Testifying before Congress, Court or a Deposition
Testifying before Congress, in Court or in a deposition is something many people do not celebrate. I read some recent articles about Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Valeant, and his recent testimony before Congress. Regardless of the issues surrounding Valeant and its corporate leadership, giving your testimony requires planning and preparation. It has been a pleasure to work with clients in order to help them when they are testifying before a court. Here are a few tips to consider when preparing to give your sworn testimony to make the process more enjoyable.
Realize the Purpose of Your Testimony. Knowing and/or understanding the purpose of your testimony is important. Who will be asking questions and why? Who are they representing and what is their interest in the matter?
I have a business friend who has a great understanding and knowledge about safety at a particular type of facility. His understanding and knowledge comes from work experience. In order to be helpful, he approached the management of a facility to notify them of some specific exposure areas regarding safety to avoid someone getting hurt. Well you guessed correctly. The unspeakable happened and someone died at this facility before management made a change. A lawsuit was filed. My friend approached one of the Attorneys involved in the case to tell them he had given management a-heads-up to avoid injury to others. It didn’t take long until my friend was subpoenaed to testify about his knowledge. He didn’t have a financial stake in the matter. He was doing what he believed to be right. But, when it came to giving his testimony, he didn’t have anyone to prepare him for what was coming. Both sides of the case tried to make him look silly and neither side tried to help him. The point of this story is simple. Know the purpose of your testimony. Why are you testifying? What do you know? Who will be asking the questions? What is the best way to answer questions?
Prepare Before Hand. Preparation is a must if you want to do well. Preparation is not determining a way to tell your story in a half-true manner. Preparation is using your own words to tell what you know. Preparation is thinking about the subject matter, the likely questions and how to answer the questions. Great advice in preparation for providing your testimony is to follow the rule of three:
- Listen to the question being asked. Listen to the question being asked.
- Answer the question being asked. Answer the question and then stop. Do not elaborate further. The more people add after answering the question generally gets them into other areas of questions. Do not assume or presume the purpose of the question or the next question.
- Think before you answer. Listen carefully to the question. If the question does not make sense, ask them to ask the question again. Consider your answer to the question asked before you speak.
I represented a corporate CEO in a case and he followed these rules. I knew he was a smart guy but the way he handled himself was amazing. He listened to the questions being asked and only answered those questions. He thoroughly thought through the question before answering. He followed these rules so well. I thought the other side was going to lose it. It was like watching a chess game played by professionals.
Tell The Truth. It is imperative to tell the truth. Telling the truth goes back to the Ten Commandments and is required by law. Telling the truth makes life so much easier especially when you are required to tell your testimony another time. It also avoids the unpleasant side of being accused of being dishonest.
Demeanor Is Important. It is also wise to think about your demeanor, facial expressions and body language. Laughing, smirking or showing disrespect to the other side rarely proves to be beneficial. Think about how your demeanor should be given the circumstances and match it. Often times, a person’s demeanor says more about what they are saying than their actual words.
These are a few simple tips to help when testifying in various proceedings. If you have questions or need help in this area, please feel free to let me know.