Breaking News: Hours of Lecturing is a Turnoff

Posted by Dan Keeney

It’s been a rambling, monotonous and repetitive slog

I’ve been trying my best to check in on the Senate trial of President Trump when I can. Every time I do, I am struck with how terrible the presentation of the case by the House Impeachment Managers has been. Assuming what we see on TV is similar to what Senators are seeing and hearing, the case has been a rambling, monotonous and repetitive slog.

I am not saying this from a politically subjective point-of-view. It’s because I believe the case against the President is powerful and deserves the full attention of the Senate that I am so disappointed in how the information was presented.

As noted by Litigation Insights in the article, How to Make the Most of Multimedia in the Courtroom:

“…with growing use of CGI, on-demand media and shrinking attention spans, multi-generational jurors have become accustomed to content delivered in bright bursts of light, color, sound and motion.”

The reason PowerPoint and other software that enables the creation and delivery of visual aids exist is that talking alone doesn’t cut it. People tune out. This should not be a revelation, yet in one of the most important moments for presenting information, the House Impeachment Managers barely used visual aids at all.

Let’s review some of the relevant research:

  • Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners while just 30 percent are auditory learners (Mind Tools, 1998).
  • Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience illustrates that people are 50 percent more likely to remember what they see than what they hear.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “three days after an event, people retain 10 percent of what they heard from an oral presentation, 35 percent from a visual presentation, and 65 percent from a visual and oral presentation.”
Edgar Dale’ Cone of Experience

Beyond merely being memorable and understandable, a visually stimulating presentation helps the audience stay engaged. Instead of having their minds shut down, visual aids would have given the Senate something to view besides just the speaker. Great visuals virtually grab the audience by the shoulders and screams, “THIS IS IMPORTANT! YOU BETTER PAY ATTENTION!”

Great visual also help the presenters stay on course. At numerous points, the oral presentations of the House Impeachment Managers seemed to meander aimlessly. I can’t count how many times I heard, “The evidence is overwhelming,” instead of actually presenting the evidence itself. Telling us how overwhelming the evidence is is not an adequate substitute for evidence!

A skilled litigator doesn’t necessarily need visual aids. They can tell a story in a compelling fashion and keep an audience engaged throughout. But if anyone is going to try to present a case without witness testimony, which the House Managers knew was the case going in, you better have strong and compelling multimedia elements to spice up the presentation of information.

As noted by The Hill, video clips were used more in day two of the prosecution’s case. Specifically, the House Managers used clips of President Trump and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney making jaw dropping admissions. But such clips were missing for the most part in days one and three, which left the presentation of the case flopping around the Senate Chamber like a dead fish.

Some might disagree with this, but what I’ve seen from the House Impeachment Managers indicates that they are lacking in skilled trial lawyers. Sure, there may be former prosecutors among them, but have they really presented a case? Or were they primarily politicians who treated the courtroom as a stepping stone on their trajectory to Washington?

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 24th, 2020 at 6:03 pm and is filed under Public Relations Advice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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