In a previous post, we raised the idea that information delivered as stories has a bigger impact on an audience than other means such as bullet points. More areas of the brain are activated and it creates synchronization between the storyteller and the audience, which of course is key when you are in trial.
After stumbling upon an interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the impact that story telling can have sunk in immediately. As someone who does not typically gravitate toward science education, I found myself hooked on Tyson’s recent mini-series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Of course the images can be mesmerizing but the impact of Tyson’s story telling cannot be underestimated. Even though the content of the series is drastically different from what may be presented in a courtroom, the bottom line is the same – as Tyson states, “you realize that science is not just this subject from a textbook, it’s a human story.” There are many lessons that can be learned from the Cosmos series, both Carl Sagan’s 1980 original as well as the recent follow-up series:
Inclusion v. Exclusion
You will never have enough time to tell all that you know about your story or case. Even if you did, the odds are that nobody wants to listen to everything that you know. While you don’t want your edited presentation to lead to misrepresentation, you need to focus in on the content that your audience will find most honest, informative and engaging. It is all about balance.
Make it Matter
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Neil deGrasse Tyson points out that while numerous other documentaries have been created, the impact of Cosmos has never faded. What was the difference? Cosmos “displayed for you why science matters.” Make it clear to your audience why your story matters and why they should care.
Respect Your Audience
At one time or another, we have all been on the receiving end of what Tyson considers one of the greatest crimes of education – believing that content can be made more exciting by “dumbing it down.” With litigation, there is a fine line to walk because while you certainly don’t want to insult your audience, the subject matter is most often unfamiliar to a layperson. However, they will appreciate being spoken to with respect and dignity. The bottom line is to know who your audience is and cater to that particular group.
Make it Visual
The Cosmos series is known for it’s incredible graphics. While a visual presentation company like ours obviously believes in the impact that visuals can have, there are other ways in which one can make their presentation “visual.” This can be through the use of descriptive language and even simple metaphors.
We all know that a trial is about presenting the facts of a case. But emphasis should also be placed on creating an emotional connection with your audience. That is another way in which Cosmos has managed to distinguish itself from other similar series. Tyson says “what you remembered most about Cosmos is how it affected you not only intellectually, but emotionally.”
These are merely a few story telling strategies employed by the Cosmos series and as is the case with everything, everyone has their own theories on the most effective methods. However if there is only one take away that sticks with you as you head into trial, it would be to remember that at the end of the day, “it’s a human story.”