Witness Preparation Insights

10 Challenges for Training CEOs and Executives

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc.

The advantage of working with CEOs and executives is that they are generally knowledgeable and successful. They also tend to be critical witnesses in many cases. Unfortunately, they also pose some unique challenges regarding witness preparation. Often, an executive's potential negative attitude toward attorneys can impact their approach to witness preparation

What are the witness preparation challenges for training CEOs and executives?

The top witness preparation challenges with training CEOs are time, ego, distractions, anger, and refusal to delegate. The psychology experts at Courtroom Sciences can deliver sophisticated neuro-cognitive training that can help maximize the benefits of witness training for CEOs and executives.


Challenge Number 1: Time

One of the first and most significant challenges revolves around time. CEOs have a lot of things to do, and trying to schedule enough time for witness preparation can be extraordinarily difficult. Even if you do manage to schedule the time, they are prone to showing up late and leaving early. The odds of being able to schedule a session that is six to seven hours long are relatively remote. It is more likely you will need to block out these sessions in two-hour intervals over several days to get in all of the necessary preparation. 


Challenge Number 2: Ego

CEOs, as a whole, are extraordinarily confident people who are not used to taking direction. Yet, during witness preparation, they must listen and take advice from another individual. This requires building a rapport with them and finding a way to show them their vulnerabilities and forcing cognition. 

CEOs and executives process information quickly. In a deposition or trial, that can cause them to miss information that could be devastating. Forcing cognition and getting them to slow down can be done by using reptile tactics. Going through exercises that try to trip them up or trap them—for example, feeding them a half-truth in a statement to see whether or not they catch it, which usually they don't, is a great tactic. Once they are aware of their mistakes and the risk with reptile style questions, they are more likely to take witness preparation more seriously. 

Challenge Number 3: Distractions

CEOs prioritize their companies, and as witnesses, they are notorious for being distracted by messages on their phones or an administrative assistant coming in with a note every few minutes. As they never solely focus on the task of witness preparation, state-dependent learning is an effective tactic for witness preparation. 

State-dependent learning indicates that an individual is in a better position to perform at a higher level when they have practiced similarly to where they will have to perform, for example, an athlete practicing in an arena with loud music to prepare for the noise level of a game. CEOs need a clear understanding of their role in the case, with it being impressed upon them that if they don't do well in the deposition, it could mean the difference between winning the case and losing the case. 

Challenge Number 4: Negative Attitude Toward Attorneys

A corporate executive or CEO may like their in-house attorney, but when they see the trial attorneys coming in, there is a good chance their mind jumps immediately to dollar signs and trouble. In general, a CEO's interactions with attorneys are often negative, so it's understandable that when they see the attorney, it re-engages that negative emotion. Witness preparation experts have an opportunity to dispel that negative feeling by helping the CEO understand that they are coming in to help them. 

Challenge Number 5: Anger

CEOs frequently face anger during commercial litigation, such as a contract breach, where each side points fingers at the other. Regardless of the cause, anger is an emotion that can wreak havoc during witness testimony and should be addressed upfront. Courtroom Sciences offers sophisticated neuro-cognitive training that can mentally prepare witnesses to alleviate that anger and ensure that witnesses are mentally prepared for testimony.  

Challenge Number 6: Refusal to Delegate

CEOs are usually the ones who are supposed to have all the answers, and it can be challenging for them when they don't. Even though CEOs shouldn't be expected to know everything going on in every department, more than likely, the CEO will attempt to answer a question they don't know the answer to rather than pass it to someone else or admit that they don't know. Unfortunately, speculation or the wrong answer will only get them into trouble later under cross-examination. CEOs must understand that giving an inaccurate answer is worse than admitting they don't know the answer. 

Challenge Number 7: They Don't Know When to Stop Talking

CEOs are accustomed to leading the meetings or being up at the podium, which doesn't always translate well to being on the witness stand. When that CEO is on the witness stand, suddenly they have to defer to someone else; someone else is in charge. One of the roadblocks to working with CEOs and executives is getting them to relinquish some of their power and give it over to the attorney. Witness training can help ensure CEOs don't appear unreasonable, agitated, or condescending during their testimony. 

Challenge Number 8: Dress Code

The proper dress code for CEOs should be a balancing act, where they don't want to be underdressed and look sloppy, but they also shouldn't appear over the top and look out of touch. CEOs need to understand that jurors pay attention to everything, including your suit, tie, shoes, and watch. Frequently, a juror already views the CEO as a stereotypical greedy and soulless individual. CEOs and executives want to ensure that they don't further feed that stereotype by how they dress. 

Challenge Number 9: Breaks

All too often, the first thing a CEO will try to do during a break is to look at their phone. The problem is, if the CEO is on their phone reading emails during their break, then it's not a break. Not only that, but you run the risk of having them read an email that will cause a distraction for them once they return to the deposition, setting themselves up for a multitude of cognitive interruptions. Executives will feel pressure to check their devices, and it's difficult not to let them do it. One compromise is to consider extending the break, giving them five minutes to look at email and then spending 10 minutes taking a break. 

Most individuals are so used to having their phones with them at all times that it feels distracting when it is gone. Having a CEO get used to not having their phone with them constantly during witness training sessions will ultimately help when it comes time for the deposition or trial. 

Challenge Number 10: Jury Selection

For CEOs and executives who are used to being constantly busy, jury selection can feel tedious. Suddenly they have to spend one or two days doing nothing other than exhibiting impeccable body language, being engaged, and looking attentive, all while sitting and saying nothing. 

While it may feel tiresome, CEOs must understand that they are essentially on stage during this procedure. Jurors are not only paying attention to them during the actual proceedings but also watching them during jury selection. CEOs need to understand that once the jury knows who they are, the jury will consider all of their actions, regardless of physical proximity to the courthouse. 

CEOs and executives must be open to witness preparation techniques to maximize the benefits of witness training and to perform well during their testimony. At Courtroom Sciences, we understand that the performance of your witnesses, especially CEOs and executives, is integral to securing a positive outcome for your case. Our Ph.D.-level litigation consultants can help prepare even the most difficult witnesses to help ensure a positive outcome for your case. Speak with one of our experts to get started. 

Key Takeaways

● While generally knowledgeable and successful, CEOs and executives also tend to pose unique challenges regarding witness preparation.

● Top witness preparation challenges for CEOs are time, ego, distractions, anger, and refusal to delegate. 

● CEOs and executives must be open to witness preparation techniques to maximize the benefits of witness training and perform well during testimony. 

● Courtroom Sciences' psychology-based witness training program can help prepare even the most difficult witnesses to secure a positive outcome for your case.

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