By Erin Engelmann, Empire ’10-12
Even though we all love mock trial, lets face it, there are times when we’re cuddled up on the couch at 5:30 on a Tuesday night watching Law and Order and the last thing we want to do is get up and head to our 6pm mock practice… but we do it anyway. Why? Because, as my coach put it time and time again, ¨hope is no substitution for preparation.¨ Practice doesn’t have to be all work-no play though. We’re mockers, we can get creative with our preparation…
1) WATER GUN FILLER WORD FIGHT
One of the worst habits to have as a public speaker/mocker is over-using filler words. Everyone has their kill word: ¨Now,¨ ¨Umm,¨ ¨And,¨ ¨So,¨ and ¨Alright¨ are a few popular ones. My word used to be ¨okay.¨ I once said ¨okay¨ 42 times in one cross examination and swore I hadn’t used it more than twice. Here’s how you stop using filler words: get water guns. Take turns doing your directs, crosses, statements, or improv speaking and every time someone uses a filler word, shoot them. Things might get a little messy, you might get a little bit wet, you might end up wanting to tackle your co-counsel and dump a bucket of water on their head, but, I promise, you’ll never again let an ¨umm¨ slip from your mouth more than twice in a trial.
2) OBJECTION BATTLES
Nothing looks quite as suave as pointing a judge to the exact rule number in the middle of an objection battle… or correcting opposing counsel on the subsection to which they’re referring. So at your next practice make flashcards with rule numbers on one side and the corresponding rules on the other. Pair off your attorneys (if you need to, throw in some witnesses to even things out). Have the pairs face each other with the flashcards in the middle. The first person to call out the correct corresponding rule or rule number to the top flashcard grabs that card and whoever has the most cards at the end wins and moves on to face the other winners. The winner of the final pair is your team’s Mock Star for that practice… award whatever privileges/prizes your team comes up with.
Put a bunch of really, REALLY, random topics in a hat and have a team member choose one. Give them 30 seconds to prepare and then have them give a 2 minute speech on their topic. The key to this one is making sure the topics are absurdly random. I’m talking ¨My left pinky is my best asset,¨ ¨The benefits of chewing on the right side of your mouth,¨ ¨Dinosaurs still exist¨ etc. The more absurd/random/outrageous, the better. If you can talk confidently and passionately about why bananas are the best garden tool for midgets, for 2 minutes, never again will you fret explaining the relevance of Lee Allen’s diving experience to a confused judge on the fly (Feel free to play this in conjunction with #1).
4) HE SAID / SHE SAID
We’ve all sat through 5 minutes of ourselves or our witness’s being referred to as the wrong gender… and what’s worse, we’ve all been that person calling the female defendant an evil, evil man for the duration of our statement/examination. Talk about breaking the fourth wall. Here’s a remedy to gender confusion: every time you start an examination/statement at practice, write out all of the witnesses whose gender’s you won’t know and then roll a dice or flip a coin to determine male or female. If a gender is messed up at any point in a examination, the person who messed up has to talk like the opposite gender until the other person messes up or until the examination (or statement) is complete. You’ll become hyper aware of your pronouns while exploring some new voice variations. WIn/Win.
5) STAY IN CHARACTER
This one is for the true mock trial nerds. The ones who eat, sleep, breathe mock trial… so obviously I have to admit I’ve done it with my team more than a few times. Staying in character can be one of the trickiest parts of a trial: not losing your accent, sticking to your affidavit, pretending to be a diving instructor even though you’ve never stepped foot in a body of water deeper than your local pool, it can get to be a lot. If you want to challenge yourself into really knowing these roles go out to dinner, bowling, a sports game or a party and spend the entire night introducing yourself to strangers as characters from the case. If you’re playing a character with an accent, get ready to convince a random stranger you grew up on the streets of London. If you’re playing the expert, you better be ready to explain narcosis to a skeptical audience. If you’re playing the bystander, prepare to recount your crazy scuba diving experience and how you’re being called into court because of it. If you can convince real people you’re Reggie Rodgers, convincing a mock judge and jury will be a breeze.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Erin Engelmann is Editor-in-Chief of The Bench Press. She competed three times for William Floyd High School at Empire New York (NY).