While the two are often confused, a podium is not a lectern. A podium is a raised platform on which a speaker stands, also referred to as a dais or a riser. The lectern is the stand that holds a speaker's notes. There are “standing” lecterns, which rest on the floor or podium, and tabletop models.


Many business presenters are moving away from lecterns because they can make a speaker appear remote and somewhat formal. However, there are lots of reasons to have them: if your speakers are not completely comfortable standing directly in front of the audience, if they need notes, or if the lectern doubles as the clicker for PowerPoint and other controls. Just beware of the executive who grabs the lectern and won't let go. Your audience is in for a presentation without gesture and probably without eye contact, the worst possible sort.


There's no standard size for a lectern, so when you're making the sign that goes on the front, call the audiovisual pros at your property and have them measure it. Also, consider the size of the room when you design the lettering or the logo. It should be readable throughout the meeting space. Another tip: If your meeting is being recorded on video, don't make the lectern sign on a white background. It will be easier to film on light gray.


You may not have much say in the type of lectern that your meeting facility provides, but check on the following basic features. Microphone: a long, goose-neck mike will provide clearer sound than a short one attached to the front of the lectern. The latter have a tendency to pick up the speaker's voice “bouncing” off the lectern as well as the sound of rustling papers. Height: Is it adjustable to suit your range of speakers? Script light: Does it work?


The newest high-tech lecterns can control the room environment — lights, drapes, projection screen — as well as communication tools such as PowerPoint, Internet access, document camera, DVD player, and more. The systems allow speakers to click easily among slides, a DVD presentation, and the Internet, for example, saving time and creating a smooth presentation. Of course the rub is that your presenters need to figure out how to use it. Avoid confusion and embarrassment at the lectern by planning plenty of time to train your executives and other speakers on the system.

Sources: APEX Industry Glossary, http://glossary.conventionindustry.org/default.asp; The Writing Works, www.thewritingworks.com/sound.html; Displays2Go, www.displays2go.com

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