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To move or not to move

Man standing on a podium under spotlights, paralyzed by speech anxiety, EPS 8 vector illustration, no transparenciesShould you plant yourself behind the lectern when you speak in public? Or should you roam the stage at will?

It depends. It depends on what fits the occasion, what equipment you’re offered, and your own style of speaking. Even so, there are some extremes best avoided.

The first extreme is to just stand there behind the lectern. Lecterns are meant to hold a written speech, which is why good speakers tend to avoid them. Good speakers are not likely to read a written speech. They speak directly to their audience. Their eyes are up and active. They engage listeners with those eyes and with the sound of their voice. If they need notes, the notes are minimal—just enough to remind them of their major points and perhaps an important detail or two they want to make sure of.  That can easily be handled with a couple of 3 x 5 cards to be viewed at a glance. Good speakers know a lectern will chain them in place and may even make them look defensive, hiding behind a castle wall.

Then again, they may have little choice. If the sound system is a single microphone attached to the lectern, then they may just have to speak from the lectern. Even then, though, they can engage the audience by addressing first this person over here, and then that one up there, in a pattern that eventually includes the whole audience.

So check out your venue in advance. See how it’s set up and how the sound system works. If you are free to move around the stage, that’s your best bet. But even then, there are pitfalls to avoid. Stay tuned for our next post.