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Repeat a Simple Message Repeatedly to Maximize Courtroom Persuasion

Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.
By: Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.

Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Psychology, Visual Persuasion, Persuasion

The science around repetition is well settled, and I've always found it a little disturbing. For all the advanced degrees, experience with thousands of cases, and the wisdom litigation consultants like us have to share about maximizing persuasion at trial; the truth is one of the easiest ways to increase persuasion at trial is simply to repeat yourself - a lot.

It is a technique used by politicians and trial lawyers alike. However, I think the political climate of the last few years has shown us that there are few upward limits on the number of times one can repeat themselves before it feels uncomfortable. And it works.

Politicians on all sides and people of all political beliefs make false assertions, these assertions are repeated and amplified by social media, and over time, people come to believe them. This has happened for thousands of years. It's just much more accelerated now, so it feels new.

The last ten years brought us this social media multiplier effect. Now, repetition comes fast and from seemingly independent sources - both factors that increase persuasion. Furthermore, assertions are often presented in a meme-like format, and the easier an assertion is to process, the more likely someone is to be persuaded by it. That's why short and simple quips frequently repeated are far more persuasive than a well-reasoned lecture delivered once.

All of the science supports this reality. Skim the studies on Google Scholar to see for yourself. Surely, you observe this working in real life. Yet, why do so many trial lawyers forget these truths when they walk into the courtroom?

Like it or hate it, if you want to maximize persuasion in the courtroom, pretend you are presenting a meme, not a brief. Think like a social marketer, not like a Supreme Court clerk. Simple statements repeated often will persuade more often - even more so if you can turn them into a rhyming phrase - and even more so if supported by simple imagery in the form of litigation graphics.

While, of course, you need to support your arguments with facts and reasoning, particularly to help build the record, if you don't make your key conclusions simple and meme-like, you are destroying your own persuasiveness.

As I wrote in 5 Rules for How Simple a Trial Presentation Should Be, you should simplify your entire trial presentation to the point where it makes "you cringe a little because it feels a bit oversimplified." In my experience, very few lawyers make things simple enough both rhetorically and visually, and they certainly don’t repeat things often enough. 

A review of some of the articles below should prove helpful when considering how simple to make things for your next trial. Still, there is no substitute for a mock trial or even just working with litigation consultants to help simplify your message. Once you know your material well, it is almost impossible to simplify it on your own.

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