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Did You Know? The Difference Between a Podium and a Lectern

By January 29, 2016March 18th, 2018No Comments
executive, suit and tie, speaking from behind a podium

Every blue moon I hear someone say “lectern.” I know what he means as I have heard it before. I know he is correct. Still, I don’t use it. Rather, I use “podium.”  Lectern to me, sounds outdated, perhaps even archaic. And it is neither. I would be willing to bet a million Monopoly® dollars that very, very few people know the difference.

By definition, lectern  is what you stand behind while podium  is what you stand on top of. While I have read of an occasional “problem” story of mixing the two words up, I have never  personally experienced or know of a problem, in my more than 25 years public speaking.

Since we have a tip, Just Say “No!” to the Podium, I thought to add this, “Did You Know?” post to our blog.

According to a few dictionaries,

Merriam-Webster A stand used to support a book or script in a convenient position for a standing reader or speaker. A raised platform for a speaker, performer, or the leader of an orchestra
ORIGIN:  Middle English lettorne, from Anglo-French leitrun, from Medieval Latin lectrinum, from Late Latin lectrum, from Latin legere to read New Latin, from Greek podion, diminutive of pod-, pous foot
Oxford  English A tall stand with a sloping top to hold a book or notes, from which someone, typically a preacher or lecturer, can read while standing up. A small platform on which a person may stand to be seen by an audience, as when making a speech or conducting an orchestra.
ORIGIN:  Middle English: from Old French letrun, from medieval Latin lectrum, from legere ‘to read’. Mid 18th century: via Latin from Greek podion, diminutive of pous, pod- ‘foot’.

Look at the pictures below. You’ll see Olympic medal winners standing on a podium, an orchestra conductor standing on a podium, and a public speaker standing behind a lectern.

olympic medal ceremony, vancouver 2010, gold medalist holding arms up in triumph
united states air force band
executive male, suit with red tie, behind a podium, smiling, arms spread wide

Photography Source:; Vancouver Olympics-Wikipedia; US Air Force Band; Red

Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in communication, especially business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialties are simplifying the complex and communicating when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after storytelling coach, global speaker, trainer, consultant, communication coach, and public speaking coach.