Eleven hours a day. That’s the average time an American adult spends on some type of electronic media today. Eleven hours! To put that in perspective: with the amount of screen time we use in three days, you can watch all of the Game of Thrones episodes; with one and a half days of screen time, you can watch all of the Star Wars movies; and with one day of screen time, you can watch any of the Twilight movies. Well I made that last one up, but it seemed that long to me.
We spend A LOT of time absorbed in our electronic world, and the way we digest most of our information in this world is in bite-sized, attention-grabbing bits. While our appetite for more information has increased, our capacity for attention seems to have decreased. We see these changes reflected in the way producers, advertisers, and designers present information in their respective mediums. On television news channels, the main story competes for the short ticker tape updates at the edge of the screen. On the radio, songs are getting shorter and radio hosts have gone to “in-program” advertising because too many people switch channels during the commercial break. Web sites now display concise text, clean graphics, and video clips rather than text-heavy pages to quickly guide the visitor to specific and relevant information. Many sites also use responsive layouts which automatically adapt to smart-phone screens and tablets.
By understanding the way people are consuming information today, you can imagine how frustrated many jurors feel while sitting through a trial. They rarely appreciate the necessity of building a foundation for or authenticating evidence. More than once we’ve heard jurors post-trial say something like, “I could have just googled it much faster and gotten to the important information myself, it was frustrating it took so long to get to the point.” So the challenge is how best to present to a media-savvy society within the confines of the legal framework. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a good visual strategy when presenting your case can be one of the best ways to get to the point and make sure you’re maximizing the jurors’ retention of critical information.
People learn and retain the most information through visual means and a combination of visual/auditory means. Many studies have confirmed that a combination of visual and audio presentation techniques can more than double memory retention over either strategy alone. Perhaps more importantly, this memory retention differential becomes more pronounced the longer time has elapsed (3+ days). For most trials of any complexity, three days would likely be the minimum time necessary to get through the critical facts and witnesses. The more complex and longer the trial the more this focused strategy can become the difference-maker. If you can get the jury to retain more than twice the information your opponent has presented you will be in a much better position to win your case.
In keeping with the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, don’t forget including graphics in your next trial—it’ll save you some breath. But creating an effective graphic doesn’t happen without some thought and planning so don’t wait until the last minute if you plan on incorporating them, otherwise you’ll spend two thousand words explaining what you’ve put together. And that defeats the purpose.
As James told Bella in the first Twilight movie, “Beautiful. Very visually dynamic. I chose my stage well.” Man, I hate myself for having just quoted that; however, keep in mind the importance of a strong visual strategy when preparing for your next trial. You’ll be glad you did.