Ever wonder about the difference between a lectern and a podium? Many people are confused and use the words interchangeably. While getting them straight will not make anyone love your speech more, it can contribute in a tiny way to creating a smoother speaking event.
A lectern is a flat, raised surface upon which to lay speaking notes. They are available in tabletop and standalone models. A speaker stands behind a lectern. Here are a couple:
My preference is a full-back music stand:
A podium is a platform upon which a speaker stands while speaking. If that sounds like a stage, you are correct. It IS like a stage. A podium can have a lectern on it, so can a stage. You could have a lectern on a podium on a stage. A speaker stands on a podium.
Some other places we see a podium:
- conductor of an orchestra
- award recipients at sporting events
It took a while, but I finally found a podium:
This difference doesn't matter a whole lot until you need to work with a meeting planner, hotel, or audio/visual supplier. You want to get it right and ensure they also get it right.
As a master of ceremonies, I walk through the venue, agenda, and procedures with the meeting planner or stage manager, and audio/visual technician. We christen the ground, so to speak, naming each of the pieces of equipment and parts of the room. We detail the difference between lectern, stage and if it's used, the podium. The consistent response I get is it puts them at ease when I demonstrate that I know what I am doing.
This is a tiny detail, but many tiny details handled with excellence and confidence adds up to a smooth event, bringing credit to all involved and enjoyment for the audience.
P.S. If you are a master of ceremonies, please don't welcome people "to the lectern," "to the podium," or "to the stage"; just welcome them. They will know where to go.
In this video, John C. Maxwell experiences what most of us would consider a disaster of an equipment malfunction, not a wardrobe malfunction, and handles it masterfully. The outcome was more entertainment than most speakers could ever plan for and an endearing moment for the audience.
Google searches you might find useful:
Some links to companies that sell mostly lecterns and maybe some podiums
See our follow-on article How to Use a Lectern.