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QuickBites: It’s Time to Come Out From Behind the Lectern


Have you ever seen speakers who appear almost grateful to stand behind lecterns? It’s fairly common because many speakers believe lecterns — no matter their size — shield them from their audiences. Yup, it’s another security blanket. 


Unfortunately, these speakers don’t realize that it’s not natural to have such an unusual piece of furniture between people having a conversation. So, once behind the lectern, they unconsciously feel awkward, leading them to get even more nervous and uncomfortable.


When standing at a lectern, it’s natural to interact with it. For example, I recently watched a speaker endlessly fidget with the lectern’s gooseneck microphone support. Watching this was almost as distracting as listening to the ensuing noise picked up by the mic. 


Occasionally, I’ve witnessed speakers lean their elbows on their lectern, casually draping their hands over the front. They mistakenly believe this looks casual, but it looks like they lost energy.


Some speakers place their hands at the top left and right corners of the lecterns, keeping their hands quite relaxed, while others hold on for dear life as if they were going down with the Titanic.


When you speak, you can often request that there be no lectern. If you want one so you can refer to notes and have a glass of water handy, ask that it’s placed to the side. A small table can serve the same purpose.


Sometimes the hosting company will anchor a lectern right in the middle of the stage because they’re accustomed to speakers requesting one. Don’t fret. Use it to place your notes and water, if you have any, but don’t use it as a shield. Instead, speak from both sides of it. 


If you have been using lecterns, it’s time to come out from behind them. Only then will you be able to maximize every aspect of your delivery to impact and influence your listeners.


Here’s a bonus tip

Although the words are often used interchangeably, a lectern and a podium differ. You stand on a podium and behind a lectern. (Hopefully not anymore.) It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but you want to use the correct words when speaking with meeting planners. Although, if they misuse the words, there could still be confusion. So, to avoid a mix-up, replace “podium” and “lectern” with “platform” and “stand,” respectively.