Simple Messages. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, every trial lawyer can learn from Donald Trump’s communication techniques. For example, one time when he was on the Jimmy Kimmel show, candidate Trump gave a one minute, 220 word answer to a question that Kimmel asked him. Like a master communicator, Trump used 172 words that were one syllable and 39 words contained just two syllables. He speaks on a 4th grade vocabulary level and he uses very simple sentences, often ending in strong buzz words that, when taken together, sketch the theme of his message. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump was a walking, talking sound bite. He mesmerized and hypnotized his followers with simple, colorful and indelible themes: “Make America Great Again,” “Build a Wall,” “Mexico Will Pay,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” “Lock Her Up,” and of course, we cannot forget, “Drain the Swamp.” The simplicity in these catch phrases is more important than the substance behind them.
What trial lawyers should take away from President Trump is that simple messages work. How your words and sentences are structured matters and of course, how jurors perceive and remember your message matters. When communicating with your jurors, short sentences with the fewest syllable words are always best. Many lawyers have the bad habit of using legalese and while you may be the smartest-sounding person at a cocktail party, your jurors will likely not understand you. This is especially true the more complex your facts are. When you are communicating directly with a jury (whether it’s Voir Dire, Opening Statement or Closing Argument), an old adage to remember is “the more sophisticated you sound, the less you are accomplishing.”
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