[PUBLIC SPEAKING] What to do with the podium during a talk

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

I don’t need a podium to hold myself up when giving a keynote, workshop or any talk really. It hasn’t always been this way. When I first started public speaking I would cling onto the thing. My hands sweating at the end. Heck, I was lucky not to have pushed it over. 
Those are the old days. Not good ole days, might I say. Standing behind a podium for protection isn’t audience-centric and it feels less of a conversation with the audience. So I avoid podiums now. But they used to give me comfort. 
When I speak, I typically ask event organizers to get me a lavalier microphone (one I can clip to my tie) and not a handheld one. I also ask for podiums to be out of the way. Not to the side, but out of the way. 
The podium can be trickiest because they are often heavy. I’ve seen some needing four people to carry it off. In general, I prefer them to be offstage, like this: 

Here’s a talk that actually compares the podium to the status quo: 

Not having a podium in the way allows me to have more of a conversation and make more of a connection with the audience. Of course it’s important that I can see them, so I ask event producers to bring up the audience lights and not just put a spotlight on me. 

It’s also easier to show open body language. See, I’m not hiding anything. You can trust me. That’s virtually impossible from behind a podium. 

Recommended reading: 

How to do a workshop without PowerPoint 

Travel tips for international business travel 

Why would we judge other people’s stories 

It allows me to move around more and look at more audience members. The talk where I took these pictures had about 200 audience members and the only way to look at them all is to move around the stage and look at different areas and groupings of the audience. That’s also not possible from behind a podium. 

As more and more presenters are buying into the art of storytelling and integrating more and more of it into their talks we may see even fewer uses of podiums. Fingers crossed. 
Presenting without a podium isn’t that easy though. I have no notes with me and won’t read a script – like some do from behind a podium. 
I give a talk, and yes it’s rehearsed and practiced. It’s not freestyle or winged but I often adjust it on the fly based on audience questions and other conference content right before my talk.
As we are continuing to share our stories through talks, think of what the best way is to present the story. 
Being unique and different can help us get our story across. 
Since many use podiums, not using one can be a differentiator. Since many use PowerPoints, not using one and doing that well is another differentiator. But it takes practice and deep knowledge of the material.

Being unique and different while relevant can be a huge differentiator. 

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