Johnson & Hunter, Inc.

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Many of our techniques address “Speaking well as you think on your feet,” and we also have advice for speaking while sitting. You will be required to speak sitting down at times throughout your career, of course. Whether engaged in a group practice meeting, a client meeting, or presenting on a panel in front of microphones, take care that you think about your body position as you sit, just as you do while standing on your…
Last week I lectured for the second time on a new topic. For my first presentation ten days earlier, I had worked assiduously on the structure, headline subjects, and visual aids. Making changes as I rehearsed, I recopied my written notes several times. Here’s a graphic from that first version. Anticipating the next lecture just ten days later, I saved my notes (which consist mostly of memory-triggering words) and practiced as I refined my thoughts.…
When writing our book The Articulate Witness: An Illustrated Guide to Testifying Under Oath, we combed through books, brochures, and web sites about witness preparation and compiled the collective wisdom of judges, lawyers, and court administrators.   Here is some of the most common advice we found. Use it to help prepare your client for the witness chair. The complete list is found in the book, available here. Plan ahead: Find out where the courthouse…
We’ve written extensively on the importance of using structured improvisation rather than scripting when speaking. With few exceptions, reading or recitation will not yield a persuasive, dynamic delivery. Structuring your order of topics and then improvising word-by-word helps your presentation come across as more natural. In essence, you train your brain to structure and remember your ideas in a specific order, but not with the precise words you will actually use. In our teaching, we…
It happened again last week, and it made me madder than usual. A whip-smart, socially skilled mid-level associate at a major law firm arrived at a communication coaching and confided that she had been taught not to gesture. In law school she had been instructed to speak by placing her hands straight down at her sides, or alternatively, clutching a lectern. Though this made her feel uncomfortable, she had persevered for several years, coping with…
Brian Johnson and I have been at several trial skills programs lately, both together and separately. Since we only teach for practitioners, not law students (I teach in one program at the University of Chicago Law School), we are always interested in how the programs are designed for today’s super-busy lawyers. What case files are used, and how long are they? What other reading is assigned? In other words, how much time are attorneys expected…
I recently came across this blog called “Terrible Public Speaking Tips.” The title made me chuckle, but I agree with most of the content. Many of these “terrible tips” apply to lawyers speaking in the courtroom, boardroom, or most anywhere. We’ve written before about avoiding attempts at humor. We are big proponents of “less is more” when it comes to PowerPoint slides (see pages 91-95 in The Articulate Attorney). And we think of notes…
Anyone familiar with our teaching methods knows our mantra “Speak in phrases, not whole sentences.” Speaking in phrases, or chunks, is the key to controlling your pace, especially when you first start speaking. The Pledge of Allegiance is a perfect, and familiar, example of speaking in phrases. Use it to set the proper pace at the beginning of every presentation. Watch this video clip and use our Six-Minute Fix to practice. [embedded content]…
The world’s foremost gesture researcher is Dr. David McNeill, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. The capstone of his career is his book Why We Gesture: The Surprising Role of Hand Movements in Communication. His research, plus that of many others around the globe, reveals a “gesture–speech unity” with “gesture as the orchestrating force of the whole.” It proves that “gesture-orchestrated speech is essential to speech.” Gesture is an integral part of how…
Bringing a lesson from vacation into the courtroom I once took a downhill ski lesson. My luck-of-the-draw instructor turned out to be a seasoned master teacher whose few suggestions made a big difference to my performance. For three hours, he and I worked on three things: finding the edge on my right foot, staying upright with a calmer torso, and sliding my skis onto the edges during turns. As a bonus, I’m faster.   But that’s…