Podium? Lectern? What's the Difference?

Many English speakers confuse lecterns and podiums. A lectern is the piece of furniture that holds up a public speaker's notes, and the speaker stands behind it. At press conferences, an adjustable microphone is usually attached to the front of the lectern.  

A podium, in contrast, is the elevated platform that raises the speaker up for increased audience visibility. If you are a speaker, be careful as you mount the podium.  If you trip and fall, you will not make a good first impression on your audience.  (You may also injure yourself!)

 Photo source: Toastmasters International

Photo source: Toastmasters International

You can remember the difference between the two in this way:

A LECTERN is the device that holds your lecture notes. People give lectures from behind a lectern.

The word PODIUM comes from podion, the Greek word for foot; you stand on the podium with your feet. (Your foot doctor is a podiatrist.)

 podium image from fotolia.com

podium image from fotolia.com

A more formal word for podium is dais (pronounced DAY-iss).  You might use this word in a scabble game or to impress your friends with your big vocabulary!  (Other synonyms: platform, stage, podium, rostrum, stand.)

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.