So you have been subpoenaed to testify in a criminal or civil trial. One question we routinely hear from witnesses we call in our cases is how do I testify. Here are a few tips to think about before you take the stand to testify.
Truth is the most important thing a witness can do when testifying. The consequences are huge if you are caught lying or not being truthful, for example, perjury. Stick to the facts that you remember. Do not guess!
Don’t believe the hype that appearance is not important. Dress conservative – like you are going to church. You do not have to wear a tie but you need to be neat and clean. Remember you are testifying in front of people or a Judge who is trying to ascertain whether you are credible.
Its ok to take pauses and try to reflect what you are saying. Speak slowly and concise.
Don’t Elaborate Unless asked
You are not there to think what people want to hear. You are there to answer the questions the lawyer is directing to you. The lawyer may have a specific reason why he is asking you a specific question. If you start elaborating or guessing what the lawyer is looking for – you may open the door for the other side.
Maintain Eye Contact with the Attorney asking Questions
Maintain direct eye contact with the attorney asking the questions. Maintaining eye contact makes it look like you are paying attention and taking the question seriously. Furthermore, when you give your answer to the question you are confident in the answer. Don’t look at the Judge or the other attorney like you are seeking their approval. Stay focused on the lawyer asking the questions.
Fact finders like people who recognize their limitations. People who show their own humility show their humanity.