What Matters Is What They Hear

You could have the most eloquent delivery ever presented in a courtroom, but if the jury does not hear what you have to say, it's all wasted effort. Although you may present a topic using sophisticated presentation aids, the actual success depends on the recipient. Your responsibility is to ensure that the target of your presentation 'gets it.' Far too many presenters focus on the presentation and not the perception of the presentation.

Take the time to really sell your presentation. Whether you are teaching a jury how a disk drive works, or answering cross-examination questions, get your message across.

Communication involves three critical components :

  • Sender

  • Message

  • Receiver

The sender is the party who prepares and sends the message. The sender is responsible for all aspects of the actual message. The sender chooses the message's content, tone, style, delivery medium, and recipient.

The message is the actual content of what you are sending. The sender creates and sends the message to the receiver via the chosen media. The message itself consists of the body of the message, along with 'tone' of the message. The tone of a message can be influenced by the choice of vocabulary, punctuation, and structure. For example, the following two messages are identical except for their tone:

  1. Please come to my office.


Clearly, the second message creates more anticipation (and dread ). You can create the same distinction using your vocal tone. You can add emphasis to certain words or phrases to make them stand out. Don't overdo it, though-you still must remain believable and credible. If you rely on theatrics to make your points, you will lose credibility in the long run.


Listening is an important and often overlooked skill. Use your listening ability to take in as much as you can in the courtroom. The judge's statements and actions can tell you a lot about how you should act. It may change daily, too. Judges and juries are regular people who have bad days just like you and I do.

Listening allows you to 'test the waters' without making a mistake by charging ahead in the wrong direction. Both legal teams can direct you through the questions they ask. As a rule of thumb, go with the direction your own legal counsel is leading you in. If the opposing counsel leads you in a particular direction, place close attention to what's going on. They could be trying to trip you up.

Listening always helps you to be more prepared when you do take the stand. To communicate well, use your ears more often than your mouth.


Because you are the expert, you will be perceived to have superior knowledge in one or more specific areas that pertain to the case. Many people can be intimidated by people with superior knowledge or experience. Always avoid using tones in your voice that can be interpreted by others as being haughty. You will never gain any respect, but you risk losing it if you use a tone that infers superiority.

Try to switch into 'teacher mode.' Take the time to explain topics that are not clear to one or more people in the courtroom. A good teacher evaluates where students are and approaches them to move them toward understanding. An expert witness cannot interact directly with jurors in the same manner as a teacher does, but you can still be respectful and try to convey the essence of your message. Any time you talk 'down' to a judge or jury you risk invoking feelings of resentment. Jurors who resent you may not be very favorable to you during deliberations.

It looks like mom and dad were right when they said, 'It's not what you say, it's how you say it that counts.' Make sure the jury has an opportunity to perceive you as pleasant. It will matter.


As previously discussed, the job of the expert witness is to explain complex topics or procedures to laypeople. You must use words and phrases that explain and do not confuse judges and juries. Avoid using too many industry-specific terms and acronyms. For instance, talking about the 'TCP and UDP packets traveling between the server and the client' will likely confuse most people. To use such an example, you will have to explain:

  • How information travels across networks

  • How networks split messages into smaller chunks , called packets

  • What a server is and what is does

  • What a client is and what it does

  • Networking protocols (basic introduction)

  • TCP and UDP protocols

That's a lot of explaining to do just to address a fairly simple concept. Well, that's your job as an expert witness. Make the complex seem simple and be careful of which words you choose. The more successful you are at using common words in your explanations , the more effective your presentation will be.

Computer Forensics JumpStart
Computer Forensics JumpStart
ISBN: 0470931663
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 153

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