What is a Lectern?

A lectern is a piece of furniture upon which a speaker sets their notes while giving a lecture, presentation, or speech. Most English speakers refer to this object as a ‘podium’, but this is incorrect. A podium, in a public speaking context, is a raised platform upon which a speaker stands when giving a speech. Sometimes both of these terms are confused with ‘pulpit’ which is a highly specific designation for the podium in a church that a clergy member uses to teach the gospel and give the sermon. In many churches the pulpit and the lectern have fused together (churches had separate lecterns for lay people to lead the congregation in readings and prayer).

Lecterns can and have been made from many materials: stone and marble, various woods, metals, and now they even come in acrylic. Clearly, stone and marble lecterns are rather rare, for while they may have served well in the Roman Senate, they’re a little impractical now, although, some lectern designs do utilize a marble finish to good effect. The vast majority of lecterns made, bought, and used are of wood, acrylic or light metals. In general some degree of portability is kept in mind in contemporary lectern design as the majority of public speaking happens in classrooms, workshops, church; in small to medium size conference rooms, exhibitions, or events at rented facilities. However, for those who want or require a lectern as a more or less permanent fixture there are options for such as well. Some lecterns, in fact, are technologically sophisticated affairs with Teleprompters or other tools needed to control or direct A/V cues. Obviously such sophistication is not necessary in many situations.

Lecterns range significantly in size, portability, and design. There is quite literally a lectern for almost everyone’s budget, need, and primary design concerns. Some highly stylized people or organizations acquire some lecterns as custom made, but such customizing tends to be more the exception and less the norm.

The most basic kind of lectern is a simple ‘stand’ type. These are usually a metal or wood platform on metal or wood stand and base. They look quite similar to music stands, except the platform is larger and stable enough to rest one’s hand. The advantage of such stands is that they take little space, stow easy, and are bay far the most portable, i.e. light of lecterns to have. Somewhat similar in design is the so-called ‘pulpit stand’. This lectern is also a simple and inexpensive x-base with single rod stand and wooden platform. However, unlike the metal/metal-wood combinations these models tend not to offer an adjustable height.

That is not to say that only inexpensive or non-wooden lecterns offer adjustable height. There are many models of lecterns, even models of the executive and corporate variety (such as those with marble finish mentioned above), with platforms that can be raised or lowered so that both rather tall and rather short individuals can give their presentations without looking comic. A number of companies even provide corporate style lecterns for individuals in wheelchairs.

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