Master Your Message Blog

Know Your Tools!

Most construction workers will tell you it’s a pretty good idea to know your tools.

For example, if I was building a bookcase and asked for a saw when I really needed a hammer, it would be a rather unproductive day. If I was a surgeon and did something similar, you’d be dead.

I recently directed a conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I worked with a really good audio-visual company. But when we were doing the lighting for the stage, one of their technicians asked me to go and stand behind the podium. So I did. Silence. And then I peeked my head up from behind the stage and said, “Oh, did you mean the lectern?”

OK, so here’s the point: We stand on a podium. A podium is a stage  … or something like a stage. The picture on this page is of a lectern … ON a podium.

Tod Maffin, a thirteen year speaking veteran, tells a great story to illustrate this point.

A plexiglass lectern

I’ve got a few A/V requirements when I present, notably that I like my notebook right at the lectern with me, and that I like the podium (stage/riser) to be free of anything else like chairs, tables, and so on.

I tend to move around a lot when I speak, so this helps make sure I don’t face-plant (which, amazingly, hasn’t yet happened in 13 years of professional speaking).

Fast forward to the evening before my presentation. I’m at the event’s reception, meeting the delegates and sponsors, and up walks my client. We introduce each other, go over a couple of last-minute details, and then she leans in and asks, very politely, “Um, so we were able to get you a clear podium, but I wasn’t sure why you needed one.”

I told her that I move around a lot and would just prefer that there’s enough room up there for me to wander.

She gets this blank look on her face, then one of those “Oh-my-god-I-completely-misunderstood” looks on her faces. 

Turns out, she thought a “podium” was something you stand behind (which is, of course, called a lectern) – not something you stand on.

Do you want to appear more professional as a presenter? Make sure you know your tools.

I swear, I must have heard it called a lectern several dozen times in the space of four days at that Nova Scotia event. But that’s Halifax, I guess. Well, no it’s not. It’s everywhere!

You hear it all the time . . . and it’s confusing as all get out. Know your tools. Look and sound like a pro!

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