Tips For Testifying

Be Prepared.

Try to recall what happened and picture the scene and the objects there. Don’t try to memorize your testimony; simply be prepared to tell what happened in your own words. Have dates, times, places, and other details clear in your mind. Photos and/or medical records pertinent to your case need to be brought to court.

Dress appropriately.

Your attire should be courtroom appropriate – clean, conservative, and well-groomed. Dress the way you would to go to a job interview or to church. Wear dress pants, collared shirts, conservative blouses, and dresses/skirts that fall at a professional length. No jeans or shorts!

Be prepared to wait.

Our courts are busy and handle many cases every day. Occasionally a witness may be requested to remain nearby for a period of time. Bring something to occupy your time until your case is heard. No cell phones, Smart-watches, or other electronic devices are allowed in the courthouse.

Tell the truth.

Don’t pause and try to figure out if your answer will hurt or help the case. Don’t try to “argue” your point, dodge questions to avoid problem areas, or place any type of “spin” on your version of the facts. Just answer truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. Never, ever, guess at an answer. I don’t know, or I don’t remember are perfectly acceptable answers and far preferable to a half truth or a wild guess. Never attempt to answer a question that you don’t fully understand.

Speak clearly and loudly.

Present your testimony clearly, slowly, and loudly enough so that the juror farthest away can easily hear and understand everything you say. An inaudible voice detracts from your testimony and may make the court think that you are not certain of what you are saying.  

Be Conscientious.

of what you say and how you say it. Be concise and act seriously and respectfully. Court is not the forum for speaking out of turn, laughing, or using complex jargon, slang terms, or clichés. Respond orally to questions.

Answer only the questions asked of you.

Listen carefully to the full question and take your time in answering it. If you do not understand a question, ask that it be explained. Do not volunteer information and remember to stop immediately if the judge interrupts or an attorney objects to a question. Do not speak again until you are instructed to do so.

Modify your statement.

If needed. We all misspeak on occasion. If you believe that your statement did not accurately reflect your experience, ask to correct it as soon as possible. Getting flustered on the stand is perfectly normal.

Avoid talking in absolutes.

Unless you clearly remember something in detail and could not be mistake, avoid saying things such as, “That is everything that happened.” Human memory can be tricky. Use phrases such as, “That is what I remember from the event right now.” Do not exaggerate or make overly broad statements that you may have to correct

Be Courteous.

Do not lose your temper. When the witness loses his/her temper, he has placed himself at the mercy of the cross-examiner and potentially harmed the credibility of the testimony. Try to remain calm and don’t lose your temper or act antagonistic, you are letting your emotions interfere with your testimony. Fighting with opposing counsel is never effective and those who engage rarely win. This can be perceived as weakness and some may try to exploit that and make it even worse. Do not engage!

Remember that etiquette extends beyond the testimony.

After being excused, avoid saying anything about your time on the stand. Once the case is resolved you can talk about what happened.