Simple Jury Persuasion: Got charisma?
We’re not all born with it—but the good news is that you can develop charisma. Many of us have witnessed those rare individuals who can own the room by simply walking into it. Few of us will ever be that person. But when what you are trying to do is make a short-term impact on a small group of jurors—you can strategically buff and polish your image and persona to be more charismatic and therefore, to be a more attractive source of credible information.
1) Polish your image.
Pay attention to what you wear, to your posture, to your overall appearance. You want to appear professional, successful, and not too flamboyant. Recall that public perception of lawyers is that you are shysters and confidence men without scruples or morals. You want to appear substantive and confident but also trustworthy.
2) Be a good listener.
Much of your activity in voir dire and in the courtroom in general will be listening. Even when you are not really listening, demonstrate non-verbal indicators of listening. Try to listen and to focus on understanding what is being said in the now rather than mentally rehearsing what you are about to say next.
3) Shift your focus outward to be more persuasive.
Its not about you or the minutia of the case. Rather than focusing on what you want to say, focus instead on your jurors. They are your audience. What do they need to hear? How can they best benefit from your next interaction? You can use humor sparingly but with care, better gentle self-deprecation than biting wit at someone else’s expense.
4) Identify your values with regard to this case.
What do you feel strongly about in this story? About what do you care deeply (apart from winning)? Deeply held feelings or values that can be woven into how you tell your story affect other aspects of charisma. When you feel strongly about something, you are generally more persuasive, more articulate, and more attractive to others.
Polishing your self-presentation and examining your own values while considering the needs of the jury will increase your charisma quotient and your persuasive powers will peak.
Brotherton, P. and R. D. Clarke (2000). “You’re such a charmer!” Black Enterprise 30(6): 152.