“Beyond Bullet Points” on Trial

What would a PowerPoint presentation look like in a courtroom, if it used an approach Beyond Bullet Points?

According to the Fortune magazine article,Court_1 "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.)

This entry was posted in Business Strategy, Communications, Media, PowerPoint, Presentations, Trial Presentations, Web/Tech, Weblogs. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to ““Beyond Bullet Points” on Trial”

  1. Rimantas says:

    Not sure if this is such a great thing – courts deciding who has better presentation skills…
    Also: http://blog.sethgodin.silkblogs.com/Lying-in-court.6345.entry

  2. Thanks for the interesting link. The Greek philosopher Aristotle identified the key elements of persuasion 2,400 years ago as appealing to emotion, reason and personal credibility. It appears that some writers today are calling appeals to emotion “marketing”, but whatever you call it, you have to speak in language that people understand. The idea that you can appeal only to reason is neither supported by classical ideas, nor by neurologists who point out that people need an emotional connection in order to focus the rational part of the brain. http://www.beyondbullets.com/2005/03/emotion.html
    Communicators today — no matter whether they’re in the board room, the classroom or the courtroom — have to understand how the human mind works, and tailor their presentations accordingly if they hope that their audience will understand.
    http://www.beyondbullets.com/2005/02/obstacle.html

  3. jaldous says:

    Talking about beyond bullets: Beyond

    Talking about beyond bullets: "Beyond Bullet Points" on Trial

  4. Larry Burgess says:

    From someone who was in the courtroom that day, I can personally testify to the effectiveness of Mark Lanier’s presentation. I know Mark personally and have seen the dramatic differences between his presentation that day and other presentations he has prepared. They were effective. This one was powerful.

  5. Brian says:

    Overall I have to agree whole-heartedly with Rimantas.

    Still … any chance we can get a look at the presentation?

  6. After having read Beyoond Bullet Point I decided to give it try and won a major research contract with a large southern bank because of it. They gave me 15 minutes to give my presentation and it turned into a three hour roll up your sleeves discussion. No more bullet points for me.

    Bill Connerty

  7. cliff says:

    Brian – unfortunately the presentation is not mine to share.

    Bill – thanks for sharing your success story!

  8. Powerpoint Presentations on Trial

    Because I’m serviing on a jury right now (can’t talk about it), this blog post from Cliff Atkinson at Beyond Bullets blog definitely caught my eye. Atkinson wrote the book, Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That

  9. KnowAngel says:

    Fight the powerpoint

    Era uma revelacao. Trouxeram o morto do retroprojetor e levantou seminarios ate um nivel relativamente suport├ível. Agora estou meio chateado com a falta de imaginacao quando apresentadores usam uma ferramenta com tanto potencial. Edward Tufte esta…

  10. rethink(ip) says:

    Use of PowerPoint in a Trial

    Wow – now here is a little rethinking payback…Beyond Bullet Points on Trial:  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 tr…

  11. rethink(ip) says:

    Use of PowerPoint in a Trial

    Wow – now here is a little rethinking payback…Beyond Bullet Points on Trial:  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 tr…

  12. $253.4 Million Verdict in First Merck Vioxx Trial

    I am sure that Robert Ernst, a 59-year-old Wal-Mart produce manager, was well loved but did his death really cause his wife Carol Ernst over $253 million in damages. What was this Texas jury thinking? … If each of these claims resulted in simil…

  13. Victoria Hogan says:

    Perhaps Mr. Lanier would grant permission now that the trial is over? I’d also like to see the slides and the notes or opeing remarks. Perhaps this will be used in law schools someday.

  14. marvin mitchell says:

    I strongly second this request

    Perhaps Mr. Lanier would grant permission now that the trial is over? I’d also like to see the slides and the notes or opeing remarks. Perhaps this will be used in law schools someday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *