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December 8, 2017

When Preparing to Present, Talk, Don’t Read

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

In my line of work, I find myself on my feet giving presentations quite often: marketing talks, CLE seminars, strategy sessions. I prepare for those opportunities pretty extensively, but here is one thing I don’t do as part of that preparation: I don’t sit and review my notes. I do prepare notes, and I do make sure that I devote plenty of time to planning out what I’m going to say, for example, when a given slide is on the screen. That’s especially true since I don’t believe in text-heavy slides that, in effect, put the speaker’s notes up on the screen. So, the content is always planned out. But once I’m done writing those notes, I don’t passively read them. Instead, if I have time, I’ll practice the presentation on my feet — using notes when I need to, but purposefully weening myself off those notes.

And, if I don’t have time to practice on my feet, I’ll do the next best thing. I’ll record my presentation using a digital recorder, or these days, my phone, and then I will listen to my own presentation several times as I’m doing other things, like shaving or driving to work. It is my belief that this form of review and practice is much better than silent study. It gets me more quickly to the point of being familiar with the content so I can deliver it extemporaneously, and it builds confidence. That has been my experience, and now there is research to back it up. Two memory researchers from Canada (Forrin & MacLeod, 2017) conducted an experiment showing that there is a memory advantage when saying words aloud, as opposed to hearing them or reading them. And the next best thing to actually saying them out loud is to hear them, not just in anyone’s voice, but in our own. In this post, I’ll briefly look at why that is the case, and share some rehearsal tips.

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December 4, 2017

Nod Your Head

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

Nodding your head up and down means “Yes.” At least in our culture it does. And world travelers will know that this one thankfully translates to nearly all other countries and cultures as well. There are exceptions, like one country I visited a couple of times on consulting trips: Bulgaria. There, shaking your head up and down, our “Yes,” actually means “No,” and shaking your head from side to side, our “No,” means “Yes.” And if you ask me if that creates the potential for confusion, I’d nod my head…or shake my head “Yes.”

But sticking with the dominant cultural tendencies, the affirmative head nod is a useful and positive form of nonverbal communication. And we now have proof from the researchers that it works. Social scientists in Japan (Osugi & Kawahara, 2017) used animated clips of figures either nodding affirmatively, shaking their heads negatively, or remaining motionless. They found that the nodding head motion significantly increases ratings of subjective likability and approachability. And rather than just enhancing appearance, the positive head-nodding is perceived to indicate a better personality on the part of the target. That stands to reason: It is easy to think well of someone who is nodding in agreement. For that reason, and with some important caveats, the head nod is a good tool for communicators in the courtroom, including advocates, questioners, and witnesses.

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September 25, 2017

Voir Dire on Islamophobia

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

President Trump has just announced the third version of his ban on travel to the U.S. by residents from specific countries. This time the ban includes the unlikely traveler from North Korea and some Venezuelan officials, but this third version is still recognizable as his ‘Muslim travel ban,’ the campaign promise that, in practice, has led to widespread public resistance and continuing constitutional challenges. But it certainly has its supporters as well. In fact, the persistence of this issue serves as a reminder of the fact that Trump isn’t alone in his tendency to distrust individuals from the Middle East, or those who are Muslim. The full extent of that bias might be a little surprising, particularly to those of us who live in the liberal urban and like-minded enclaves, or those who work in law and might be tempted to take civil rights for granted. Outside of those contexts, anti-Islamic bias is still very high.

That bias can matter in the courtroom. If you have a party or a witness who identifies as Muslim, or wears a hijab or other religious identifiers, if there is something about their outward appearance that seems Middle Eastern, or if they practice a faith that is often mistaken for Muslim – like Sikhs, Middle Eastern Christians, or even orthodox Jews — that party or witness could be perceived as a threatening ‘other,’ and could end up on the receiving end of that bias. Even when discrimination isn’t the legal claim, it may be the reality coming from the jury box. In this post, I will take a look at a fairly recent survey showing the extent of anti-Muslim bias, and share some areas of questioning that serve to uncover that bias in jury selection.

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