Display Matters

Trial by Nature #2 - Tips to Survival in the Courtroom

The phrase “odd bird” doesn’t come close to describing this creature. Found in the rainforest of New Guinea, the superb bird-of-paradise looks like a little black bird most of the time. However, during mating season, the male bird goes all out with a dazzling display of color, sound and dance in his effort to find a mate.

He prepares his stage with diligence. “Everything must be spic and span,” Attenborough recounts. The bird clears debris and meticulously places foliage for maximum effect. He practices before calling loudly to attract a female. He makes sure everyone can hear his voice.

When a female nears, the performance begins. He bobs and clicks, navigating the stage to ensure she sees him no matter which way she turns. He serenades and struts, displaying abundant color and personal style. She observes, deciding if she is “in the mood” or not. The show means everything for his legacy.

As trial lawyers, we know exhibits are important, but what about the rest? Your stage and your stage presence are as important as display. Maximum impact requires careful consideration.

The superb bird-of-paradise gives us solid pointers on theatrics:

  • Clear your stage. Keeping the “well” neat allows for unobstructed viewing.
  • Keep your area crisp and clean. Counsel tables are “on stage” too. Clutter sends a message of disorganization.
  • Know your stage. Sit in the juror seats in advance to view your exhibits to be sure they are readable. Don’t forget the judge!


  • The bigger the better. Tiny highlighted words on an overhead projector are not as effective as a thoughtful graphic illustrations and large font callout boxes.
  • Color matters. Bright colors are easier to read and can convey the importance of key wording or illustrations.
  • Practice, preparation and presence are essential.



  • Honest drama works. Believe in your case and be genuine. Fake tears are a turnoff!
  • Being different works. Thoughtful creativity is attention grabbing. Be cautious, however, it is wise to test your innovative ideas on your colleagues first.
  • Integrate sound, body language, and visuals. A great graphic exhibit is no good if the narrator mumbles. A great explanation is less effective with crossed arms or reclusive body language.



Click the photo or here to see the video.

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