Want to persuade? Harness the power of contrast, of the before/after variety. Don’t think before/after comparisons work? The garages of America overflow with exercise machines advertised on cable TV at 2 a.m. in commercials showing how people looked before and then, voilà, after whipping out their credit card and calling the 800 number.
I see this in trial work. The plaintiff's lawyer, in opening in a retaliation case, loves to intone: “My client was given high marks as an employee. She then complained about working conditions, and it all changed.”
Want an example of effective use of contrast? Watch the movie "The Rainmaker," in which a large insurance company denies the claim of a very ill person who later dies. At closing argument, the patient’s lawyer holds up two pieces of paper: one says number of claims filed, the other number of claims denied. The first number is big, the second only about 20 percent smaller. No ELMO, no fancy graphics. Just the power of contrast.
Shakespeare wrote about the power of contrast in Henry IV. Prince Henry (Hal) will someday be king, yet he dallies in his youth with thieves and drunkards. Why? Because, when he ascends the throne, the contrast between his youthful frolics will make him look all the wiser:
“Yet herein will I imitate the sun,/Who doth permit the base contagious clouds/To smother up his beauty from the world,/That, when he pleased again to be himself,/Being wanted, he may be more wondered at/By breaking through the foul and ugly mist/. . . And like bright metal on a sullen ground/My reformation, glitt'ring o'er my fault,/Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes/Than that which has no foil to set it off./I'll so offend to make offense a skill,/Redeeming time when men think least I will."