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Cliff Atkinson, Beyond Bullet Points, and Legal Presentations

Thursday, June 28, 2012
posted by Geetesh on 9:30 AM IST





Cliff Atkinson sent me a copy of the third edition of his Beyond Bullet Points book, and when you open the book, you'll find that the obvious change in this new edition is a whole new chapter right at the beginning which talks about how a multi-million dollar court case was won by using the principles discussed in Cliff's Beyond Bullet Points book.

Beyond Bullet PointsTo paraphrase the entire case in a few small paragraphs can be a challenge -- let me try – and of course, you can get a copy of Cliff's book to read this entire incident in full detail.

Merck & Co., a well-known pharmaceutical company developed and marketed a drug called Vioxx. Vioxx was marketed as something that would help those affected by arthiritis as a pain relief drug. It was found later that Vioxx could also cause fatal heart attacks -– you can read more about the Vioxx debacle on USA Today’s site.

One of the victims was Bob Ernst, whose wife Carol sued Merck. Carol's lawyer, Mark Lanier worked with Cliff to use the principles outlined in the Beyond Bullet Points book to create a compelling presentation to convince the jury -- something that played a pivotal part in Carol winning the case in a court in Angleton, TX. The presentation program used was Microsoft PowerPoint, and as an outcome of the case, the court ordered a compensation of $253 million. A few years later, this case is still pending, but that's not the reason behind this post –- the reason behind this post is that an outcome of this huge scale was possible in the first place, and it was a victory for those who use presentation software such as PowerPoint in the legal domain.

I asked Cliff about the use of his Beyond Bullet Points approach for presentations in the legal domain, and this is what he says:

I had originally written the Beyond Bullet Points book for a business audience, so I was surprised when a trial attorney approached me to ask my help in applying the approach to an opening statement for a big legal trial. But he won a $253 million verdict and attributes a large part of the success to his blockbuster presentation, which even made headlines in The New York Times and Fortune magazine. In retrospect I can see why attorneys are so interested in investing tremendous resources on their presentations – they win or lose their cases based on how effectively they communicate their message to their audiences. Because of this context, trial attorneys have much to teach presenters in all professions – especially in terms of the arts and sciences of the psychology, persuasion and physiology of communicating to audiences during high-stakes presentations.

Thank you so much, Cliff!


Cliff AtkinsonCliff Atkinson is an acclaimed writer, popular keynote speaker, and an independent consultant to leading attorneys and Fortune 500 companies. He designed the presentations that helped persuade a jury to award a $253 million verdict to the plaintiff in the nation's first Vioxx trial in 2005, which Fortune magazine called "frighteningly powerful." Cliff's bestselling book Beyond Bullet Points (now in its 3rd edition) was named a Best Book of 2007 by the editors of Amazon.com, and it expands on a communications approach he has taught at many of the country's top law firms, government agencies, business schools and corporations.

Categories: books, legal, powerpoint

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