Leave that lonely lectern alone
Andrew Klein, professional MC and presentation skills speaker and director of SPIKE Presentations, presents his front line observations on conferences in a regular feature in BEN.
AS A Presentation Skills speaker and trainer, I read pretty much every article and book on the topic that I can get my hands on. TED TALK books, public speaking books, Harvard Business Review articles on how to pitch, presentation skills blogs, books on Pitching, Presenting, PowerPoint – I have probably read them all.
Almost all of them suggest that speakers do not use the lectern. Leave the lectern alone they say, the lectern shields you from the audience, the lectern creates a barrier to good, open communication, use the stage they urge, walk to the audience so you can engage better with them… and so on.
Well I am not embarrassed to admit but I love the lectern and believe that it is one of many useful tools available to a speaker or MC. I don’t use it all the time and when doing a full keynote style presentation, I will spend the bulk of my time walking around, using the stage. However, when MCing a conference, for which I always have mountains of notes, the lectern is invaluable for me and my style of speaking / facilitation and it serves as a central location to focus the attention of the audience between speakers.
On the conference circuit, I regularly see many brilliant speakers base themselves at a lectern and emote beautifully, telling stories, using only the upper part of their body to gesture, keeping an eye on their notes, leaning on the lectern, or simply basing themselves there, because, well, it makes them more comfortable.
While I also see many great speakers not using the lectern and you have all probably seen countless wonderful TED TALKS featuring brilliant speakers standing fully exposed on the round, red piece of TED carpet, that in no way diminishes the power of the lectern for others.
One of the greatest communicators this century Barack Obama uses the lectern and always owns the room and one of Australia’s best and best-loved presenters Ita Buttrose speaks eloquently from behind a lectern. Last month at a NAB event I saw Jeff Kennett hold 1000 people spellbound, without ever leaving the lectern.
I strongly believe that a presenter should do whatever makes them more comfortable, provided that engaging the audience remains their prime focus. If you are in your comfort zone, your audience will benefit.
That does not mean that using the stage is a no-no. On the contrary, if you’ve never ventured out from the lectern, it is definitely worth a try. But ultimately, the lectern is also a great presentation tool, if used properly.
So to the anti-lectern naysayers out there in presentation land, the anti-lectists, I say leave the lovely and often lonely little lectern alone.
If you are looking for an MC for your next conference or a speaker/trainer on presentation skills or pitching skills, email email@example.com or visit his website at www.andrewklein.com.au.