Recently I was forced to stand behind a lectern to give a presentation. Sometimes there are good reasons for this: in this instance, we had people calling into the room via phone bridge, and that meant each speaker needed to speak directly into the microphone which was fixed to the lectern.
Whatever the reason, it’s just not natural for me. Giving me a stage and tying me to the lectern is like taking a lion to the savannah and tying him to a tree. Worse, standing behind a lectern builds barriers between you and your audience, and who thought that communication would work better with more barriers?
With a lectern, you then have the problem of what to do with your hands. Do you use them to lean on the lectern – which looks lazy or preacher-like – or do you use them to hold on to the fixed microphone, as I saw recently at a business awards ceremony (I had to try very hard to stifle a laugh)? Neither looks good, but worse, you lose the opportunity to do great things with your hands and arms, which are so important to accentuate your messages. You also look as if you are hiding, which betrays a lack of self-confidence, and if you don’t appear to have confidence in yourself, how do you expect the audience to respect you?
Getting up close with your audience is a great help for eye-contact, for non-verbal communication and for you as the speaker to feel how the audience is reacting, and tune your delivery accordingly. Stand behind a lectern and you will lose all that – and perhaps the audience as well.