GUEST POST BY: Josh Hoeppner
Joshua Hoeppner is a professional illustrator, graphic designer, and trial technology presentation expert for Affinity Consulting Group in Columbus, Ohio. At Affinity, Josh specializes in trial graphics, illustrations, and presentation consulting. In today’s guest column, Josh describes the keys to effective trial graphics, how to capture a jury’s attention, and why PowerPoint isn’t as bad as people think.
While you’re driving home tonight, see how many visual communications you see in the form of business signs, billboards (even moving digital pictures…), bumper stickers, etc. Heck, look at the inside of your car; GPS, rearview cameras, Sirius Radio, and even internet capabilities in some. The world is driven by visual stimulation. Now think about your trial presentation. You’re probably still showing PowerPoint presentations that look like this:
This is neither visually stimulating, nor visually pleasing, is it?
I’m sure a lot of attorneys have heard the mantra, “keep it simple, stupid;” but, if there’s one lesson from my years of experience offering presentations suggestions to attorneys, it’s that keeping things simple is not always easy. I know some of the suggestions I will make may sound painful, but making things visually simple is vitally important to keep a courtroom audience focused. Simplicity is one part of how to improve presentations in general. But, just as important, are your colors, paying attention to detail (i.e., font, alignment, professional looking pictures, etc.), emphasizing movement, and making sure EVERY slide is visually stimulating and not just a space filler or an outline to help you remember your presentation. Let’s revisit the slide above. We can take a text heavy, visually common piece and turn it into something like this:
Then you can focus on filling in the detail with your storytelling and spoken word.
The Billboard Theory
Every slide, graphic, or video should be treated like a billboard. Your audience has approximately 1 – 7 seconds to see, be stimulated by, and retain what they have seen with most billboards. That is how you should treat a visual aid or slide, because the audience should be focused on YOU and seeing the visuals as your assistant. Your audience should only need to look at a billboard once to remember what it was trying to tell them. They don’t need to keep diverting their eyes to your visual. They can focus on you, listen to your message, and better comprehend your presentation.
PowerPoint is awesome (if you let it be)
A lot of people seem to think that PowerPoint is just some terrible outline presentation program that is only used for boring presentations. There are plenty of articles and opinions out there on the subject. I am here to say, don’t blame PowerPoint, blame the user. All of the concepts here have nothing to do with the program itself. Laying out 8 bullet points on a slide that are three sentences at 9 point font is a choice you made. You could have easily laid out a the same slide, shortened the sentences, split the slide into 8 separate slides and discussed and clicked through it just as quickly, and carried with that a lot more focus on each point.
Bad PowerPoint slides, busy graphic boards, and poor design can detract from your presentation. Anything you are using in your presentation should be visually stimulating. PowerPoint should not be used as an outline or a teleprompter.
Color & Movement
Drawing people’s eye to what you want them to look at is the most important aspect of any visual. Most painting and designs you have seen in your lifetime have been set up for your eye to look at one thing, another thing second, and so on. This same theory goes for presentations as well.
I think most people understand the impact of color. They don’t color Stop signs yellow and white for good reason.
Contrasting and pleasant colors are some of the most important parts of a presentation. If not only for readability, but for impact as well. Color coordination is very important. I believe most people can tell which one of these two rooms are color coordinated:
Movement, through animation and video, can be used to lead people’s eye throughout a presentation. Something as simple as animating an arrow can go a long way. But, using animations in excess can distract your audience, and also make your presentation look overly exaggerated and hokey. When using movement in your presentations, keep it simple, and lead the viewer’s eye to what is important. See below at how bringing things up one at time can be helpful instead of overwhelming the audience with the whole graphic all at once:
Keeping presentations simple is a great foundational principle for trial graphics, but it’s not always an easy thing to achieve. Your trial graphics are not there to make your case for you—they are there to support and reinforce the message you are giving to the jury. You can deliver complex messages without displaying turgid, wordy bullet points—just learn to do it in ways that draw the audience’s attention and walks them through to the conclusion you are after. I hope some of these concepts and tips will assist you down the road. Just remember to take a good long look at any visual you might use, and if it doesn’t enhance your presentation, or advance the ball, don’t use it.