The Correct Use of PowerPoint & Graphics

As technology as become increasingly prominent in our lives, it has leaked its way into the courtroom.  Some technological advances are extremely helpful when used properly and can be detrimental when used improperly.  So what is the best way to use technology in the courtroom?

Effective Use of Bullet Points. 

  1. Learning Style: There are some attorneys who like to use bullet points throughout opening.  This is not an effective use of a graphic.  Firstly, technology should offer your listeners something extra that you on your own cannot provide.  Simply putting your opening up on a large screen for jurors to read alongside you does nothing to tap into their other methods of processing.  When people are reading something, they are still utilizing the auditory part of their brain, so simply because you have put it in a readable format does not change the brain’s method of processing.  You will still miss the visual learners.
  2. Frequency: Bullet points should be used sparingly.  For example, to list Rule violations of the defendant (which I suggest you do on physical exhibit board that can stay present in the courtroom the entire time rather than through a computer snapshot that disappears when you finish reading).
  3. Timing: Also keep in mind that any time you put something in front of jurors to read, they will be reading as you are talking.  They will tend to read the bullet point, miss what you are saying, and then stop listening as they assume they have all the information they need in that one bullet point.  If you must use a bullet point, put up only one at a time and only put it up after you have finished talking about that point.

Graphics

There is much research to show that people learn better when you access all parts of their brain at one time.  If you can access someone’s  visual part of the brain at the same time that you access their auditory part of the brain, you have a better chance of them remembering and understanding the point.  A good graphic is a picture that is easy to understand without any type of label within the first 3-5 seconds of looking at it.  The graphic should be able to tell a story without any explanation.  Run your exhibits and graphics by mock jurors ahead of time to find out if the graphic tells the story you intend!  Then add a tag line on the top that asks a question that the picture answers, such as “Why Didn’t the Plaintiff See the Hole in the Ground?” along with a photo of how conspicuous the hole is.

Technology can be very helpful – if used correctly.  Do not use it just for the sake of keeping up with the times.  Make sure you are using it to your advantage.

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Filed under Misc, Opening Statement, Trial preparation

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