Preparing for Trial: Lessons for Courtroom Testimony

Preparing for Trial: Lessons for Courtroom Testimony
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-08-23
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Preparing for Trial
Unit 2 Transcript: Preparing for Trial
Unit 3 Workbook: Preparing for Trial
Unit 4 Recording: Preparing for Trial

It’s not what you know but how well you’re able to communicate it. This is especially true in depositions and the court setting during testimonies. For individuals who are invited to become expert witnesses in a legal proceeding like police officers, forensic experts, medical professionals, and victim advocates – this is critical in establishing the facts of a case. Deborah Johnson leads this session to walk us through the art of testifying effectively in court or deposition.

Deborah is the President of High-Stakes Communication, an industry expert in effective communication, a consultant for various cases, and an EMMY award-winning writer and producer. She also coaches lawyers and expert witnesses for improved communication skills in court.

Specifics of this webinar include:

  • Realities surrounding legal testimonies – that it infrequently happens and is not a fair fight.
  • The caustic environment law enforcement operates under which poses potential problems in establishing trust within the community and those chosen to become jury members.
  • The importance of both hard skills and soft skills to become a good witness.
  • The four things that the juror needs and someone who is testifying must fulfill.
  • The processes in the human brain and how its emotional and decision-making functions mesh to form the basis of jurors’ impressions, opinions, and position.
  • Key questions to consider when communicating that look into the audience, what they can hear and understand, and how the information being offered to them benefits them.
  • The speaker’s responsibility of bridging the gap between what they know and what they want the audience to know.
  • Non-verbal communication: Its components, how much it and each of its components account for in communication, and how it is driven by thoughts and feelings.
  • The value of non-verbally communicating confidence and clarity when testifying and how nervousness manifests physiologically.
  • Guidelines to effectively communicate on the phone and in text/written communication where non-verbal cues aren’t captured.
  • How disconnect between non-verbal communication and our words can impact how others perceive us.
  • Viewing the testimony as building a relationship with the jury where the goal is to get them to know, like, trust, and believe whoever is on the stand.
  • The importance of the invitation to get the jury into the conversation by explaining concepts that they don’t know or aren’t familiar with so they can make informed decisions.
  • The concept of unspoken expectations that people tend to have and the value in acknowledging and fixing this gap.
  • The importance of showing up in your best during your testimony and internalizing who you need to be to make the best impression and connection to the jury.
  • Utilizing video feedback to practice and adjust accordingly based on your and others’ feedback and observation.
  • The value in diligently practicing testifying until you become comfortable enough to do it even under duress and still remain calm.

Questions raised by the webinar audience are about:

  • How to control nervousness in the tone of voice.
  • What reverse engineering means.
  • The extent that law enforcement officers can humanize themselves to build rapport with jurors.
  • Applying the concepts when the trier of fact is a judge and not a jury.
  • Whom should the witness look at and address during a testimony.
  • Tips to manage a pushy or aggressive attorney.
  • How to effectively communicate and get the jury to know, like, trust and believe you when you are not the typical soft and touchy-feely type of character.


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Resources and Handouts



Audience Comments

  • “What a wonderful job of breaking down ways to convey information to a jury so that they can make a better-informed decision and how we can be more effective when giving testimony.” — Amber
  • “Excellent presenter; knows her stuff.” — Art
  • “The perspective of an experienced and expert witness was invaluable. I appreciated the down-to-earth approach and modeling. Thank you so much!!” — Janet
  • “Most valuable: placing the burden of good communication on the witness, not the jurors. … The answer in the Q&A session to the black-clad, boot-wearing, tough victim advocate was terrific.” — James
  • “How important it is not just to know the answers and have the expertise, but everything else the jury is looking at.” — Katherine
  • “I think this helped reframe my mindset around the purpose of my testimony. We often put so much pressure on ourselves to be polished and perfect on the stand, but thinking of it as a conversation with the jury helps it feel more human and natural. I look forward to applying these tips and recalling the topics discussed in future testimonies. Thank you for a great webinar!” — Kylee
  • “I like how the presenter spoke about the emotional aspect of how people listen and make judgments/decisions, as most training on this topic does not address that important aspect.” — Paula
  • “Very good presenter – I enjoy her conversational style. Most of this information is valuable for other parts of my job, i.e. working with clients and presenting training. Thank you!” — Amanda
  • “I think the most valuable thing I took away from this was the two questions she asked “who are you there for?” and “who do you need to be”? Her explanation of how to answer these questions really resonated with me. I believe I will ask myself these questions every time I am preparing to testify from this point forward.” — Dana
  • “I too am highly fascinated by psychology & how the brain works. The most valuable thing I learned was the tips provided on how to control one’s tone of voice when speaking to prevent sounding nervous.” — LORETTA
  • “The questions after the class were really good. Thank you for the class.” — Patricia
  • “I testify a lot and benefited from thinking about how other people view me.” — Christopher
  • “Thinking about reverse engineering while testifying.” — William



Nlets is a self-funded nonprofit, established in 1967 with the objective of connecting law enforcement, justice, and public safety agencies for the purpose of exchanging critical criminal justice information. They strive to ensure that the right information gets to the right person as quickly as possible. Nlets connects more than 1,000,000 users, 45,000 agencies, and 800,000 devices, with more than three billion transactions traversing their secure network last year.



This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





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