On the Screen: Do Your Research

Last night, my wife and I finally saw Hidden Figures. There were many great things about the movie, but I want to talk about one particular scene here today.

It’s the scene where Mary Jackson is petitioning to take classes at the segregated high school, which will enable her to apply to be an engineer. She making her case—her pitch—to the judge.

“Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first,” she says, explaining how he was the first in his family to serve in the Armed Forces and attend university, and the first State Judge to be re-commissioned by three consecutive governors.

“You’ve done some research,” he replies.

Then she explains how he has a rare opportunity to make a decision that will matter in a hundred years, another opportunity to be “the first.”

This is not only a great example of a Halo appeal specifically tailored to your audience—it’s also a great demonstration of how important it is to know your audience, to learn about them by doing some research.

It’s not that all judges want to be the first—in general, most judges actually want to avoid making waves. Their primary job is to apply the existing law to new cases, not to make decisions that overturn the existing law. But with a little research, Jackson was able to identify a personalized appeal that would work for this particular judge by referencing his history of being first.

You, too, can improve your pitches by doing some research about your audience in order to identify appeals you can tailor specifically to them. The more you know about the people in your audience, the more effectively you will be able to persuade them.

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