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The Litigation Consulting Report

The Redundancy Effect, PowerPoint and Legal Graphics

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 @ 08:58 AM

After the introduction of PowerPoint 2003, PowerPoint became the dominant trial presentation tool used by litigators.  It has largely replaced printed large format trial exhibit boards in most high stakes cases. However, PowerPoint also introduced a problem that deserves our attention.

Instead of graphic designers creating well-designed printed trial boards, litigators and their support staff could now create exhibits on their own.  Some did create great presentations, however the vast majority of trial and corporate presentations came to be dominated by the dreaded bullet point and text-heavy slides. Comedian Don McMillan covers this and other PowerPoint-related topic best:

What is problematic about the bullet point and text-heavy slides in PowerPoint trial presentations is not what you might first think. Yes, bullet points almost surely lead to boredom.  Sure, they are not a particularly effective technique for emphasizing key messages. Worse, as Don McMillan notes, it can be excruciating when someone reads their bullet points and text.  However, worst of all is something called the redundancy effect.  This scientifically validated concept is the true enemy of the effective litigator deploying legal graphics.

The Redundancy Effect

In a nutshell, the redundancy effect describes the human mind's inability to process information effectively when it is received both orally and visually simultaneously.  The best known study describing this effect showed text on screen while a narrator spoke those same words.  Comparison audiences saw or heard the information separately.  The study revealed that people retain less information when they receive it visually and orally at the same time.

Legal graphics powerpoint redundancy effect


The message for litigators should be clear.  Never read the text on trial exhibits you are displaying for your audience.  Instead:

  • Talk about trial exhibits and legal graphics diagrams.  
  • Pause your oral presentation and ask your fact-finders to read key text silently.  
  • Dim the screen (just press the B key) and read key text yourself or have an expert read the text.
  • Focus on presenting diagrams instead of text.
  • Speak words and don't show them.

Overcoming the redundancy effect may be the easiest change a litigator can make to enhance his or her trial presentation.  The rewards are a greater chance of your fact-finder retaining information and a corresponding increase in your odds of winning.

More information on the redundancy effect can be found here.

best demonstrative evidence provider redundancy effect

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, Juries, Psychology, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect, Information Design

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Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.

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Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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