Trial presentations are an essential element of going to court; the balance between visuals and oral argument helps jurors to better understand the case. What is the objective of a trial presentation? For many, it is to tell a story compelling and convincing enough to win a case. When we think about empowering and improving a trial presentation, we need to consider the narrative of that presentation and how to maximize its impact.
What to Avoid
Presentations should complement the trial attorney, highlighting their arguments as they are made. Because listening and reading demand the same cognitive faculties, keep presentation text to a minimum so it does not compete with what the speaker is saying.
Each slide of your presentation should be comprehended within about five seconds. If it takes longer than that for the intended audience to read and understand, they will begin to cease retention of the information. Think of text as an anchor to the spoken presentation, rather than a copy of that language. It should be minimal and impactful.
Similarly, avoid using the presentation as notes for the speaker to read. A relaxed, confident tone delivered without constantly reading from notes will be more engrossing for listeners, who want to be told a story rather than a lecture.
What to Do
Where possible, use visuals like pictures or timelines to tell a more emotionally-engaging narrative. Not only do these images help retain your narrative’s grip on jurors’ minds, but they do not compete for their cognitive space like text does. Images and spoken words work together, with each reinforcing the message of the other. The reason this works is because people tend to retain material better when they have thought it through and made their own connections, rather than simply being told information. Compelling visuals and minimal text spark jurors’ curiosity, allowing them to make their own stronger connections to the story told by the trial attorney.
Where there is text in a presentation, ensure it is large enough to read easily. Small, illegible words only serve as a distraction and will take attention away from the larger message in the presentation.
How does the presentation flow? Consider using slight and subtle motion, such as grow/shrink animation or slide transitions with some movement. This need not be so excessive as to be distracting; motion can maintain the audience’s attention even if it is hardly noticeable. The goal is always to support the flow of the presentation, not jar the audience. Depending on the images, background, and animation used, a simple PowerPoint presentation can look just as impressive as if it were produced with a more advanced program.
Ultimately, a trial presentation should help the audience understand and retain your message. There will always be manifold ways to do this, including the way the speaker talks through their narrative. Keep visuals simple and opt for fewer, bigger images with more impact than an array of convoluted pictures that do not tell a complete story. Blending powerful visuals with minimal text can help ensure a trial presentation delivers a compelling narrative that jurors can understand and believe.