Broadcast news networks have spent years and millions of dollars to research the most effective method to present news to the average viewer. According to Sonya Hamlin in her book "What Makes Juries Listen Today", 77% of people in the country get 90% of their news from television and 41% get all their news from television.
Effective communication to a jury, judge or in an ADR situation all relies on teaching as a foundation. It is this process of teaching facts, legal issues, etc. and understanding how adults learn and process information that are significantly impacted by exposure to television.
The CSI effect is a well-documented and discussed phenomenon that brings forensic science to the average viewer. The result, however, is that along with broadcast news, average adults have come to expect a condensed multimedia explanation and proof leading to an unquestionable conclusion. While that is a lofty goal for a trial attorney, it does indicate a series of points that can be considered in the learning styles and attorney communication with a jury.
Much effort has gone into identification of different adult learning styles. The VAK, or visual (learn by seeing), auditory (learn by hearing), and kinesthetic (learn by doing), learning model can also provide insight. None of these styles is right or wrong. But by understanding them and taking into account how different people learn, the teaching phase of a trial may be improved.
Coupled with an understanding of how the television news and entertainment industries present information, there are several points that can be translated into effective communication for litigants.
Broadcast TV news stories are short and are summarized with a brief commentary.
TV moves from the studio to a location to provide information and proof to get the point across. In the courtroom, the "studio" can be the attorney addressing a jury and the "location" can be proof documents or video shown to teach and communicate to the jury.
Quick-moving graphics and entertaining speech helps to capture the viewer's attention. Using the VAK learning techniques identified earlier, learning is visual and auditory, drawing the conclusion in a systematic fashion. Taking a cue from great presenters, newscasters will tell you what topic you are going to hear, then they tell you the details, and finally, they summarize. As a result of this process, people understand they can miss some parts and still grasp the point at the end.
Video, graphics and speech are used harmoniously to teach and communicate. Telling a story is fundamental. Marketer Seth Godin goes into great detail of the importance of great storytelling capabilities in this book.
Edit video, graphics and speech relentlessly to most effectively get your point across. Viewers expect the bottom line quickly.
The bottom line is that the average adult expects an edited and highly-focused presentation of new and unfamiliar information. The average adult expects this information to be presented verbally and visually to help quickly grasp and understand information and concepts. Failure to achieve this successfully in the television world results in the viewer changing the channel or turning the TV off. Failure to achieve successful communication in a courtroom may result in a viewer mentally tuning out.