The Art of Speaking with a Podium / Lectern…

(October 2019)

Podiums / lecterns can help or hamper a speaker. Some people sometimes hide behind them. Some grasp on to the sides for dear life.  Having said all of that, a podium/lectern is a great speaking medium if you are delivering a speech or making a presentation.

Halina Saint James shares 10 tips on using a podium/lectern when having to public speak:

  1. Make sure the podium / lectern’s height is correct for you.
  2. If the podium / lectern is a modern acrylic see-through type, keep what you place on it to a minimum i.e. just your notes.
  3. You don’t have to stand behind the podium. You can stand to the side and have your notes on the podium/lectern. Then you can glance at them as needed. This won’t work, of course, if you are using a microphone that’s part of the podium/lectern.
  4. If you are behind the podium/lectern, stand back a step or two from it. This will keep you from clutching or leaning on it. It will encourage you to use your hands naturally. This will, in turn, enhance your authentic voice.
  5. Make sure the notes, water and props etc. are yours and not something another speaker placed there or is / has been using.
  6. Take a few seconds to get yourself comfortable at the podium/lectern before you speak. Adjust the microphone and place your notes the way you want them. Keep your eyes away from the audience as you do this. When you’re ready to speak, lift your head, look at the audience, smile and begin.
  7. If the podium / lectern has a light and you’re using it, make sure it doesn’t obscure your face.
  8. Don’t be afraid to place your podium / lectern exactly where you want it (depending on its size and weight). It’s usually better placed to the left hand side from the audience’s view point, especially if you’re using PowerPoint slides.
  9. Standing behind a podium / lectern can separate you from the audience, which is fine as the audience do accept this.

What is the distinction between these two mainstays of public speaking i.e. the podium and the lectern.

The podium (pl. podiums or podia) is a raised large heavy platform on which the speaker stands to deliver their speech and indeed place their notes. “Podium” is derived from the Greek word πόδι (pothi) which means “foot”. The word “podiatrist” (foot doctor) comes from the same source.

The lectern is a raised, slanted light stand on which a speaker can place their notes. “Lectern” is derived from the Latin word lectus, the past participle of the verb legere, which means “to read”. The word “lecture” comes from the same source. There are tabletop lecterns and there are standalone lecterns, that come in all sizes.