What would a PowerPoint presentation look like in a courtroom, if it used an approach Beyond Bullet Points?
According to the Fortune magazine article, "Stark Choices at the First Vioxx Trial", two lawyers used PowerPoint in "starkly" different ways in a heavily-publicized trial that began Thursday in Texas. In the first of many trials involving the prescription drug Vioxx, plaintiff Carol Ernst is suing Merck and Co. over the death of her husband Bob Ernst in 2001.
Based on the following passages from the article, guess which one used the Beyond Bullet Points approach:
"Speaking in state court in Angleton, Texas, without notes and in gloriously plain English, and accompanying nearly every point with imaginative, easily understood (if often hokey) slides and overhead projections, (the plaintiff's lawyer Mark) Lanier, a part-time Baptist preacher, took on Merck and its former CEO Ray Gilmartin with merciless, spellbinding savagery...
"But in contrast to Lanier... (defendant Merck's lawyer David Kiernan) seemed to read much of his presentation and illustrated it only with stodgy, corporate headshots of Merck officials or hard-to-read excerpts from documents whose meaning was shrouded in medical jargon...
"The trial offers jurors a stark choice between accepting Lanier's invitation to believe simple, alluring and emotionally cathartic stories versus Merck's appeals to colorless, heavy-going, soporific Reason."
If you guessed that it was Mark Lanier's PowerPoint that was completely bullet-free, you're right. It turns out that Mark loves to use PowerPoint, and when he started working on his presentation he ordered all the books on the topic he could find, including Beyond Bullet Points. He liked it so much that he invited me out to Houston to give him a hand with his presentation.
We used the 3-step approach in the book, then Mark's flawless delivery took the experience beyond what I imagined was possible. He masterfully framed his argument with an even flow of projected images, and blended it with personal stories, physical props, a flip chart, a tablet PC, a document projector and a deeply personal connection with his audience.
It was my first time to put the Beyond Bullet Points approach on trial in a courtroom, but based on the feedback, the verdict of the day was clearly in favor of the plaintiff's PowerPoint approach.
(For more coverage of the opening presentations of the trial, see the New York Times article, "Contrary Tales of Vioxx Role in Texan's Death" and the Associated Press article, "Nation's First Vioxx Trial Begins" at Forbes.com.)