Episode 122 -- Courtroom Graphics with Kerri Ruttenberg

2-Minute Tip: Slides must help the audience, not the presenter


One reason folks audibly groan when they think about PowerPoint is that too many speakers use the slides to help them get through their presentation rather than to help the audience understand what’s happening.


We use them too often to:


  • Help us remember
  • To keep our place
  • To just generally put too much stuff on screen


Ultimately there are 3 purposes behind our visual aids


  1. Help the audience understand
  2. Help the audience believe
  3. Help the audience remember


When it comes to improving our visuals, we need to eliminate any extraneous text, and limit ourselves to just one concept per slide.


When designing slides or other visuals ask yourself, “Who does this help more: the audience or the presenter?”


If it’s the presenter, cut it or change it.


Post Tip Discussion


Slides and visual aides are an important part of public presentations and not always in a good way. Slides dominate most stages these days, and reviewing a presentation for most folks means looking at the slides.


This trend isn’t limited to the conference room; it extends into the courtroom. PowerPoint slide decks, foam core boards, and animations now help juries make decisions in courts around the United States.


This week’s guest literally wrote the book on courtroom graphics. Kerri Ruttenburg, the Senior VP and General Counsel for Litigation at Walmart, is the author of Images with Impact: Design and Use of Winning Trial Visuals. She wrote the book to help lawyers and non-lawyers both make more effective use of visual aids in presentations.



Kerri L. Ruttenberg is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Litigation at Walmart, trial lawyer, and previously a partner at the law firm Jones Day in Washington, D.C., where she served as the Head of Litigation for the firm’s D.C. office.  She has tried cases in state and federal courts around the country. Kerri recently authored a book published by the American Bar Association, Images with Impact: Design and Use of Winning Trial Visuals, which has been praised as “groundbreaking” and “a must for the trial lawyer’s library.” Based on nearly 20 years of trial experience, working with graphic designers and interviewing jurors, Kerri frequently conducts seminars for lawyers, judges, expert consultants and marketing executives on the effective design and use of visuals for trials and other professional presentations.  


Kerri has been a successful public speaker for decades.  She paid for her college and law school education with competitive speaking scholarships, and her love of public speaking has continued through her career as she tries and wins cases, conducts seminars on presentation design and delivery, and even coaches others on how to improve their own effectiveness in public speaking. 


Thoughts on Speech and Debate


While my career took me in the direction of marketing, and Kerri’s took her in the direction of Law (which are pretty much complete opposites in most corporate environments). Our origin stories have a common touchpoint — Speech & Debate or Forensics in high School and college. We both partially paid for college with scholarship earned in competitive speech.


As kids start heading back to school next month, encourage or support their interest in Speech and Debate. And encourage schools to develop vigorous programs. The lessons from Speech and Debate extend well beyond how to speak before a judge.


A year ago, in July 2018, I spoke with Denise Vaughan, one of my former team mates in Speech and Debate from the Carroll College Talking Saints, and now coach of the Speech and Debate team at UW-Bothell about competition and her path. You can here that conversation here: http://2MinuteTalkTips.com/Denise




The other important lesson is one I talk about a lot — the importance of preparation. Kerri emphasizes the importance of showing up early to make sure everything works and the venue is setup as expected.


Preparation is also key for courtroom visuals. Kerri talks about the importance of using graphic designers for most of her trial graphics. We also talked about the unique review process for courtroom visuals. The opposing counsel needs to review graphics as does the court in many cases to make sure they are in compliance with appropriate legal standards.


The point is none of these graphics are put together at the last minute. They’re not assembling slides 10 minutes before using them. The stakes are just too high.




Kerri Ruttenberg on LinkedIn


Kerri’s book on Amazon


Kerri’s book on America Bar Association website


Rule 403


2-Minute Talk Tips with Denise Vaughan


@-Minute Talk Tips Review of “Storytelling with Data” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic



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