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Chunk Your Trial Message, by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator


Dr. Broda-Bahm provides excellent ideas for litigators on how to “chunk” their trial messages. -CCE

 Give me the bite-sized version, break it down into pieces, and tell it to me step-by-step. The brain loves to segment, and the process known as “chunking” seems to be a central part of how we recognize patterns, manage information, and form new insights. A recent perspective on the process is articulated by Cambridge neuroscientist Daniel Bor in his book, The Ravenous Brain (2012).

[I]t is one thing for the attorney to get that structure, and it is another thing for her listeners to get it just as well. Litigators and other communicators often believe that they’re breaking things down based on a clear, explicit, and meaningful structure, but their audience instead simply experiences a continuous and unbroken flow of information or arguments. Here are a few rules of thumb for making sure you’re actually chunking when you think you’re chunking:

  • It has to be simple (which usually means flat, without substructure, and limited to a manageable number of main points).

  • It has to be explicit (which usually means actually saying something like, “First point,” “Second point,” and “Third point”).

  • It usually should be previewed (“Tell them before you tell them,” unless you having a strategic reason for preserving a surprise).