TECHNIQUES FOR IMPROVED VIRTUAL COMMUNICATIONS
Since the adoption of remote trials and depositions there are improved techniques and ways of communicating virtually. Some of these include the following:
1. Ordinary witness preparation is insufficient. It now requires increased preparation involving basics such as background, camera distance and camera angle needed. Background screens are increasingly inexpensive and can be delivered to the witness. In addition, systems such as Zoom have built in backgrounds.
2. Communication should involve more exhibits and visuals.
3. Examinations should be shorter and to the point.
4. Consider using demonstrations remotely as you would if you were in court.
5. The focus should be on the witness and not the attorney. The questions should be witness focused. The attorney should react nonverbally to the emotional portions of testimony of the witness.
Some of the technical aspects of remote or virtual presentations include the following.
1. The distance from the face to the camera is important. If the camera is too close it is an invasion of personal space on the part of the viewer and is disconcerting. If the camera is too far away, the person speaking seems unimportant. Use the power of “thirds.” Roughly 1/3 of the space above the head, the third below and camera approximately an arm’s-length away from the face.
2. Be aware of the camera angle. The angle should not be on the area below the chin or from the ceiling down, but directly at the face.
3. Context is important. The background subconsciously creates a perception of witness credibility. Prepare the appropriate background for the witness. In the lawyer’s office, consider setting up an office just for virtual communication. Hire a technology expert for advice.
4. The lighting is important. The lighting behind the witness towards the camera, darkens the face. The light should be towards the front to the face. Consider using an extra light..
5. Nonverbal communication is of great importance. The witness and attorney should look directly at the camera. It is the camera and not your picture on the screen you and the witness should look at. It is important to make eye contact. Some do this by simply turning off their image while talking in order to be sure to look at the camera and not themselves. Putting a reminder note on the computer to look at the camera may be a good idea.
6. Consider adding a second device with a screen to see what you look like on the screen.
7. Remote virtual communications takes approximately one third longer than during a person to person trial because of the necessity of dealing with the technology required with such things as exhibits and the like. Be sure to be prepared with regard to technology needs in order to move along as quickly as you can.
8. Occupy and use as much as a screen as is available. The smaller you are, the less important, but avoid too close camera position.
9. Consider creating a group picture of your trial team in order to be able to show the jury people on your side of the case. In a courtroom they’re able to see the team where they are seated.
10. During jury selection have other paralegals watch the jury on their devices and make notes so that all of the jurors are being observed by the group.