Don’t Let This Little Word Cause a Big Problem in Your Next Presentation

By: David Mykel

There is a very small word that sometimes creates a big problem in today’s litigation graphics: Rag. “Rag” is the term for the uneven edge of text in a paragraph when it is unjustified, i.e., aligned on only the left or right margin, like the way the text on this web page is aligned on the left. The difference is that web design doesn’t give many options for adjusting text rag. There are four basic variations of text alignment to choose from in typography: left-aligned, right-aligned, justified, and centered. When creating litigation graphics, one should always use a left aligned rag. Many of our clients ask us why, and the simple answer is that English is read from left to right – so left justified text is inherently easier to read. If you want confirmation of this, ask yourself the last time you read a novel that had centered or right-aligned text. 

GoodRagExample_on

Figure 1: Example of a good rag.

 

The rag is probably one of the most overlooked details in litigation graphics, yet its flow can make or break the look and feel of your presentation. A common mistake is that most presenters rely on whatever rag Microsoft Office decides to give them, which leads to incomplete thoughts, awkward spacing, and a frustrated audience. Our goal when writing descriptive text for our presentations should always be to convey our message in the most clear and persuasive way possible. An effective way to accomplish this is by using proper rags. What is the difference between good rag and bad rag? A good rag maintains a word flow that places importance on giving paragraphs pleasing shapes and where the line breaks go in and out in modest increments, while keeping important phrases intact. Each line holds its own weight and structure, standing on its own to make a point. Not that each line has to make a complete point, but if the reader is to only read that line, the words will all share the same context. Massaging a rag for the most pleasing presentation possible also entails such mundane considerations as keeping technical phrases, dates, full names and bolded or emphasized text intact for the best possible comprehension. No computer program can do these things effectively; it requires training, patience and a practiced eye.

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Figure 2: Example of a bad rag. Distracting shapes can detract from your message.

A bad rag creates distracting shapes of irregular white space in the margins and/or column where line breaks are varied and inconsistent. The sentence lines frequently break the author’s thoughts and points, requiring the audience to frequently scan up and down between the lines to follow the message.

At VisuaLex, one element that clients have become accustomed to expecting is our painstaking attention to detail. Not only do we “make the complex clear,” but we also make it simple, by paying attention to things that our audience may not pick up on, but will certainly appreciate. In our Precision Points newsletter, we bring to light some of these important differences that separate us from our competition, and identify those things that you want and need in your presentation, but didn’t think about. This is the VisuaLex difference, and it is why some of the most prominent litigators continue to partner with us.

You can also view the article here: http://www.visualexllc.com/PrecisionPointsJul13/PrecisionPoints.html

Developing Graphics for Litigation? Ask Yourself This Question….

I was recently working on a case with a long time client, when this question popped into my head: Why does this matter?

We were assembling case themes, and subsequent graphics, for his opening presentation and struggling to condense his 55-slide presentation to conform to a 45 minute time limit.  This client is a well-respected orator, so I had no worries that he would be able to persuade the audience with his dialogue, but I was genuinely concerned that he would overwhelm them with his dense visual presentation. As I culled through the slides, trying to find materials that I could cut, I kept asking myself the same question over and over again: Why does this matter?

Knowing that we had to cut this presentation in order to not overwhelm the jury, as well as get our point across, our goal was to strategically eliminate slides that didn’t hold up to the scrutiny of this imperative question.  We have to remember, that our opening presentation isn’t the time to put on our entire case, but rather provide a road map of why were are here, where we are going and how we are going to get there.  These three questions can easily be answered in less than an hour, through engaging your audience with a mix of an oratory and carefully selected visuals.

If the answer to this question is glaringly evident, particularly with your opening presentation, then most likely need to cut whatever it is you’re looking and save it for later, or not at all.  Remember: our goal in opening is to simply lay the foundation of our story in an abbreviated time frame.

It’s no coincidence that as I’m writing this article, a client (partner at a large NYC law firm) emailed regarding a current matter we are working on.  He had reviewed the presentation, created by two associates, and commented “we need to cut this down; the jury will be asleep in under 20 minutes.”  He knew what his associates should have been asking from the start, and if they did, could have saved valuable time, and money, as trial quickly approached.

 

Why does this graphic matter?  Because it combines three case themes, represents critical data and has an immediately recognized takeaway.

So, the next time you are creating your visual presentation for trial, arbitration, meditation or a hearing, don’t forget to ask: Why does this matter?

If you need assistance with this imperative question, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or at DMykel@VisuaLexLLC.com

 

16 Litigation Graphics Lessons for Mid-Sized Law Firms

litigation graphics mid size law firm

by Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Over the past three decades, law firms have figured out that litigation best practices include the extensive use of visual aids, the regular use of a trial technician to manage electronic evidence at trial, and the value of conducting one or more mock exercises. Each of these practice areas has developed in response to specific problems that exist in bench and jury trials alike, and there is an art and science (and about a $250 million industry) that exists around litigation consulting.

So, as more large litigation is pushed into midsize firms as a cost containment measure, I notice something interesting. Most midsized firms just don’t know how to use litigation consultants, and what might look like cost savings is going to yield troublesome results later. After all, we figured all of these problems out once in the 1990s, and an industry exists to provide solutions.

So in the spirit of offering the midsized firm, or frankly any firm that is not an AmLaw 50 firm, a solid primer on what’s been learned these past 20 years, I offer the following 16 lessons:

1. Using Litigation Graphics Yields Better Results: It’s beyond “broad scientific consensus,” it’s just a fact, Litigation graphics provide better results. This recent 2013 study on the effect of visual evidence on juries [PDF] does a good job of summarizing the science of litigation graphics.

Read more here:

http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/69374/16-Litigation-Graphics-Lessons-for-Mid-Sized-Law-Firms

How Does the Modality Effect Play a Role in Litigation Graphics?

Here’s a great article, recommended from a colleague, about how the modality effect works in multimedia learning.  If you’re a litigator in the 21st century, this is a must read.

Abstract:

The modality effect is a central issue in multimedia learning [see Mayer (Cambridge University Press, 2005a), for a review]. Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), for example, presumes that an illustrated text is better understood when presented visually rather than orally.

This article also widens the scope of the analysis of moderator variables (e.g. Pace of presentation, Type of visualization, Research group) as well as their potentially confounded effects. Finally, it is argued that, for theoretical reasons, the so-called modality effect cannot be based on Penney’s or Baddeley’s theories and must be explained in a different way.

See the entire article here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10936-011-9180-4

Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

Know the Difference Between Debate and Trial Advocacy

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

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There is a tendency, particularly within law, to equate argumentation and persuasion: How do you persuade? By offering arguments, of course. But that isn’t all of it, or even necessarily the half of it. You win the argument when your point cannot be refuted, but you persuade only when your target is convinced. Over the years, most formats of academic debate have clearly chosen argument over persuasion. No self-respecting debate judge would admit that they are siding with the winner because they more fully understand and accept that side’s advocacy. Instead they will say, often in excruciating detail…

Read more here:

http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2013/10/know-the-difference-between-debate-and-trial-advocacy.html

Don’t Use PowerPoint as a Crutch in Trial or Anywhere

by Ryan H. Flax

The goal of a presentation is always the same — to engage the audience, to move them.  This rule of thumb holds true regardless of the stage. It’s so in the courtroom, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, in the boardroom, and in the classroom. Litigators engage a jury to win their case for their client; professors engage their students so that they can best teach the subject matter. Engagement leads to better understanding, which then leads to better retention and enhanced persuasiveness. Retention and understanding are the keys to success.

As a student of presentation technique, I was especially lucky over the last summer to have two terrific sources of experiential information on the subject and a good deal of insight in to what works and what does not.  My sources were Ms. Shawn Estrada and Ms. Jessica Dunaye, two of our summer interns at A2L, who have some pretty specific thoughts about presentation style after having sat through over 2,000 lectures from many, many professors and students throughout their college careers. After having spent a summer with A2L, learning first-hand how great litigators operate and now they are counseled themselves by litigation and jury consultants, they strongly believe that the litigation presentation techniques espoused by the A2L team are relevant in many aspects of life.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from these two.  They had so much to offer, I’ve divided their points into a series of articles.

Read more here: http://www.a2lc.com/blog/bid/68012/dont-use-powerpoint-as-a-crutch-in-trial-or-anywhere?source=Blog_Email_%5BDon%27t%20Use%20PowerPoint%5D

 

powerpoint reading slides litigation courtroom ecard

 

Consider How You Come Across With the Volume Off

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

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We know communication is visual and not just verbal. But when litigators think of that, they tend to think of demonstrative exhibits and technology. But what about themselves? As a speaker, you’re making a visual impression as well. Most know the basics: stand up straight, look the jury or judge in the eye, use a few gestures. But in practice, attorneys want to expect that in court, content is king and what we say matters more than how we look when we say it. But some surprising research shows that more than we expect is coming through the visual channel.

The studies use the technique of asking research participants to assess a communicator without the aid of sound. Watching a music competition with the sound off, for example, (Tsay, 2013) both amateur and professional musicians were able to correctly predict the competition winners, and did so at a level that was better than those who heard and those who both heard and saw the performance. Similarly, experimental participants unfamiliar with the candidates were able to identify the election winner after simply watching ten-second silent video clips of a gubernatorial debate (Benjamin & Shapiro, 2009). As with the music competition research, turning the sound on tended to worsen the accuracy.

 

Read more here:

http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2013/09/consider-how-you-come-across-with-the-volume-off.html