What can Amazon's presentations teach to Legal English students?
As an accomplished student of English for Law, you will no doubt be aware of the classical presentation structure used in the UK and the US. It goes as follows: introduction, two or three points and a conclusion. Powerpoint will almost always be used to help focus the audience and as a memory aid to the main presenter.
At Amazon, the classical presentation structure has been forgotten about in favour of narrative storytelling. What is this, why has it been introduced and how can international lawyers benefit from it?
It is all about the narrative
One of the most important skills that we teach students to develop is the art of storytelling. It is simply not enough to be able to speak Legal English or Business English clearly and confidently as you also have to retain the listener's attention.
Bezos requires that executives at Amazon meetings write out a memo of up to six pages with 'real sentences, topic sentences, nouns and verbs.' Participants then sit in silence for around 15 to 30 minutes to digest everything they have read before the presenter answers any questions.
Why is storytelling so important in Legal English?
The primary reason why Amazon has moved from the classical presentation style to a narrative style is largely thanks to neroscience. For hundreds of years, people have swapped stories around campfires, dinner tables and in bars and pubs. People remember a good story that has been well told (or well written) for far longer than a series of slides on a screen.
If you watch a great barrister speak in the courtroom, it can come close to watching an actor deliver a stirring speech from a great play. Few lawyers possess this skill on a consistent level but it remains a skill worth pursuing.
In Aristotle's book Rhetoric, he wrote that in order to persuade people (which is a lawyer's main requirement) there needs to be three elements: ethos, logos and pathos. Ethos refers to the speaker's character and credibility - the image they present on stage and what you already know about them. Logos appeals to your reason or logic. However, the element that is going to resonate with the listener the most is pathos or emotion. Have a listen to any effective political speaker today and you will see that their appeals to the emotions of the crowd seem to have the biggest impact.
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