Lecterns - Help or Hinder a Presentation?

If there is a lectern in your presentation area, how do you utilize it?  

How you stand along with the lectern impacts how the audience connects with you and your message.  

Take a moment to contemplate these questions:
  • Who are some of the best public speakers you have seen? How did they use a lectern?
  • How did their use of the lectern help you connect to them as a speaker?
  • How did their use of the lectern help you to connect to, remember and be inspired by their message?
I am sure that most of you would say, "Lectern? What lectern? I don't even think it existed in that presentation area!"  

You may be right. Maybe it was removed from the stage. Or, maybe the speaker got down off the stage and walked among you in the audience. This is a powerful public speaking technique that shows immediate vulnerability on part of the speaker, and builds instant rapport with the crowd.

Conversely, think of some of the worst speakers you have seen. Maybe it's as easy as remembering some of your old college professors who did not move from the chalkboard. Were you inspired by them? Did you fall asleep? Standing in one place, or leaning on a lectern creates a sleepy effect in your audience just as much as delivering your message in a monotone!

In my own presentations as a trainer, the audiences that have given me the best feedback have not seen me use the lectern (unless absolutely necessary due to technical difficulties associated with the laptop that was placed on the lectern!).  

However, many of us rely on a lectern. If you are not ready to move away from or rid of the lectern, remember these tips:
  • Do not stand exclusively behind the lectern
  • NEVER lean down into, or look down into the lectern (Don't read off of scripts, maintain eye contact with your audience.)
  • Walk around the lectern, stand on the side or in front of it occasionally
  • Practice ahead of time with a lectern, assure you are not standing behind it for more than a few minutes at any given time
  • Practice, ask for feedback from your peers, or record yourself and guess how interactive your presentation is to your audience by your use of the lectern
For some more ideas on the use of the lectern, watch the below video. (This video is not made by Jennifer Kumar or Authentic Journeys.)


The video below on the topic of the importance of small talk is given by a presenter who has a lectern on her stage, but is using it as a prop rather than a crutch. Notice how much more engaging her presentation is because she isn't standing behind the lectern the whole time. How can you move out from behind the lectern?


Note, many of us confuse lecterns and podiums. Lecterns are stands that cover our bodies (as pictured at the beginning of the post), that people stand behind to present. Podiums are stands people stand on when being awarded a prize. Standing on a podium doesn't actually cover your body (as seen, right).

Jennifer Kumar is a corporate communication coach for IT professionals working with Americans based in Kochi, India. Check out the popular training program on presentation skills and sign up today!

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