It is time to fashion a new approach to learning trial skills. It is time to throw out those hoary old trial advocacy books. It is time to reject the old school. Do you know what they do with old schools? They tear them down and build new ones.
Why do we repeat the same old canards about trial practice? “Perhaps the most plausible explanation lies in the familiar desire of younger teachers to regurgitate undigested fragments of what they have swallowed in the course of their education.” Karl Dykema, “Where Our Grammar Came From,” in A Linguistics Reader 139, 141 (Graham Wilson ed., 1967).
It is time to start reading the books that other trial lawyers don’t. Arm yourself with a secret weapon unknown to them. The business books on persuasion and presentations. Attorneys are always presenting. We present a case to a judge or jury. We present a legal theory to a client. We present when negotiating a settlement or writing a brief. No matter the performance Steve Jobs will help you be more effective.
Most of the material I relate here comes from “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience” by Carmine Gallo . I also use material from the Isaacson biography.
This is my fourth installment in the business books series all of which concentrate on how to persuade. I wrote an earlier post on Steve Jobs and the art of practicing. Now I want to get into his public speaking techniques. I enjoy studying Jobs because he began as a fumbling nervous amateur and trained himself to become an outstanding presenter. Before his first TV interview he spent serious time over the toilet bowl retching. Jobs proves that speaking is a learnable skill and is not intuitive or something one is born with. This is what I try to impart to my law students. Anyone can learn and master these skills — it just takes time, persistence and devotion.
Here are the elements of Jobs’ success:
Preparation: The more time and effort that goes into a presentation, the better it will be. Master the material. Understand how it relates to your audience. Then design the presentation so it conveys the message with maximum impact.
Jobs: “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok [understand intuitively] what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”
Jobs: “I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.”
Technology can be dazzling but more important is being able to think clearly, strategically, creatively. Expand your horizons by reading the classics, modern fiction, non-fiction, biographys. Become a better thinker and that will help when it comes to communicating ideas to others.
Jobs: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
Jobs was fond of this quote from Pablo Picasso. It doesn’t mean slavishly copying other speakers. You can only be yourself, but “steal” by trying out something from another speaker, or read in a book, or in a course on public speaking. In the William Lozano final argument, I “stole” a story from a well known writer and adapted to my case. In fact, I took his prose and turned it into a poem. The Miami Herald, who desperately sought a conviction, published a series of articles actually accusing me of plagiarism. In a final argument! Good lawyers shamelessly steal material for their arguments. No one has the singular talent to create new material for every case.
Inspiration: Jobs ended his keynotes with an uplifting and inspiring conclusion. At the end of his iPhone presentation: “I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I’ve been so excited about today…There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. ‘I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.’ We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning. And we always will.”
Steve Jobs educated, entertained, informed in his presentations but he also inspired. It was an integral part of his method and it must be of yours. It takes work, planning, and creativity, but it’s worth the extra effort to make it great.
Lawyers must be able to end their final argument or any other presentation with an inspiring note. People need to hear something uplifting. They need to know they will be doing the right thing to vote for you. The best trial lawyers work out the inspirational conclusion long before the trial and have stock ones ready to adapt for any situation.
Simplicity : Jobs: “That’s been one of my mantras: Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Jobs believed in cutting through the details and complexity and distill the message to its essence. Taking the time to think carefully about your subject and the audience will help you design a simple, effective presentation. Ask Yourself – What Am I Really Selling?
Slides are powerful tools. Jobs created slides that were strikingly simple, visual, and devoid of bullet points. He favored pictures. When Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, he used a photo of a hand pulling the notebook computer out of an interoffice manila envelope. The lesson – don’t clutter up your slides with too many words. keep them visually simple even when attempting to describe difficult concepts. If Jobs was talking about 30 million units sold, there would just be the words, “30 million” on the screen. He kept things very basic and straight to the point.
As noted in Walter Isaacson’s biography “Steve Jobs,” Jobs loved to quote Leonardo da Vinci’s maxim that “[s]implicity is the ultimate sophistication.” As Isaacson noted, Jobs aimed for the simplicity that comes from conquering complexities, not ignoring them.
Jobs spoke simple. Jobs used plain words, short sentences and silence. He let his words breathe and his point sink in. Trial lawyers should follow Jobs’ lead. Jobs’ successor, Apple Inc. CEO Timothy D. Cook, observed in Isaacson’s book, Jobs “turn[ed] off the noise,” which “allow[ed] him to focus on a few things and say no to many things.”
Attention: I tell my students that our most important product is human attention. If we can’t command the audience’s attention we lose the ability to persuade. Steve Jobs captured the attention of an audience, kept them tuned in to his message and inspired action. These are precisely the skills we need to do our jobs as attorneys because we are always presenting to others to inform and inspire some sort of action.
Jobs said – Answer the One Question that Matters Most to the Audience. Why should I care? It’s not about you, it is about them. They are asking that question: Why should I care. it must grab their attention — will help them make money –will it save money – tell them it is easier or more enjoyable – tell them tell them early, often and clearly don’t leave them guessing. Sell the benefit. They don’t care about your product, they care about themselves, so focus on the benefit.
Stories: Jobs didn’t just reveal the new phone, he reviewed the history of Apple, turning it into a story: “In 1984, Apple introduced the first Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple. It changed the whole computer industry. In 2001, we introduced the first iPod. It didn’t just change the way we all listen to music. It changed the entire music industry.” Jobs loved to use a headline to capture the attention of his audience. Effective headlines are short. To create one you need a clear vision of your goal. Headlines are not just for marketing, the concept also applies to a brief, a negotiation or an argument. It’s the one thing you can keep coming back to – and it’s what people will remember above all. Jobs made it easy to follow his story by using a headline to set it up and then walked the audience through it.
Jobs believed in having one theme “If you cannot describe what you do in ten words or less, I’m not investing, I’m not buying, I’m not interested. Period. ” The secret is to identify the one theme what you want the audience to remember they need not review notes, etc., but they will remember 100% of what they feel. The brain does not remember boring; it remembers an emotionally charged event .
Demonstrations: Our brains get bored easily. Don’t give it time to lose interest. How do we keep it? Right at the outset of a presentation Jobs starts demonstrating a new product or feature and has fun doing it. When he introduced the iPhone at Macworld 2007, Jobs demonstrated how Google Maps (GOOG) worked on the device. He pulled up a list of Starbucks (SBUX) stores in the local area and said, “Let’s call one.” When someone answered, Jobs said: “I’d like to order 4,000 lattes to go, please. No, just kidding.”
He uses what neuroscientists call an “emotionally charged event.” It is the equivalent of a mental post-it note that signals the brain, Remember This! At Macworld 2007, Jobs built up the drama. “Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device…an iPod, a phone, an Internet communicator…an iPod, a phone, are you getting it? These are not three devices. This is one device!” It was unexpected, and entertaining.
We can learn from the great storytellers. What do you remember from Spielberg movies – Indiana Jones pulling a pistol to kill a swordsman – the opening scene of jaws – ET asking to phone home. Create one moment that will define the experience. What is the one big idea you want to leave with your audience? It should be short, memorable, and in subject-verb-object sequence.
Passion: Great speakers like Jobs sell dreams. They have a messianic zeal to create new experiences. When he launched the iPod in 2001, Jobs said, “In our own small way we’re going to make the world a better place.” Jobs sold it as a tool to enrich people’s lives. He cultivated a sense of mission. Passion and emotion will motivate others. .He brought all of himself to his presentations. If you are not passionate and engaged in your message then you can’t expect the same from your audience. John Sculley said of Jobs: “Marketing is really theater. It’s like staging a performance.”
Jobs: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” When you finish a speech or presentation, your audience should be changed. Lawyers must change the audience, or why bother speaking at all? Deliver the Experience like a Broadway play using elaborate stage props and stunning visual background so at the end the audience will say the price was worth it.
And a final word from Steve Jobs: “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that’s as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. … Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
His message is clear. Use it well.