For many years I have advised potential witnesses that there are two rules to follow in giving testimony. These rules are:
MAKE CERTAIN THAT YOU UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION.
ANSWER THE QUESTION TRUTHFULLY.
On the first rule, do not assume you know what is asked if the question is unclear. Do not be afraid to ask the lawyer to repeat the question if you did not clearly hear the question. Do not be afraid to ask the lawyer to rephrase the question if the question contains words or phrases you do not understand.
On the second rule, you will be giving testimony under oath. Intentionally making false statements under oath is a crime. As a witness you have a duty to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. However, there are different ways to tell the truth. If you answer questions in an arrogant, evasive, and confused manner, you will be less effective than a witness who answers questions in a clear, confident, and thoughtful manner. Below are some additional suggestions to aid you in giving testimony.
A neat appearance and proper dress in court are important. The court should be treated with respect. Be serious. When taking the oath to testify truthfully, stand upright, pay attention, and say “I do” clearly.
Your testimony must be heard. Speak clearly and loudly enough so that the farthest juror can hear you easily. Do not answer questions with a gesture such as a nod. Answer all questions verbally so that the jury and the court reporter (or recording device) can hear you. Stop instantly when the judge interrupts you or when an attorney objects. The jury and the court reporter cannot hear multiple people speaking at the same time.
Always be courteous, even if the lawyer asking questions appears discourteous. Never lose your temper. Answer the question to the best of your memory and answer only the question asked. Do not volunteer information. Do not give your conclusions or opinions unless specifically asked for your opinions or conclusions. Do not exaggerate or attempt to figure out whether the answer will help or hurt your side.