First impressions mean a lot and are often based on your appearance. When you are giving a video deposition connected to a court case, everything the judge, jurors, and your adversary see on the video screen reflects on you and your credibility. For that reason, you should be mindful of your dress and appearance when giving a video deposition.
Part of what you want to convey during the deposition is that (a) you respect the process and (b) that you are taking the matter seriously. Dressing conservatively shows that you respect the process and are treating it seriously. If you show that you are serious about the case, your statements will be taken more seriously and given more weight. This could even lead to fewer follow-up questions by the opposing attorney and finishing the deposition more quickly.
The deposition is one of the most important aspects of your case, which, unfortunately, makes it the most stressful for many people. Our attorneys at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe will prepare you for the deposition to ensure that you understand how it works and the kinds of questions you will be asked. Knowing how to dress and how to respond to questions during a video deposition will help to boost your confidence and composure and enhance the competence you project.
What is a Video Deposition?
A deposition is sworn testimony taken from a witness outside of court for use in a criminal or civil court case, such as in a personal injury lawsuit. A deposition gathers information as part of the discovery process.
Usually, the only people present at a deposition are the person being interviewed, attorneys for both sides, a person qualified to administer oaths, and possibly the opposing party. Video depositions have eliminated the need for a stenographer. Some law firms may have an “IT guy” standing by to provide video recording services.
A video deposition may be shown at trial under certain circumstances, such as when the witness is unavailable. Expert witnesses are sometimes allowed to testify via video deposition. Excerpts of video depositions may be shown to impeach testimony given in court if a witness has made contradictory statements.
Because they create a record of testimony, visual depositions are a whole new ballgame compared to transcripts. Written transcripts do not convey a witness’s emotion and inflection, silences and sighs that are there for everyone to see and interpret in a video deposition. How a deponent appears on a video deposition creates an instant impression that resonates. Dressing or acting improperly can create a negative impression that may adversely affect how your testimony is received.
Dressing for a Video Deposition
If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, how you present yourself in a video deposition can make or break your case. Every video deposition should be made as if it will be shown in its entirety to the judge and jury at trial. You want to be confident that everyone who sees your video deposition is focused on what you say, not how you look.
You should dress conservatively and be neatly groomed for your video disposition. By “conservative” dress, we mean that you should wear clothes that you would wear to church, synagogue or a nice occasion. You should avoid wearing plaids or other busy patterns and avoid wearing flashy jewelry, scarves or other accessories.
Remove piercings that are not in your ears and wear clothing that covers tattoos. T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, sandals and flip-flops are inappropriate in court and at video depositions.
Any face makeup should be minimal. Hair, including facial hair, should be neatly trimmed and combed. Long hair should be tied back. If you do not have a shaped beard or mustache, shave before recording your deposition
It is best to wear solid pastel colors. Light blue works well. Avoid back and white. which can distort lighting and how your face appears in the video.
Men should wear:
- A suit with tie, or a blazer
- A long-sleeve button-down shirt with a collar
- Long pants with a belt or suspenders
- Dress shoes and socks.
Women should wear:
- A mid-length dress
- A woman’s business suit or pants suit
- Conservative blouse and long slacks
- No more than a single-strand necklace or one conservative brooch
- Closed-toe shoes.
View our resource on what to wear to court here.
How to Appear On Camera for Your Video Deposition
Credibility is key to testimony in any court case. In addition to your testimony being truthful, you must appear to be telling the truth. When giving testimony, you should respond directly and concisely to what is asked – and only what’s asked.
Your lawyer should run through some practice Q&As with you prior to recording your video deposition. An attorney cannot tell you what to say, but he or she can give you an idea of the types of questions that are likely to be asked and advise you about your manner when answering.
Bad verbal habits to be avoided on-camera might be tics like saying “like” or “you know” as a transition between thoughts or repeatedly introducing your answers with unnecessary words or phrases.
Nonverbal behavior can detract from your credibility, too. If you are being interviewed in a video deposition, you should avoid:
- Looking to the side, up or down, or away from the camera when answering (indicates deception)
- Touching your face or hair (indicates nervousness)
- Fidgeting (boredom or nervousness)
- Sighing (boredom or contempt)
- Smirking (contempt)
- Frowning (contempt or confusion)
- Crossing your arms (defensiveness)
- Slumping or shifting in your seat (unease)
- Gesturing too much (nervousness)
- Wringing your hands (worry)
- Clenched fists (anger).
However, it is good to:
- Sit upright and look toward the questioner (not the camera lens).
- Spread your hands apart, in front of you, with your palms facing slightly toward the camera. This indicates openness.
- Pause for a moment after a question to think. Don’t go silent for too long. Answer promptly when you are able to.
- Speak clearly and distinctly.
- Lean slightly forward as you speak. This indicates interest in engaging the audience.
Do not chew gum or have anything else in your mouth while testifying. You may have a glass of water nearby in case your mouth gets dry. It should be in a clear glass set out of view of the camera. Sip from the glass, saying “excuse me” beforehand if you take a drink when you are expected to speak.
If you are given documents or other tangible evidence to review, do so without lingering. Set them aside when done so you do not fidget with them, and then look up toward the questioner to provide your response.
Get Set Up to Provide a Video Deposition
Video depositions should be recorded professionally, either by law firm personnel who have training or by video service vendors. In situations like the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, witnesses may make themselves available visually from home. In such cases, work out the required set-up beforehand by having your attorney advise you about how you appear.
Be aware of what can be seen in a home video set-up besides you. To avoid distraction, it is best to have a blank, single-color background or a simple pattern, such as a brick wall. Remember that dark colors absorb light, which can leave your face poorly lighted. Sit against a blank wall or a door with a sheet or blanket hung over it. The Zoom virtual meeting app allows the user to upload a photo to use as a background, but if you move in front of it, it creates distortion that can be distracting.
Set up your device or camera just a little higher than eye level and with a clear, unobstructed view. Sit about three feet from the camera lens.
Lighting is most effective when coming from the side or above you. Natural lighting is best. It may take some experimenting to determine the best way to light you. As you try out lighting, you should wear similarly colored clothes as what you plan to wear for the deposition session. A white tablecloth or even sheet of white paper on the desk or table just in front of you will reflect light up toward you.
Make sure you will not be interrupted during your deposition by family members, including pets, nor by phone calls or visitors. Have a responsible family member or friend on hand who can intervene to stop someone or something unexpected from interrupting.
Test your video conferencing software and set-up with your attorney before clicking into the full deposition conference with others.
Consult Your Attorney Before a Video Deposition
At the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, we focus on all aspects of a case and will always go the extra mile to make sure that you are fully prepared for your video deposition. We understand that this deposition is likely to be something that you have not experienced before, and we are always available to answer your questions or help you set up for a deposition. If you have a question about preparations for your video deposition, contact us as soon as possible.