It is important to look, sound, and act the part to be a convincing and effective Expert Witness.
It’s not enough to have the right evidence: an Expert Witness must be able to present evidence persuasively without confusing the jury.
Looking the Part
As an Expert Witness, you must first look like an Expert. This starts before you ever leave home. Here are some simple tips to exude professionalism through your appearance. Begin with a well-tailored business suit, a pressed shirt, and non-descript tie (for males). Ladies, keep the jewelry small and simple. Think professional when selecting your courtroom wardrobe. Darker colors are best for suits with lighter colored shirts. If you are not accustomed to wearing a suit, it will show if you feel uncomfortable. If you are squirming, your unconscious behavior may undermine your testimony. I suggest you wear your suit a couple times before your court appearance. Keep your pockets pinned or sewn closed. This keeps your hands out of your pockets and keeps you from loading pockets with bulky items that jingle. If you need reading glasses, have them easily accessible.
Stand with your shoulders over your hips with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands comfortably at your side, not in your pockets. Walk with a purposeful stride. When sitting, place your buttock into the back of the seat. This will keep you from slouching and will force your body to sit up with a slightly forward lean. Don’t cross your legs above the knees.
Answering Questions on the Witness Stand
As an Expert Witness, you are establishing your credibility from the moment you stand up and proceed to the witness box to take the stand.
After you have been sworn in and seated, take a moment to make sure that the microphone is positioned comfortably in front of you so it will not be necessary to lean in to be heard. When speaking, hold your chin up so it is parallel with the floor. To avoid being soft spoken, be sure to open your mouth and push the air from your diaphragm. You want to be heard the first time you say something and not have to be asked to repeat yourself.
You will be required to state your name. Since you say your name so frequently, it often sounds hurried and inaudible. Slow down. It is best to place a small pause between your first and last name.
Speak clearly. Fully pronounce your words. Be careful to avoid slang, lazy speech (dropping the “g” in “ing”, etc.), and regional speech (over yonder, purty gud, ya’ll, etc.). Also, watch out for filler words, such as, um, ah, okay, right, you know, etc. These words are used when you are thinking about what you will say next. Instead of filler words, use a silent pause to make a larger impact on what you will say next.
Learn when to differentiate between an authoritative and conversational voice. Both have importance in your testimony. Knowing when to use which voice will make a huge difference in the delivery of your testimony. There is a fine line. Jurors need to be educated without being talked down to. Therefore, when presenting your evidence, it is best to use your authoritative voice which is perceived to be more trustworthy. In contrast, jurors respond better to a conversational voice when asked for a detailed explanation, because subconsciously it is perceived more likeable and friendly. You can avoid the boredom of a monotone voice by the use of voice flexion. This makes your words easier to listen to and more intriguing. To increase drama, add meaningful gestures to emphasize and anchor your words.