Trial gives us all an adrenaline rush. Trial lawyers feel anxiety and pressure when it’s our turn to speak. Our audience includes not only jurors, but court staff, our staff and client, and the opposing party and his lawyers. The combined effects of adrenaline, anxiety and pressure cause us to lose all sense of time. One result is that we may not have an accurate sense of how fast or slow we are speaking.
During trial, we often feel pressure to fill silence. If we are not comfortable with silence, we may try to fill the air with sound and speak too quickly, or we may revert to filler words such as “and” or “um.” When we speak too quickly, our audience may have trouble understanding the message. Filler words are distracting and make it more difficult for the factfinder to comprehend the information being presented. Silence alllows time for processing information, and deliberate silence can help us emphasize an important point.
There are several techniques to deal with speaking too quickly. The first step is recognizing the factors (adrenaline, anxiety, pressure) causing the problem. As we begin speaking, our first words set the pace for the rest of what we have to say. If we take care to use our first words to consciously set a deliberate pace, the result can be a slower, effective delivery.
Another technique to help us slow is to speak in phrases, using tone to emphasize important words and points. The Articulate Advocate suggests thinking about the Pledge of Allegiance as an example of how we speak in phrases. All of us are able to pause and embrace brief, important silence at the end of each phrase in the Pledge. We can use phrases and pauses to emphasize important information as we speak to the judge and to the jury.
Finally, conscious inhaling can help us slow down and eliminate filler words. When consciously inhaling, it is impossible to speak. Trial lawyers can eliminate the filler transition word “and” at the beginning of cross-examination questions by inserting a conscious inhale before beginning each question.
The TCBA Litigation Section is for trial lawyers from all practice areas, including plaintiff lawyers, defense lawyers, family lawyers and criminal defense lawyers. Over the course of the past year, the Litigation Section has heard from lions of the bar - local trial lawyer legends who’ve volunteered their time to attend section meetings and share lessons with us that we may have never heard otherwise. We invite you to join the Litigation Section as we strive to continue to offer engaging, quality information for the section members. The next meeting is July 19 at noon. J. Derek Ingle of E. Terrill Corley & Associates will tell us about his recent trial in Payne County.
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