Your PowerPoint needs a STAR

Over the past few years, I’ve delivered a CLE presentation called “Why your PowerPoint presentation sucks, and how to fix it.” In a nutshell, I’ve argued that slides based on the principles seen a web sites like Presentation Zen are far more effective than slides full of bullet points and dozens of words.

If you really want to give a good presentation to your client’s board of directors, you need to come up with one more thing: a STAR. What’s that, you ask? STAR is the acronym for Something They’ll Always Remember. Nancy Duarte, a leader in presentation design, talks about it in her book Resonate. Give the audience Something They’ll Always Remember.

The best example of this I can think of comes from the late, great Steve Jobs. He was a master presenter, and he understood the concept of STAR well. When Steve introduced the MacBook Air several years ago, he picked up a manilla inter-office mail envelope and slid the laptop out of it.

The audience gasped (or maybe it was just me gasping that I recall). Yes, Steve could have shown photos of how thin the laptop is, but instead he put it into the context of something we could all grasp. It’s small enough to fit in an inter-office mail envelope.

Nancy Duarte gave a TED presentation late last year that was just published on the TED web site. In her 20-minute talk, she explains how great presentations can be analyzed and mapped against a single shape. She looks at the presentation where Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. She also shows us where Jobs gave the audience the STAR in the iPhone presentation. I highly recommend taking the time to watch this.

Finding the STAR in a legal presentation may not always be easy. In fact, I would say in most instances it’s pretty damn hard. But you need to look for it and use it. If your presentation to a board or CEO hopes to explain why the business should hire your firm, you want your pitch to stand out. A powerful STAR will do that for you—and it implies that your firm will have the same powerful persuasion in the courtroom. Find that STAR and use it—in the boardroom or in the courtroom. You’ll be glad you did.


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