I’m getting ready for the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor’s Academy (CIA) from August 14th to 16th in 3th in Mathews, North Carolina. This will be my second year as part of the faculty and Frank Turek is graciously trusting me to lead a session on “Tent-Making Christian Case Making”. My goal is to collaborate with other Christian Case Makers so we can become the best “One Dollar Apologists” we can be. Part of my session will focus on important strategies to increase our cultural impact, while another section will focus on making better visual presentations. If you haven’t yet signed up for CIA, don’t delay. The admission process closes on July 1st, and this experience is far more than simply classroom teaching; it’s three days of saturation training in which each and every participant becomes part of the larger case making community. Today, I’d like to preview part of what I plan to teach related to apologetics multimedia presentations:
1) Keep it Outwardly Focused
Remember, your media presentation is not for you! Whether you are using Prezi, PowerPoint, Keynote, or ProPresenter, the media you are creating is for your audience. All too often I see media presentations designed more as Teleprompters than media support. If you find yourself clicking from slide to slide so you can read each slide to an audience, you’re missing the point of multimedia. Do your best to never look at the media while you are working with an audience (unless you are walking them through a chart or timeline). You ought to know your presentation well enough to use it without referencing it as a reminder. Guide people through your presentations, don’t allow your presentation to guide you. It’s not for you, it’s for them.
2) Keep It Visually Rich
If you are going to say something, don’t write it in your presentation. Bullet-point presentations are a sure sign of the apocalypse; avoid them like the plague. You’re already using words (they’re the things coming out of your mouth). Your media presentation needs to be entirely visual. It should support your words without repeating them for the audience. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when words are incredibly important and powerful (i.e. Scripture verses or a single word on the screen to convey the important take-a-way point), but more often than not they are a distraction. Use full screen images and silent video to reinforce your narrative or case.
3) Keep It Purposefully Simple
PowerPoint offers hundreds of transitions and animations. I use two of them. That’s it, no more. Watch your favorite case making television shows (i.e. Dateline, etc.) and start studying the video production. The transitions typically used are cuts and fades. Unless you’ve got a really good reason to do something more elaborate, keep it simple. In fact, if you are new to media, use a only a few full screen images. Less is more. Also, avoid all PowerPoint or Keynote presentation templates. When media presentations have an overarching theme in each slide, they begin to look like corporate or commercial presentations. I’m trying to narrate a case, not sell a product. Your background themes often communicate the difference.
I know I’ve achieved my goal with a presentation when someone approaches me afterward and asks, “What in the world were you using there? That’s wasn’t PowerPoint (insert Keynote, Prezi or ProPresenter) was it?” I’ll be covering much more about this in August at CIA, but for now, these three simple rules will serve you well. Christian Case Making involves two important processes: an investigative progression and a presentation methodology. They are both critically important. Take the time to start learning from others and become a better presenter. If you want to see how I’ve tried to integrate media in my Christian case making, you can watch four brief clips from my presentation on the reliability of the Gospels on YouTube. To see what this approach looks like in a criminal trial, refer to this news story from Fox News. We’ll talk more at CIA.
For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Forensic Faith DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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