Top-notch tips for virtual court appearances

BVWireIssue #216-2
September 16, 2020

expert testimony
expert witness, expert testimony, deposition

There’s a lot more to making a good appearance in court when you have to testify virtually. Not only is this true for court testimony, but in any virtual setting, be it a meeting or when you are conducting a video webinar or conference session.

Extra stress: Ken Pia (Marcum), who has testified virtually a number of times in various states, points out that testifying this way is much more exhausting than doing it in person. For one thing, there’s a lot more to worry about, such as the technical glitches that can happen—and almost always do. Also, judges are getting impatient with the technology because it often takes longer to do things due to connectivity issues or delays with audio and video.

Among the many tips he gave, Pia recommends that you have a practice session (or two) before the day of the hearing. Test your connectivity during the practice sessions and again on the morning of the hearing. Also, be sure to join the hearing at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled time in case updates need to be performed before connection can occur. If you can, try to have IT troubleshooting backup in place during the hearing.

Pia also discussed adjusting your surroundings so that you give the best appearance possible on camera. All too often, we see bad camera angles and terrible lighting that can make anybody on camera look very bad. Pia recommends that you set yourself up so that your background has very simple (organized) décor or a blank wall. He also suggested that you position the camera so it is above you, not below you, with the light coming from the front. We agree with this but make the following additional points:

  • If you have the camera above you, don’t put it too high—and it’s OK to have it directly at eye level;
  • Your eyes should be one-third of the way down from the top of the frame (we often see the camera tilted too high so that the presenters look like they’re sitting in a hole);
  • Lighting from the front is the way to go, but that can create bad shadows, so try to have some “fill” light from different angles to reduce the shadows; and
  • If you’re wearing a jacket, sit on the end of it so it doesn’t ride up your neck (an old trick TV newscasters use).

Pia gave a good deal more advice during a session, New Reality: 2020 and the Life-Changing Impact on Attorneys, Financial Experts and Our Clients, during the AAML/BVR Virtual Divorce Conference. His co-presenters were valuation experts Stacy Collins (Financial Research Associates) and Jim Hitchner (Financial Valuation Advisors Inc.) along with attorneys Lisa Ann Sharpe (Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson) and Adam John Wolff (Alter, Wolff & Foley LLP).

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