The History of Lecterns and Podiums

Posted by The Lecterns and Podiums Team on 10/18/2017 to General Educational Articles
The History of Lecterns and Podiums



Lecterns, podiums, and other public speaking platforms are essential products for millions of people on a daily basis. Whether for entertainment, business or religious matters doesn’t matter. They serve the function of helping the speaker command respect from an audience. Meanwhile, they also aid organization and stage appearance.


 

What’s the difference between a lectern and a podium?

Before looking at the history, it’s vital to understand the differences between the two key types of public speaking platforms.


Podiums are a raised platform that elevates the speaker to a higher position than the audience.

Lecterns are a stand that boasts a slanted edge.


Lecterns can be freestanding items or smaller table top variants. Podiums, however, are perhaps simpler but are good for off-the-cuff speeches. Likewise, speakers that want to use a stage or interact with individuals may take this alternative. For professional, authoritative talks, the lectern has been the winner for centuries.

Both are used to address large groups of people with the speaker normally facing the crowd. Essentially, the main difference is that the lectern is something you’ll stand behind while the podium is a platform to be stood upon. In some cases, the lectern will be on a raised platform too.

The alternative, and often basic, forms of speaking platforms include soapboxes and similar items.


Gothic Revival Pitch Pine Table Top Lectern Circa 1850 England

Lecterns In Ancient History

As the etymology of ‘lectern’ and ‘podium’ both suggest, ancient cultures used them heavily. While religious studies were at the heart of those activities, there were several other uses. Ancient Greeks and Romans positioned podiums and lecterns made from stone in crucial landmarks.

Lecterns and podiums were used throughout various ages for a host of reasons. These range from dealing with social issues such as diseases to barking orders during war times. In those scenarios, they helped people in power address their people.

Few ancient lecterns are still used today, although the remnants of some do remain in ancient places that have been preserved. Meanwhile, variants of the early podiums can sometimes be found in history museums around the globe.

On a more gruesome note, some societies would gather to watch public executions. Early variants of lecterns weren’t only used during the trials but would have also been used during the events themselves.

 


The Linguistic Origins

From a linguistic perspective, the word ‘lectern’ derives from the Latin ‘legree’, which translates into ‘to read’.

One of the noticeable differences between a lectern and other platforms is that the speaker stands behind them. This is because the public speaker uses the apparatus to place their notes or scriptures. The earliest recordings of people doing this relate to religious readings and teachings.


Lecterns continue to be seen in political debates, courtrooms, and a host of important scenarios. For professional public speakers across the country, their significance is sure to remain for many more years to come. After all, the human and social evolution isn’t going to progress much further than it already has.

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