordered an HDMI adapter for my laptop and tablet. And all is now well.

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