Thursday, October 18, 2007

Presenting your case - moving beyond bullet points

As I mentioned in a previous post, a large part of the forensic process involves presenting your results to a judge and jury; and getting cross examined by the opposing attorney. There are several ways to present in court. I've heard from analysts who bring their Ocean Systems' Luggable to court. I've heard from others who output their files to Flash, or AVI, or WMV, or MOV, or DVD. 

When those clips or individual images end up as part of presentation, many still choose to use Microsoft's PowerPoint to present them in court. I don't want to name names, but I've seen some horrendous presentations that have blitzed jurors with tons of information in bullet point form and put these poor jurors to sleep. What's wrong with this picture?

The key to an effective presentation is to keep the audience's focus on you, the presenter. If you are focused on the screen whilst reading the bullet points to the jury, so too will their focus be on the screen. You don't want that. You want them to be focused on you and what you are saying to them. Have a conversation with them. Invite them into your world. Explain complex things in a simple (but not condescending) way. If forensics is presentation and debate, then the key to being successful is to control the attention of your audience. Look at me and hear what I have to say. Look at this image. This is what I found. Look at me as I explain why my findings are important. And so on ...

Presentation skills are tough to master as most people shy away from the spotlight. No worries ... there is help out there. Cliff Atkinson has a great book called Beyond Bullet Points that really helps you explore ways to connect with your audience.

You can achieve a mastery over your tools and produce brilliant work in Photoshop. But, you are handicapped if you can't effectively present your findings (forensics). More often than nought, our work speaks for itself and attorneys can come to an agreement based on what they see (plea agreement). But, when your work goes to trial, you can make or break the case with your testimony. At $30, Cliff Atkinson's book goes a long way in helping you make your case.

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