A Little “How to” – Cooking With PowerPoint

In my previous columns I’ve argued that lawyers who close their eyes to the use of courtroom technology may be negligent, I’ve encouraged lawyers to try courtroom technology and I’ve tried to sell the idea of using PowerPoint with little or no text. With me so far?

For the next few columns I’ll illustrate a few basics for assembling a PowerPoint for evidence presentation.

Persuasive litigation in my mind should have a strong visual component. Talking head witnesses are so 1970’s. The 2010’s call for visual engagement of the trier of fact, whether judge or jury.

That visual engagement is an integral part of modern times is evident in the rapid growth of smart phones. Why smart phones? The visual and interactive nature of these devices is appealing, the technology easy to use, and they’re fun. They’ve become part of everyday life for many.

The other day I ran into a newly minted grandmother. She gushed on about how beautiful her new grandson was. Really? Yawn. Then she pulled out her iPhone, perhaps in response to my yawn. “Here,” she said, “look for yourself”. With that I was witness to photos, videos and cooing sounds (from the grandmother). This was my first encounter with instant show and tell from a grandparent. I confess the kid lived up to grandma’s claims. When presented with the iPhone proof my scepticism melted away. For me, seeing was believing.

The iPhone grandmother was persuasive using visuals and simple technology. The courtroom lawyer can be too.

The lawyer will simply require a larger canvas for the visuals and some easy to use display technology.
It’s not rocket science. It’s more like cooking. Just follow a simple recipe.


A story – preferably a good short story   1 Microsoft Picture Manager (optional)
A folio of visual evidence to illustrate the short story, 5-10 photographs – crop to taste   ~ 2 hours of time (will vary with experience)
A sprinkling of maps or diagrams   A pinch of imagination
1 Microsoft PowerPoint   A computer with printer

Basic Preparation

Take the visual evidence -photos, maps and diagrams – and combine them in one file on the computer. They should be in JPEG or similar format. They can be cropped, chopped or sliced later if necessary. While the photos etc. don’t have to be in one file it makes things go quicker when you go to insert them into your PowerPoint evidence presentation.

On the computer open the PowerPoint application. PowerPoint 2007 looks like this when first opening a new presentation:

Click on image to enlarge

PowerPoint 2007 tools are grouped in Tabs on the top banner, starting with “Home”, “Insert”, “Design” etc. reading left to right.

Different slide layouts are found under the “New Slide” pull down menu on the “Home” tab. The new slide menu is also where you’ll find a “Reuse Slide” option that allows you to use slides from previous presentations. Electronic recycling is to be encouraged.

For a slide layout with a title and space for an image choose this as your basic slide:

Click on image to enlarge.

Thus ends the basic preparation. Now it’s time to really cook!

Inserting Images

Having written a good short story and gathered images and diagrams that illustrate the core elements of your litigation its now time to insert the images into the PowerPoint presentation you have open.
This can be done simply using one of three methods:

1. Inserting one at a time.

Click on the “Insert Picture” icon – the bottom left of the group of six in the middle of the slide above.
You can also go to the “Insert” tab on the top banner . There select “Picture” and look for the file where you combined your images.

If you have only a few images either of these methods is fine. If you have lots of images this method is the ‘bad method’ akin to running at the coal face as described by the miner who “never had the Latin for the judging” in Beyond the Fringe. For lots of images use method 2 or 3 below.

2. Microsoft Officer Picture Manager

This application allows you to select groups of images out of a file (the one you created to combine the photos etc.) and at the press of a button to send the selected images to your open PowerPoint presentation.

Open Picture Manager and go to “Add Picture Shortcut” in the top left hand corner. Find the file with the photos. Click on the file and the photos are displayed. You can select some or all. Once you’ve selected the ones you want, go to “File” and select “Send To” and choose the “Microsoft Office”. You are presented with options – choose “Insert into an open file” and you’ll see your open PowerPoint file listed. Then hit send. The photos are magically inserted. If you have a lot of images you may have to wait awhile for them all to be sent.

3. Photo Album Feature

PowerPoint 2007 has a handy feature to create a photo album which can be used to as your evidence presentation. The feature allows you select and then insert images into a PowerPoint presentation in one go. It will create a first slide with a photo album name which you can either delete or rename to match your style of cause and content, for instance Smith v. Jones, Crash Scene Photographs and Diagrams.

To create the Album go to the “Insert” tab on the top banner and choose “Photo Album”. On the pull down menu choose “New Photo Album”. A “Photo Album” dialog box will appear with numerous options.

Start by finding the file where you’ve combined your visual evidence. You do so by hitting “File/Disk” and locating the file.

Once located, choose the images you want. You can rearrange their order once they are loaded onto the “Photo Album” dialog box. Once the images had been selected and arranged there are numerous options for inserting them into the PowerPoint presentation.

For instance in “Album Layout” > “Picture Layout” menu you can choose from one, two or four photos per slide.

The Photo Album dialog box also permits a caption to be added. By default the caption will be the file name assigned to each individual photo. The “Picture Layout” drop down menu allows a title text box to be used either as an alternative to a caption or in addition to it.

Multiple Images per Slide

For evidence presentation it’s usually best to have one photo per slide. When the slide is displayed in court the single image typically should be the only focus without competing distractions.

On the other hand there may be circumstances when multiple images on the same slide can be useful, for instance showing different angles of the same scene. Multi-images are also good for showing an enlarged area or making a comparison as illustrated below.

Click on image to enlarge.

Click on image to enlarge.


Once the photos or diagrams are in your presentation you should consider an appropriate background colour or texture.

I recommend a texture-free, solid colour that will make the image stand out. If the images are to be displayed in court using a projector and screen a darker background is preferable. This is easier on the eyes in a well lighted environment. If you use large monitors a dark coloured background is not as necessary.

In either scenario do not use a distracting background colour or textures. The slides below give you an idea of good, bad and distracting backgrounds. You spot which is which.

More next time…


  1. Pascale Daigneault

    Dear Nils

    Good work as always! Am looking forward to part 2.

  2. Nils:

    Quite a recipe!

    It also applies to developing a powerpoint for a presentation.

    I was thinking – in this latter case – the seasoning with text -would be very very limited..very much like salt – too much will spoil the taste…



  3. I think it is great to see that this site has a place for lawyers like you who are encouraging the use of technology in advocacy. After years of using technology and experimenting with it in the courtroom I recently started writing about this topic too and would be interested in your thoughts about my new blog named Justice Review. I plan to continue to review and provide examples of the creative use of technology in litigation (and I hope to be of interest to anyone who needs to present lots of information in a persuasive way). My main interest is in access to and fluid use of information in the courtroom.

    I would be interested in finding out more about the use of technology in your high tech trials in B.C. Please feel free to comment or contribute to my blog site if you like.

    I note that some of the comments attached to some of your earlier articles suggest that technology can get in the way of effective “story-telling”. I agree that poorly executed use of technology can be ineffective but so can the poorly executed use of typed notes and other paper-based approaches. The use of technology does not mean using 10 exhibits when 1 would be more effective. Now that cases occupy hard drives and the evidence is itself more commonly in the form of electronic documents, our profession needs to become as adept at manipulating and presenting electronic media as the barristers of old were using the tools of their time. For a simple example, many people are surprised to learn that by pressing the control key and F at the same time you are able to initiate a search for specific words in documents (in many Windows based programs). It is possible to learn a trick like that every week and over time become a whiz with the new tools technology provides. People who try to use technology a bit more may be amazed at what they are able to learn. GM