The Black slide

It is common to mark cues for slides to appear in scripts and outlines, but not as common as one might think, to mark cues for them to disappear. Additionally, a constant visual sideshow on the screens throughout the room while an attorney tries to persuade a jury is a recipe for mediocrity.

It can be jarring to someone who has spent significant time developing sophisticated visuals for use in synchronization with a well-crafted opening statement to hear, “Let’s fade that visual to black at this point.”

Mechanically speaking, in PowerPoint the slide show should actually contain black slides for these moments. This works better than CTRL + B, because blackening the screen that way will reveal the last slide when it is time to move forward, which can be disruptive and look like a mistake. Along these lines, the first slide in any given Opening typically contains a title slide and is often cued up and waiting for the speaking attorney to begin. Consider more impact by keeping the screen black until an agreed upon cue a minute or two into the presentation, say when the party is introduced after the “opener” line or two is delivered. That way, the attention is focused where it should be at the start, on the person at the podium, representing their client.

But what about the plethora of graphics that were developed on the long road to trial? The process will not be wasted. The very exercise of creating visual points helps many aspects of trial preparation. But it is time now to edit, to choose wisely from well considered visual points, so that those remaining ones will have the most impact. This is done best by lining up slides in order with the current script and methodically answering the question: is this point really made clearer by a visual? If no, delete it. I have a Scottish friend, whose mother illustrates the value of this perfectly. She would tell her daughter before every important event for which she dressed in her best clothing, “Lastly, put on your best jewelry, look in the mirror, and take one thing away.”

Lastly, as you draw to a close, the black slide philosophy works here too. Crescendo, then go black and make your final point with nowhere for the jury to focus, but on you. It takes confidence and practice, but is well worth the effect. Remember, this is the first time this group of strangers is hearing your presentation. They, as well as you, will need to draw a breath as you wind up. And, to the backdrop of a black slide, with less distraction, your points will begin to sink in.