How to Prep for Cross-Ex

Cross-ex is a fast-paced, dynamic battle in which the witness has a huge advantage. To get anything productive out of it, the examiner has to be on his game with every beat, every breath, every word.

The margin of error is tiny.

Because wording is so important, you should pre-flow your routines. This can pose a challenge because you don’t get prep time between your opponent’s speech and the ensuing cross-ex. With practice, you’ll learn to flow the speech and pre-flow cross-ex at the same time. Let your next speech take the back seat here; you can always use prep time after cross-ex to prepare. The benefit of writing your routines down beforehand is too valuable to pass up.

Of course, you can’t draw a full flowchart for each routine – nor should you try, as that would limit your flexibility. Instead, write the starting question and a few follow-up questions based on the answers you expect your opponent to give. If he surprises you, follow him off the script.

Here's an illustration.

As with arguments on the flow, I like to draw a short dash to separate routines. Here’s the full pre-flow to a cross-ex I did in a recent coaching session:


   Familiar w/ greenhouse gas effect?

   Does speaking asst GW?


   Define obl?


   Any econ reason to go to war?

   Like what?


   Any rsn not to trade?

Minimalism Works.

Asking those questions – and following up on new leads that arose as the cross-ex unfolded – took the full three minutes. In fact, I’m not sure I got a chance to use the final routine. But it only took me a few seconds to write, and the result was a much better cross-ex. Use this technique rather than trusting yourself to remember routines, or putting question marks on the flow, and you’ll immediately become more precise and successful.

Some like to use post-it notes to track cross-ex. That works great. The technique I prefer is to fold my flow paper in half and write the questions on the back half. This makes it easy to switch back and forth without cluttering up the flow. As with everything else about flowing, there is no “right way.” Experiment until you find what works for you.