<img height="1" width="1" alt="" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1482979731924517&amp;ev=PixelInitialized">

The Litigation Consulting Report

Should You Read Documents Out Loud at Trial?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 @ 01:58 PM

reading-documents-call-out-trial-style.jpgby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I’ve seen a great many lawyers read documents aloud at trials, and, not coincidentally, I’ve seen lawyers lose cases in part because they did so. Both experience and the science of persuasion tell us that reading documents to a jury is a persuasion killer. But of course there are times when you absolutely need to read a document out loud. This article will help you find the best ways to do so when it is necessary.

There are at least five good reasons why reading documents out loud is harmful. I will go through them, then offer three guidelines for reading passages of text to a jury or judge when it is necessary. After all, it’s hard to imagine trying a contract case without reading the key provisions of the contract.

  1. The split-attention effect/redundancy effect is easy to recognize, and we've all experienced it. In summary, if you are presented with a written document and it is read to you at the same time, your brain will have a hard time sorting out whether to read or to listen. What you might not know is that you actually end up far worse off reading written materials while seeing an image of those materials than you would have if you had just done one or the other -- read the materials or listened to the words. See The Redundancy Effect, PowerPoint and Legal Graphics.

  2. Related closely to the split attention the fact is the fact that people read faster than you speak. So if you present both formats, whether you know it or not, you have just started a little competition with your audience. They try to read faster than you. See 
    Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors.
  1. People have written books about why this is a bad practice. Just read Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points, www.beyondbulletpoints.com.
  1. There's more science about this than you probably think. Chris Atherton's work is superb on this topic, and here's a video about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwOuVc1Qrlg
  1. If you read out loud to people, you'll probably bore them. See Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools?

So, now that you have an idea about why reading documents is bad, how do we deal with the fact that some documents just need to be read? To deal with that, you will likely have to embrace new habits and learn new skills.

First, assuming that you are presenting from Trial Director or PowerPoint, you're going to need to learn when and how to turn off the projector. In PowerPoint you do this by pressing the bulb symbol, which toggles the screen to and from a black screen. In Trial Director, assuming that you are making appropriate use of a trial technician’s experience and professionalism by having a technician run the equipment in the courtroom, just say, “Dim the screen please.” When you do this, the jury should stare at you and pay close attention.

Second, you should choose passages of text to read that are as short as possible. I recommend never reading more than a sentence or two.

Third, try to become comfortable with pausing and giving people a chance to read. Look at the document yourself and read along quietly in your head. You'll get a feeling for how long people need, and you will keep the factfinders engaged. If you now want to highlight some key language, highlight it and ask the jury to focus on that piece again, then pause again. Then dim the screen, briefly reread it and then explain why it's important. Scientifically, this is your single best approach to maximize persuasion. I acknowledge it feels different and tedious, but so once did washing your hands before surgery.

Other articles from A2L Consulting discussing presenting orally and with documents, the redundancy effect, and using science to persuade:

complex civil litigation ebook free

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Demonstrative Evidence, Presentation Graphics, Psychology, Redundancy Effect, Document Call-Outs

The Top 15 Free Litigation and Persuasion Articles of 2015

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 @ 12:31 PM

litigation consulting jury consultants litigation graphics dc new york california texas chicago bostonby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Nearly 200,000 visits were made to A2L Consulting's Litigation Consulting Report Blog in 2015. With every page view, our readers express their opinion of the value of each article. Those that are the most valuable get the most page views. Today, I'm happy to share the very best articles of 2015 as chosen by our readers' reading habits.

This year, we posted 90 new articles, and that brings our total blog library to nearly 500 articles. If you are involved in litigation or have to persuade a skeptical audience of anything, these articles are an incredibly valuable resource that are available at absolutely no charge.

As we approach our five-year anniversary of this blog, I am very proud of our accomplishments. I'm excited to report that we now have 7,800 subscribers, some articles have been viewed more than 30,000 times, and the ABA named ours one of the top blogs in the legal industry. Not bad for our first five years.

In 2015, these 15 articles below stood out as the very top articles of 2015. Articles focused on PowerPoint, litigation graphics, persuasion, and voir dire continue to dominate our readers' interest.

Each of these articles can be easily tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article title. All are free to enjoy.

I wish you the very best 2016, and here is a link to claim a free subscription so that you get notified when these articles are published.

15. How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

14. A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

13. Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

12. With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now?

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

11. 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 1

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

10. How to Apply Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion in the Courtroom

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

9. 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

8. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Pt 4 - 7 Reasons the Tactic Still Works

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

7. 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

6. Repelling the Reptile Strategy - Part 3 - Understanding the Bad Science

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

5. How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

4. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Part 5 - 12 Ways to Kill the Reptile

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

3. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy - Pt 2 - 10 Ways to Spot the Reptile

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

2. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 1

share on twittershare on LinkedIn

1. Why the Color of a Dress Matters to Litigators and Litigation Graphics

share on twittershare on LinkedIn


a2l consulting top 75 articles of all time

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Voir Dire, Psychology, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Redundancy Effect, Opening, Persuasion

5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 4

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 03:25 PM


persuasion-opening-statements-words-graphicsby Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

We have discussed four important tips for maximizing persuasion during your opening statement (See parts 1, 2, and 3). The last tip is the use of demonstrative evidence in connection with the statement.

You need to be aware that most people, other than lawyers, are visual preference learners. Most lawyers, in contrast, are auditory or kinesthetic preference learners.1 Most people teach the same way they prefer to learn – so lawyers typically teach by lecturing, since that is most comfortable for them. But this strategy does not help with the majority of jurors, who would prefer to be taught visually, at least in part. So bridge this courtroom gap with demonstrative evidence, including litigation graphics.

You cannot just relay information and be persuasive. A study has shown that lawyers who use PowerPoint in their opening statements enhance persuasion though jurors’ central and peripheral processing.2 In that study, the use of litigation graphics made the lawyers appear (in jurors’ eyes) more competent, more credible and more likable, helped jurors retain information better, and resulted in better verdicts.

Another study shows that you cannot just show some graphics once in a while during your opening statement, but you must immerse the jury in visuals throughout the entirety of your opening.3 Immersion means constantly providing visuals for an audience throughout a presentation.

powerpoint-litigation-persuasive-courtroomKen Broda-Bahm, Ph.D., tested this by presenting opening statements to jurors accompanied by no graphics, old-school-style flip chart graphics, sporadically shown professionally made graphics, and sporadically shown animated graphics. Surprisingly, he found that none of these techniques were persuasively distinguishable. Only when he used the immersion technique did he find that persuasion was significantly improved. With this technique, jurors were found to be more prepared on the evidence, they paid more attention, they felt the evidence was more important, they comprehended better, and they retained information longer.

However, you cannot just make some PowerPoint slides and run off to court and be persuasive. The easiest and most common way lawyers make their own trial presentations is by outlining or scripting an argument in Word and then copying and pasting that script into PowerPoint. This is worse than ineffective and all but promises to harm your case.

Interestingly, a recent study shows that the perceived cost of something matters.4 The study researched the effectiveness of placebos on patients with Parkinson’s disease and found that placebos were effective but that patients who believed they were getting more expensive drugs got significantly more effectiveness from their placebos. This translates to trial persuasiveness in that if your trial graphics seem expensive, jurors will believe that you and your case are better, all things being equal.

Never simultaneously say what you’re also showing in a graphic (this does not necessarily go for something you’re affirmatively quoting). A well-researched phenomenon called the redundancy effect happens when you do this and the result is your jurors’ brains are switched off and they stop taking in any information at all.5 You’ve subjected them to a cognitive load that their brains cannot handle and, so, they turn off. This is not desirable in an opening statement.

And never use bullet point lists as your graphics.6 No great presenter does this. This is often the result of the self-prepared graphics that I mentioned a minute ago where you transfer your script of outline to slides. Using bullets probably means your presentation is “text-heavy,” which is a barrier to effective communication. Also, people can read and understand faster than they can listen to you and understand: 275 words per minute vs. 150 words per minute. By using bullet lists you’ve challenged your audience to read your slides before you can explain their content, and your audience will win every time and stop listening.


The “Don’ts”

Finally, as an extra bit of info, here are some things to avoid in opening statements.

Don’t re-introduce yourself. Don’t waste your first 90 seconds of opening by re-explaining who you are. It’s likely that the judge has already done this or that the jury has heard it already. Even if that’s not the case, wait a few minutes to do it if it must be done.

Don’t pander. Don’t tell the jurors how important their job is or how great it is that they’re doing their civic duty or how thankful you are that they’re here. This is patronizing, and they’ll know it and resent you for it. If you must, simply say that you appreciate their time and are going to try and get them through the trial as efficiently as you can.

Don’t explain how an opening statement works. Don’t explain that your statement isn’t evidence. The judge might do that, but you sure as heck shouldn’t. Most likely, your jurors won’t distinguish between actual evidence, demonstrative evidence, and attorney argument. Why enlighten them?

Don’t tell jurors how proud you are to represent your client. I hear this so often and cringe every time. It’s not persuasive. It sounds insincere. It’s B.S. and jurors will know.

Don’t oversell your case. If you know you cannot prove something, don’t say you can. Promising more than you can deliver will hurt your case and, potentially, constitutes reversible error.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to persuading with graphics, opening statements and using words and pictures in a complimentary way:

One-Question Survey  What Webinar Topic  Should A2L Cover Next?


[1] Attorney Communications Style Study (Jan 2, 2007) (available at http://www.a2lc.com/pressarticles/presslearningstudy.html).

[2] Jaihyun Park and Neal Feigenson, Effects of a Visual Technology on Mock Juror Decision Making, Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 27:235-46 (2013)

[3] Dr.Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator: Show, don’t Just Tell, http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2011/07/show-dont-just-tell-continuity.html (2011).

[4] Espay et al., Placebo Effect of Medication Cost in Parkinson Disease, Neurology vol. 84, No. 8, 794-802 (Feb 24, 2015).

[5] See, e.g., Mayer et al., Cognitive Constraints on Multimedia Learning: When Presenting More Materials Results in Less Understanding, J. Edu. Psych. Vol. 93, No. 1, 187-98 (2001).

[6] See, generally, research by Dr. Chris Atherton (e.g., https://youtu.be/OwOuVc1Qrlg).

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect, Opening, Persuasion

Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 @ 04:00 PM

surprise courtroom lawyer persuasion toolby Ken Lopez

A2L Consulting

I notice something about audiences in the PowerPoint presentation era. They seem to get easily disengaged part of the way into a presentation. This tendency is especially problematic in a courtroom setting since judge and juror visual attention is critical for courtroom persuasion.

We've all seen this before whether at trial or elsewhere. An audience member will start out sitting up straight and smiling, and then, after some time passes, they are looking at you, but you know there's some other unrelated processing going on behind the stare (i.e. family issues, work challenges or what's for lunch). This behavior occurs in all types of presentations whether a trial presentation, a board meeting presentation or a sales presentation.

To cope with drifting off, consultants have long encouraged presenters to put their important material at the beginning and at the end of presentations when audience attention is at its highest. That suggestion has always bothered me, since at trial, we really need our jurors to stay with us the whole time. But how can this be achieved?

I've noticed a peppering of articles and research on the topic of surprise over the years. Some researchers connect surprise with attention and persuasion. It's common sense that surprise would create attention, but it's less obvious how visual surprise would support persuasion. Let's look at some examples.

I wrote in 2012 about a study involving font choice. The study concluded that by choosing a hard-to-read font, one could force an audience member to stop, pay attention, read carefully what was written and overcome a natural human behavior called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency of people to make up their mind about something, such as about a case during opening statements, and then only really listen to subsequently provided information that supports their predetermined conclusion. Choosing a difficult-to-read font is a form of surprise that forces the viewer to drift back in after drifting off, but how far can we take that?

storytelling persuasion courtroom litigation webinar

I have long encouraged our clients to mix their media throughout their trial presentations. For example, use trial boards, then switch to PowerPoint litigation graphics, then play video depositions for the jury, then use a scale model in court, and then tell a story etc. It's all just another form of surprise, and anecdotally at least, I can tell you it keeps an audience engaged when you use these methods.

A criminal defense lawyer has written about using surprise and humor to force jurors to think more deeply (less reptilian) about a case. Fellow jury consultants have described how jurors can be encouraged to remember something with surprise and how disrupting expectations may yield better results. There have also been some interesting studies performed on this topic.

Some well-known and well-studied psychological phenomenon also support the use of surprise, particularly visual surprise, in a courtroom context to maximize persuasion. The doctrine of just noticeable difference is a good and simple rule to be aware of. Essentially, one should be sure to introduce visual differences that others will notice, if one is hoping to grab attention. Further, the Hawthorne Effect reminds us that changing anything significant will produce change, and ideally the change we want is for people to pay close attention.

Few studies have discussed the topic of visual surprise as a persuasion device, but I think there is enough closely-related science and enough anecdotal evidence to support employing techniques like:

  • On your slides, don't just keep your title bar at the top. Move it to unexpected locations when you want to grab attention. Use a title bar on some slides and not on others.
  • Change your fonts throughout a presentation. Your designers won't lovethis, but remind them that the most beautiful design is the one that delivers results, not the prettiest.
  • Change your background colors and template entirely during the same presentation.
  • Use color coding schemes to signal topic changes.
  • On your slides, don't just show text slide after text slide. Instead, mix it up with charts, photographs and more.
  • Mix your presentation media as discussed above.
  • Use silence creatively to grab attention.
  • Tell stories. Tell visual stories.
  • Change where you are standing in the room.
  • Remember the opposite is true too. If you are hiding bad information, put it in clear graphics that look similar to recently presented slides. It is possible to use visual boredom intentionally for a courtroom advantage.

Other articles related to visual surprise, persuasive graphics and PowerPoint.

storytelling for lawyers litigators and litigation support courtroom narrative

Tags: Science, Psychology, Persuasive Graphics, Redundancy Effect

12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 02:30 PM


combine oral visual litigation graphics consultantsby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

A lot of litigators express confusion about how best to use litigation graphics. Top litigators are asking smart questions like:

  • Should I pause to let a jury take in a graphic before speaking? 
  • Should I turn off my presentation while I am speaking?
  • How much text should I put on a slide?
  • How much of my slide should I read?
  • And, what's all this negative talk about bullet points (especially when the author of this very article uses bullet points to talk badly about bullet points)?

In many cases, it is litigation graphics consultants who are to blame for this general state of confusion. For decades, litigation graphics consultants have been telling litigators that combining oral and visual messages will increase judge and jury information-retention and understanding. That's correct, but most litigators have never been taught how to combine the two exactly, and getting good results depends entirely on the how.

To drive the home the need to use courtroom visuals, litigation graphics consultants have used science to emphasize their message. Most of us have heard of or talked about the much-cited Weiss-McGrath study. Among other things, it is reported to conclude that combining oral and visual messages will result in a 650% increase in people's retention of information.

So, what have litigators done in the face of all of these confusing messages? They listened and they adapted to the changing times.

Litigators started using graphics in earnest over the past twenty years. Printed trial boards were used at first, and then PowerPoint litigation graphics arrived in the mid-2000's. Despite these efforts to improve courtroom communications, I fear that many times the way oral and visual presentations are being combined is doing more harm than good.

Why? Well, I believe three key things have gone awfully wrong:

  1. Over the last 20 years, very few litigators received guidance from litigation graphics consultants about what works when combining graphics and oral communications.
  2. Without real guidance, litigators made an understandable mistake by using litigation graphics as a means to read bullet point filled slides to jurors.
  3. As for the science, despite thousands of citations to it, there never was a Weiss-McGrath study. Still cited by many trial graphics firms as their Raison d'etre, this report was recently proven to never exist by a diligent law libararian [p27-30 of this pdf]. Fortunately, the science supporting the use of litigation graphics turns out to be better than what this mythological study reported, and I'll describe it below. The fact that this study never existed just underscores the confusion that both litigation graphics consultants and litigators have suffered through these past 20 years.

So, I think we find ourselves in a time where litigators are trying hard to figure out what works best when using visual evidence, and litigation graphics consultants are not doing enough to help them. My hope is to remedy this problem by describing what we modern litigation graphics consultants mean when we promise that you will get better results if you do combine oral and visual presentations - the right way.

Here are 11 ways you should combine your spoken presentation and your visual presentation to achieve maximum persuasion:

1. Forget about bullet points in the way we've come to expect them (like the slide below). Yes, at A2L, we talk about bullets every third article or so, and for good reason. If you read your bullets (and you're likely to do so if you use them) you are almost certainly worse off than if you had not used litigation graphics at all. See these 11 A2L articles about bullet points for more. This applies only to presentations, not written materials where bullets can be quite valuable.

describe the image


2. Use speaker notes. Whether you simply print this information out or you use a dual screen set-up when you project your slides, having your notes available within PowerPoint is simple. Simply place them in this area shown below, and you will be able to print these notes next to your slides or print them alone. Either way, this will help you avoid putting everything you want to say on your slide.

powerpoint speaker notes litigation graphics


3. Never duplicate your spoken message on screen. Instead of reading your slides, plan to have some of your message spoken have some of it be visual. Try to think of yourself as a popular on-air meteorologist. While the weather forecast is easily conveyed with a simple graphic like the one below, it helps to hear additional details, story, and meaning from a person. It is a much more memorable experience to look at this chart while hearing someone say, "Wednesday's snowstorm will be crippling for parts of the DC region."

litigators compared to meteorologists

4. Create some graphics that you can speak to. It's okay - indeed it is possibly better - if you have a graphic that needs some explaining. It will give you something important to say and enhance your message overall. For example, this circa 1997 litigation graphic below does not stand on it's own since you really cannot tell what it means. However, if you explained, using this chart, that the standard of care requires a differential diagnosis (i.e. narrow the cause of several symptoms to a specific disease whenever possible) and Dr. Smith instead diagnosed and treated nine separate problems, you get a clear and memorable picture.

describe the image 

b key powerpoint5. Use the B-Key. Don't leave up or show a slide that is unrelated to what you are saying unless that is an intentional tactic used to distract from what you are saying. The b-key displays a black screen when pressed and returns you to your presentation when pressed again. If you think of a news anchor for a moment, wouldn't it look strange if Brian Williams was talking about the Winter Olympics while there was a video playing of a hurricane over his shoulder? Of course it would. Use the b-key to subtly tell your judge and jury to return their attention to what you are saying, not what you are showing.

6. You don't always need to be speaking, but you probably need to be always showing something. A recent study demonstrated that an immersive style of trial graphics presentation will yield the best results. The results of this study suggest that you should always be showing a visual when you can.

7. Pause. When you bring up a new graphic, let your silence encourage the jury to look at your litigation graphics and soak it in.

8. Subscribe to this blog. This is not (only) a self-serving pitch, I really mean it. If you are in litigation, there are only a couple of blogs that cover this information with real authority. If you are watching what we are publishing, you will stay ahead of others around you. About 3,800 of your peers subscribe already.

9. One concept per slide. Lots of people talk about the graphic below and how it is a great example of effective information design. It is beautiful, but it would make a terrible demonstrative exhibit at trial. Why? Because there is way too much information shown on a single graphic. At trial, keep it simple - one concept per slide. If you have to use a chart like this one, build it up over a number of slides and then display it as a printed trial board.

describe the image

10. Minimize text. In general, never use less than 28 point font size in PowerPoint, and you will be in good shape. This rule will force you to limit the amount of text that you use, and will keep your presentation legible at the same time. You don't want to try to mimic a Steve Jobs iPhone launch exactly, but you want to limit your text as much as possible.

11. Keep up with the science. Academics are turning their attention how one best persuades with graphics. In 2012, one of the most important studies to date was released. It showed specifically that the use of PowerPoint increases persuasiveness. Part of the abstract is shown below. You'll find this article helpful too: 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations.

powerpoint use increases persuasiviness


12. Practice, practice, practice. Don't spend time and money developing a great argument and great litigation graphics only to fail to practice combining the two. We advocate a 30:1 practice to performance ratio.

Combining oral and visual messages is the best way to communicate with your jury. This is based on commonsense, experience and good science. Many lawyers have never been taught the right way to do it, and I hope this article has been a help. I would welcome hearing from anyone interested in learning more or talking about how this applies to a specific trial presentation challenge.


Other A2L Consulting articles about litigation graphics consultants, PowerPoint use, and how best to combine oral and visual trial presentations include:

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Science, Psychology, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect

Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 08:25 AM


do not read powerpoint slides juryby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I was just painfully reminded of how bad a juror's experience can be when we fail to put them first. Yesterday morning, like many of you recently, I had to complete a continuing education course. It was your typical recorded one-hour one-credit online course. That's one of the slides pictured here.

While listening to the instructor, it struck me that the experience I was having was eerily similar to most opening statements. It lasted about an hour, 119 PowerPoint slides were presented, there were lots of bullet points, almost no actual graphics were used, and the content of the slides was dutifully read to me by a well-spoken middle-aged gentleman.

And it nearly killed me.

You see, even though I have a law degree, I am much more like a typical juror than a typical lawyer. When someone presents to me with the intent of persuading and/or teaching me something, I expect a lot, and boy did this presentation fail to deliver.

I expect compelling visuals, I expect videos, I expect to be entertained, and I expect to hear scenarios and examples that I can imagine experiencing. I am a lot like most jurors, impatient and spoiled by twenty years of information being delivered efficiently online or on television. In learning style terms, I am a somewhat rare dominant-kinesthetic learner with a secondary preference for visual learning. In other words, I prefer to experience something when I am learning it, but if I have to, I am almost equally comfortable seeing it.

Click me

Most jurors are visual learners. Most lawyers are not. Most lawyers prefer to speak when they teach or persuade. Most jurors are wondering why we are not showing them more. The same is true for online training attendees like me, and that experience provides a valuable reminder for litigators, one that most of us can relate to.

Why does reading your litigation PowerPoint slides really cause a problem for people?

When you read a slide, you are actually worse off than if you had either only shown a slide and said nothing or if you had only spoken and shown no slide. This is true for at least two reasons, one is commonsense and the other rooting in neuropsychology.

The commonsense reason is that people read faster than you can speak. On average, people speak at 150 words per minute while people can read 275 words per minute. Unless you want to race against your listeners or properly combine oral and visual methods, it is best to choose one approach or the other.

The other reason one should not read litigation PowerPoint slides is not as obvious. It involves something called the split-attention effect and cognitive load. In plain language, our brains get overloaded when someone tries to show us something and tell us the same thing at the same time. The result is that our brains bounce back and forth between communication mediums and end up retaining and understanding less than they otherwise would have had we used only one method. 

To be clear, the opposite is true too. If we supplement good visual aids, like well-prepared demonstrative evidence, with spoken words, a jury will remember more and understand more than if you had just done either. A recent study [pdf] confirmed this fact.

So, for someone like me, I learned what I needed about conflicts of interest in this online module and earned the requisite certificate in the course, but I was miserable along the way. I was bored, I felt my time was not respected, and I felt that little effort was made to make my experience a good one. If I could have punished my lecturer, I would have, and that is precisely the opposite way you want your jurors to feel, right?

Articles related to litigation PowerPoint and using litigation graphics with juries:

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Psychology, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect, Opening

14 Tips for Delivering a Great Board Meeting Presentation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 @ 11:00 AM

jesus fresco painter presentation boardby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Many of us in the legal industry sit on non-profit, educational or corporate boards. Inevitably, presentations are made by staff, advisers and fellow board members. 75 percent of the time, they use PowerPoint, and 99 percent of the time they make classic and easily avoidable mistakes when using this program.

PowerPoint is a great tool. A paint brush is a great tool. However, in the wrong hands, no matter how well intentioned, misuse of either tool can yield horrible outcomes. When using PowerPoint, these outcomes may not be as devastating as the wretched Spanish fresco restoration pictured to the right, but they are unnecessarily neglectful.

At A2L Consulting, we not only help trial lawyers prepare sophisticated trial presentations, we also help lawyers and non-lawyers prepare presentations outside of the courtroom. Sometimes these presentations are for lobbying or advocacy efforts and sometimes they are for CLE's or board presentations. I'll even let you in on a secret - if our schedule permits it, we often prepare presentations for our clients outside the courtroom gratis. We do this because we want our clients to look good no matter where they present.

In the case of a board meeting, there are typically two types of presentations. One is informational, and the other is inspirational or persuasive. Of course, you'll likely have to provide information to be persuasive. In either case, below are 14 easy-to-follow rules for preparing and delivering a great board meeting presentation: 

  1. Avoid Bullet Points Entirely: Yes, entirely. In most instances, use of bullets in a presentation will harmful. Since people read faster than you can speak, your audience will read the bulleted text and then ignore what you say. Our article with 12 reasons not to use bullet points includes 74 workarounds and alternative approaches.
  2. Follow a Format: A well-crafted presentation follows a format that is itself well-crafted. I share two approaches that I use frequently in the article How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or Presentation.
  3. Prepare 30:1: I believe that if you want to deliver a great presentation, you will need to invest 30 times the amount of time allocated for your presentation preparing for your presentation. For example, if you have a 20-minute board presentation coming up, you should invest 10 hours preparing for it. In the article 21 Steps I Took for Great Public Speaking Results, I outlined the 90-day method I followed for a 45-minute conference presentation. I'm giving a commencement address in May (five months from this writing), and I have already started preparing for that and even engaged a friend to coach me.
  4. Never Read Your Slides: If you read what is written on your slides, your audience will remember less than if you had either presented only orally or just shown slides. See our articles covering the redundancy effect and the split-attention effect.
  5. Mix Your Media: There is good science that establishes and quantifies the high value of using a visual presentation. However, there is also good science that says that you need to use a visual presentation in a certain way to get real value. In general, I recommend using a few dynamic slides and having a handout or poster-board as part of a presentation strategy. This article, equally applicable for the boardroom, reiterates many of these points and offers many reasons, grounded in science, for mixing your media up in unexpected ways: 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid.
  6. State Your Intention - Inform or Inspire: In the beginning of a presentation, state whether your intention is to simply report data or whether you want to ask the board for a specific action. Doing so will help you achieve your intention as people will not be waiting for a sales pitch in a report-only presentation, and your audience will not be surprised by your 'ask' in a persuasive presentation if it comes only at the end.
  7. Download these books for free: A2L Consulting currently has 17 e-books circulating on a variety of litigation and presentation topics. For board presentations, I recommend downloading these three free books:
    1. How to Deliver a Great Presentation
    2. How to Build Persuasive Visual Presentations
    3. Storytelling for Litigators: Building a Great Narrative
  8. Read these presentation-focused articles: Of all of the hundreds of presentation-focused articles on our site, I think you will get the most value out of these 10 articles listed below when preparing a board presentation (many are linked throughout this article as well):
    1. 21 Steps I Took For Great Public Speaking Results
    2. The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make
    3. 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation
    4. Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well
    5. How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or Presentation
    6. 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement
    7. Presentation Graphics: Why The President Is Better Than You
    8. 16 Trial Presentation Tips You Can Learn from Hollywood
    9. 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)
    10. 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid

  9. One concept per slide: Steve Jobs was a master of this technique. He would simply show a word or a picture and talk about it. You needn't be so avant-garde in your approach, but I do think you should keep your thoughts to one per slide, especially in a persuasive presentation.
  10. Learn to Use the B-key: Most people don't know that when using a presentation program, hitting the "B" key will black out the screen. Hitting it again will instantly bring it back on. Unless leaving up a slide that is not directly related to the point you are making serves some purpose, hit the B-key when speaking to focus the attention on what you are saying.
  11. Own the Technology: The technology you will use to present works as expected about half the time in my experience. To the extent that you can, control all of the technology in the presentation room to avoid a presentation technology meltdown.
  12. Tell a Story: There is real value in using stories as a persuasion tool. We're presenting a free webinar on this topic next month. If you are subscribed to this blog, you will see a notice about it soon. In the meantime, here is an article and a video about one presentation that features A+ storytelling.
  13. Do you Really Need a Visual Presentation? Most people prefer to receive information visually. With that said, not every presentation will benefit from a visual presentation, particularly if it is not done well. You must ask yourself whether you need a presentation to fulfill your intended purpose and whether you honestly intend to put in the work required to do it well. Sometimes, it is best to avoid a visual presentation altogether. 
  14. Seek Help Early Not Late: As I mentioned earlier, we often prepare presentations for use outside the courtroom at A2L Consulting. We even prepare such presentations gratis for our clients when we can. The one thing I can say about every time that we have helped is that the earlier you start, the better the presentation. There is simply no fast-forward button on the creative process. Get help, but get it early.
deliver great presentations inside and outside of the courtroom

Tags: Science, Presentation Graphics, Storytelling, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Redundancy Effect

6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 @ 12:05 PM

trial presentation errors mistakes avoidby Ken Lopez
Founder & CEO
A2L Consulting

In our view, many common techniques that lawyers use in making courtroom trial presentations actually represent very common errors.

"Error" is a strong word, since trial presentation skills and techniques are not an exact science. However, every litigator and courtroom professional should know that there is a strong body of evidence that supports the idea that these approaches are less desirable and likely to be less effective.


  1. Don't Split the Audience's Attention. The redundancy effect and related split attention effect are the negative results of presenting information visually and orally at the same time. The classic example of the redundancy effect is a presenter who presents bullet points and then reads them. The human mind will struggle to process both -- and your audience will end up with less comprehension of your points than if you had presented either 100 percent visually or 100 percent verbally. Similarly, if you show something on screen, learn to pause to let your audience take it in.

    Complimentary Subscription to This Blog

  2. Don't Use All Pictures. On the other hand, one recent study suggests that jurors will perform better if there is some redundancy between what is said and what is shown in text. So for example, if you were explaining how LCDs work using a PowerPoint in a patent trial, it would be ideal to show litigation graphics with a few key words or phrases in the presentation that are repeated orally.

  3. Don't Just Speak. In the legal field, we see litigation graphics used in all sorts of contexts including arbitrations, patent technology tutorials for judges, Markman hearings, hearings on summary judgment motions or motions to dismiss, trials, mock trials, motions and briefs, administrative patent office disputes, ITC hearings, pre-indictment meetings with prosecutors, and many more contexts. No matter what the situation, there is well established science that combining visual and verbal materials results in optimal learning. The question that remains is what combination works best. Although it is not written in a very accessible manner, I think this 2011 article about the modality effect and factors that contribute to it is one of the best that I've read for an overview of the science in this area, although you may want to read our primers on statistics for litigators before diving in.
  4. Don't Use Bullet Points. They're not just bad due to the redundancy effect and the likelihood that people will just read your bullets and not listen to you. They generally come across as outdated, boring, and even condescending to the listener.  See our article about bullet points from earlier this year.
  5. Don't Just Make Spotty Use of Litigation Graphics. One study we wrote about earlier this year demonstrates that the most effective trial presentation technique for showing litigation graphics is a so-called "immersive style." That is, constantly showing litigation graphics throughout the entire trial presentation.
  6. Don't Use Only Static PowerPoint Slides. One recent study about modality effects (also mentioned above) suggests a strong advantage is gained using dynamic presentations (i.e. animated PowerPoint slides, courtroom animation, etc.) over a series of static slides.
Related Trial Presentation Topics On A2L Consulting's Site

 best trial presentation consultants

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect

12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 06:00 AM

bullet points in trial graphics like a old cell phoneby Ken Lopez

Bullet points, especially when they’re found in PowerPoint slides, have become the cliché of the trial graphics and presentation worlds. There’s no good reason to use them, and plenty of reasons not to. For many, bullet points signal a boring presentation is about to begin or one is about to hear a presenter who, like someone on a vintage cell phone, is detached from modern presentation style.

Bullets are not just aesthetically bothersome. The A2L Consulting trial graphics team, trained in cutting-edge theories of conveying information, believes that text-heavy presentations riddled with bullet points also do harm to the persuasion process.

Garr Reynolds, a leading writer on the art and science of presentation, says in Presentation Zen, “Bullet-point filled slides with reams of text become a barrier to good communication.”

Chris Atherton, a cognitive psychologist who has scientifically studied bullet points, writes, “Bullets don't kill, bullet points do.”

Attorney Mark Lanier, commenting on his $253 million Vioxx verdict after following the no-bullets advice offered by Cliff Atkinson, another top presentation theorist and author of Beyond Bullet Points, said, "The idea that you could speak for 2 1/2 hours and keep the jury's attention seemed like an impossible goal, but it worked.  The jury was very tuned in."  

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Below is a list of reasons and resources that support the reality that bullet points do not belong in your presentation – whether a trial graphics presentation or something else.

  1. People read faster than they hear -- 150 words per minute spoken vs. 275 words per minute reading. People will read your bullets before you can say them and stop listening. If jurors are spending time (and brain-power) reading your trial graphics presentation, they are not listening.
  2. Chris Atherton's work confirms that bullet points do real harm to your presentation. Her scientific study validates the notion of eliminating bullet points and she lectures on the topic in the video below.

  3. The redundancy effect describes the human mind’s inability to process information effectively when it is receive orally and visually at the same time. If you speak what others are reading in your bullets, because of the redundancy effect, you end up with less comprehension and retention in your audience than if you had simply presented either 100% orally or 100% visually. http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/26777/The-Redundancy-Effect-PowerPoint-and-Legal-Graphics

  4. Authorities on the subject agree bullets are problematic. Read Presentation Zen or pick up Garr Reynolds' tips in the video below. Also see here http://beyondbulletpoints.com/  and here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/01/really_bad_powe.html

  5. Watch great presentations and see what they are doing right (and note that they do not use bullets). Here are three stand-out and bullet-point-free presentations:

    Hans Rosling's TED Talk presenting data in an appealing way.

    Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone in 2007.

    Al Gore revisits his Inconvenient Truth theories.

  6. The more you use bullets the more people will judge you as outdated. If you are making a trial graphics presentation and your case relates to technology, this is unforgivable, but for any case this will not be helpful. Remember Chris Atherton's work from point 2 above.
  7. If you are using bullets to talk about numbers, there is usually a very easy workaround.  For example, here is an easy way to handle changing metrics:

    don't use bullet points in trial graphicsand an easy way to handle dates:

    trial graphics and bullet points do not mix

  8. Understand how the brain works. Developmental Molecular Biologist Dr. John Medina explains briefly one of his 12 "brain rules" from his book of the same title. Here, he explains that vision trumps all other senses and pokes fun at bullet points in the process.

    Vision from Pear Press on Vimeo.

  9. Whether most of your presentations are for judges and juries or whether they are for management, learn how to tell better stories; take a look at one of our most popular articles: http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/53536/10-Videos-to-Help-Litigators-Become-Better-at-Storytelling

  10. Remember, if you are using bullet points, people are likely to tune you out as boring when you most want them to be paying attention.

  11. Consider using Prezi instead of PowerPoint as we explained in this popular post, and illustrated in A2L's well-circulated Prezi sample that explains Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs): http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/40453/Beyond-PowerPoint-Trial-Presentations-with-Prezi-and-Keynote

  12. Finally, while A2L Consulting would be thrilled to help, here are 74 ways to remove bullet points on your own.

    1. 6 inspiring non-bullet point options
    2. 41 great alternatives to bullet points
    3. 4 before bullet point and after bullet point examples
    4. 4 great before and after bullet points from Garr Reynolds (see slides 5 through 8 - although his entire presentation is helpful)
    5. 7 ways to replace bullet points altogether
    6. 12 more ways to avoid bullet points

We believe that a well-crafted presentation -- whether in trial graphics or in the corporate world -- will change the way people make decisions. Regardless of your audience, there is something you want from them. Make your presentation the best it can be using the latest techniques.

Download Free E-Book Leadership for Lawyers


Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Presentation Graphics, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect

6 Tips for Effectively Using Video Depositions at Trial

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Apr 2, 2012 @ 02:52 PM

using video depositions at trialThe old-fashioned deposition, with the court reporter recording every word and producing a written transcript, is giving way to the video deposition, which permits a jury and judge to actually see the witness and get a feeling for his or her style and credibility that can’t be obtained by looking at a printed page. In addition, the witness’s body language, which was completely opaque in a written deposition, is now available to the jury.

Video depositions are now used in most large trials – and as much as the rules of evidence will allow, they are used both in direct testimony and on cross-examination. As a legal employment website notes, “With the prevalence of multimedia technology, video depositions are now preferred over simple transcript.” 

Click me

We polled our six national trial technicians at A2L Consulting with more than 500 courtroom appearances between them for their tips on using video depositions at trial and using TrialDirector most effectively at trial. 

Here are six good tips to follow:

  1. PREPARE DEPO CLIPS EARLY: Daniel Carey, our lead “hot seat” trial technician, suggests that it’s always important to leave a lot of lead time for preparation, if there’s some possibility that an opposing witness will say something at trial that contradicts his or her deposition testimony. Possible impeachment clips need to be created in advance, then reviewed and saved in such a way that they are able to be pulled up on the fly in the rare occasion that they are actually used in court -- usually with a witness that wasn't prepped to the best of opposing counsel's abilities.
  2. KEEP DEPO CLIPS SHORT: Keep deposition videos short and sweet. You run the risk of losing jurors if they are too lengthy.  This especially holds true if you play them after lunch, when everyone’s attention tends to flag.
  3. USE THE SCROLLING TRANSCRIPT SELECTIVILY: Some attorneys think that subtitling (placing the witness’s words on the screen and scrolling down as he or she speaks) can be distracting, but, like much in the law, it depends. Seeing and hearing the words simultaneously can cause memory retention problems due to the redundancy effect. We recommend using the text only when the sound quality in the courtroom is poor, the sound quality on the recording is poor or the accent of the deponent is unfamiliar to the jury panel.
  4. AVOID COURTROOM OBJECTIONS: Try to get advance agreement from all parties on any depositions to be played in place of live testimony and any objections ruled on by the court before trial begins. 
  5. LIMIT THE NUMBER OF DEPO CLIPS USED: Using video depositions for impeachment can have a powerful effect, but using the transcript for most answers is sufficient. By saving the most powerful clips for video, they do not become routine. Quality is better than quantity.
  6. MAKE GOOD DEPOSITION VIDEOS IN THE FIRST PLACE: Train your witness to move forward in his or her chair rather than leaning back or slouching. This form of body language has been shown to provide greater credibility and authority.

Click me  

Tags: Trial Technicians, Litigation Technology, Hot Seat Operators, Trial Technology, Redundancy Effect, Trial Director, Depositions

Confidential A2L Consulting Conflicts Check Form

Join 9,200 Subscribers and Get Notified of New Articles Every Week

Watch Now: Persuading with Storytelling

Free Litigation Webinars - Watch Now

ryan flax a2l litigation consultants webinar recorded

patent litigation webinar free litigation graphics demonstrative

Featured E-Book: The Patent Litigator's Guide to Trial Presentation & Trial Preparation

patent litigation ebook 3rd edition

Featured Free Download: The Complex Civil Litigation Trial Guide

a2l consultants complex civil litigation trial guide download

Free Webinar - Integrating Expert Evidence & Winning Arguments - Watch Anytime.

expert witness teach science complex subject courtroom webinar

Nationally Acclaimed - Voted #1 Jury Research Firm and #1 Demonstrative Evidence Firm in the U.S.

voted best demonstrative evidence consultants

A2L best demonstrative trial graphics consultants
best demonstrative evidence litigation graphics consultants

Download the (Free) Storytelling for Litigators E-Book

describe the image

Considering Using a Trial Technician at Your Next Trial? Download this first.

trial technicians trial technology atlanta houston new york boston virginia

Featured Free Download: Using Science to Prevail in Your Next Case or Controversy

using science to win at trial litigation jury

Featured FREE A2L E-Book: Using Litigation Graphics Persuasively

using litigation graphics trial graphics trial presentation consultants

Free Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Guidebook for Litigators

jury consulting trial consultants guide

Timelines Appear In Most Trials - Learn how to get the most out of using trial timelines in this ebook

trial timelines graphics consultants litigators

Featured Complimentary eBook - The 100-page Antitrust Litigation Guide

antitrust ebook a2l litigation consultants

Featured Complimentary eBook - Leadership Lessons for Litigators and Litigation Support

leadership lessons litigation law firms litigation support

Featured E-Book: The Environmental Litigator's Guide to Trial Presentation & Prep

environmental litigation trial presentation trial prep ebook a2l


KenLopez resized 152

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.

dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting

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.

Articles by Category

Follow A2L Consulting

Member Red Well Blog
ABA Blawg 100 2013 7th annual

Follow Us on Google+

A2L on Google+