Wednesday, April 18, 2007

lecterns: use 'em or lose 'em

I hate watching speakers cling to a lectern as if it's their last hope. To avoid what's known as "lectern lock" in the world of speaker training, here are five things you can do to lose the lectern:

1. Walk away from it: Especially effective when you're telling an anecdote you know well, this technique ensures audience attention. You can always return to the lectern after the anecdote to refer to your notes. (Be sure you have a portable microphone!)

2. Make a grand gesture: Step out from behind the lectern if you gesture requires it -- a sweep of the arm, for example.

3. Take a one-hand stand: Stand to one side of the lectern and rest the closest hand on it. A casual, connected look.

4. Put your organization's logo behind you: Some organizations use the lectern to get their logo out front, but if you're going to move across the stage, you may as well have it projected behind you, or elsewhere on the set.

5. Ignore it: Take your microphone and move elsewhere--across the stage, into the audience, you name it.
So what's a lectern for? Don't forget these four often-ignored but good uses for a lectern:

1. If you can't see your script without squinting, ask for a Yellow Pages book or other hefty reference and put it on the lectern to prop your speech text up close to your line of vision. Most large books will be hidden by the raised top of the lectern, and no one need be the wiser. (It's easier than getting a new eyeglass prescription, too.)

2. Make it a prop: Act and react, using the lectern as a stand-in for another prop. Are you talking about big-box stores? Outline the shape of the lectern with your hands to push the point. Showing how hard it is to push against the forces of evil? Lean against the lectern as if to shove it out of the way.

3. Hide and seek: Want to find -- or hide -- something during your talk? Put your water glass, watch or timer, and notes on the lectern before the presentation, and you'll find them more easily (and be less distracted) when the time comes to talk.

4. Mark your point: Make gestures that touch the lectern, but gently, to make your point. Just be sure that you're mimicking the gesture -- appearing to pound the lectern, rather than actually pounding it -- because a fixed microphone will make the real gesture far too loud. You want emphasis, not earaches.
I offer coaching in how to move, gesture and hold the audience's attention. Contact me at for more information.

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