In 1985 David Ogilvy wrote a book Ogilvy on Advertising which became a classic encyclopedia about successful advertising. Ogilvy was the founder of the famous New York advertising  agency Ogilvy & Mather and what he has to say about successful advertising rules should be read by every trial lawyer. Here are some of the points he makes. As you read them think about your exhibits and PowerPoints, but also your spoken presentations.

  • On average five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money. Headlines get five times the readership of the body type. If your headline doesn’t sell, you have wasted your money because body copy is seldom read by more than 10% of the readers
  • It pays to write short sentences and short paragraphs and to avoid difficult words. I once wrote that Dove makes soap “obsolete” only to discover that the majority housewives didn’t know what it meant.
  • Newspaper editors used to say: “short paragraphs, the shorter the better. Short paragraphs, short sentences in simple words. Bear that in mind and you get $75 a week.”
  • Consumers need a rational excuse to justify their emotional decisions. So always include one. Above all, don’t attempt emotion unless you can deliver it.
  • Open with fire. You only have 30 seconds. If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer.
  • If the issue is complicated, and it almost always is, simplify as much as you reasonably can.
  • Present your case in terms of the readers self-interest
  • Disarm with candor. Give both sides of the issue
  • A caption should appear under all your photographs. Twice as many people read them as body copy.
  • Visuals are the message. Words are no longer the primary message giver. Now pictures tell the story.

Several  years  ago jury consultant Sonya Hamin wrote a book What Makes  Juries Listen Today and her observations on communications are as relevant today as when she wrote it. Here are some  of her ideas:

  • Watch the anchor persons seamless delivery. He or she doesn’t make mistakes or cast about for a word. They don’t look at notes; they look at you directly, keenly, sincerely and they talk.
  • Here are the basic components of the structure of any address:

(1)        a strong opening
(2)        identifying the audience needs and interests as to why they should listen
(2)        organization of material
(3)        understandable language
(4)        analogies and examples
(5)        rhythm, pace and drama
(6)        visual support
(7)        connection with the audience
(8)        a memorable close

Here’s what she says about physical movement during trial: “Do you remember when you were in grade school and the door opened? Everybody’s head snapped towards the door. Same thing is true for grown-ups trapped by a speech. Allow either you or your witness to walk, point, right worse or moved charts, change an image, or explain a point while standing at a screen will enhance what is being said in the courtroom.”

Her observations about physical positioning is also part of  good  communication. She  recommends:

  1. Don’t Hold onto your wrist. It looks like Peter Sellers in the movie Dr. Strangelove where he had to hold onto his wrist to prevent his arm from flying up into a Nazi salute. When we see people with their hands tightly clenched, or hidden behind their backs there is a feeling of hiding something. Use an open position with hands free.
  2. People are less likely to pay attention to you when you’re seated then when you’re standing.
  3. The podium is intimidating and creates a visual barrier between you and the jury. Sitting with a table in front of you does the same thing.

These are the few ideas from two books that are worth considering.

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