Speaking without a Podium

As I have watched recent speeches on TED.com or thought about our class presentations a huge “mistake” has dawned on me.  I use the term mistake lightly for I am not attacking anyone person, but simply expressing my opinion on one aspect our class.  Looking back at all our speeches in class I am surprised we never used a podium or a music stand during our speeches.  This my seem like a small insignificant topic, but I truly believe that speaking without a stand, unless one memorizes their speech, is a huge hindrance to the performance.  Standing there holding your speech will of course result in that person looking down constantly.  This hit me after watching a couple TED.com speeches where the speakers were holding there papers and notes in there hand.  There were a couple major problems that I found with this approach:

1. The first thing I noticed was how unprofessional it looked.  Some speakers were better at handling the papers then others but many would constantly be looking down or shuffling their papers.

2. Speakers would wave their notes in the air which was distracting.

3. Having notes hurt eye contact and hindered the connection between the speaker and audience.

4. Having a podium or a stand provides a focal point.  This does not play as big a role if someone has a visual aid, but it is still important.  It draws your attention and makes the person seem more important (usually helping the speaker).

One thing I remember from theater is that until one memorizes theirs lines they will never be able to fully understand and portray their character correctly.  Of course, speeches are slightly different but the same principals apply.  The more you practice the better your speech generally will be, and though you may not memorize your speech having a podium to hide your notes or entire speech helps give off this illusion.  Almost every speech I have witnessed in person (especially if there is no visual aid) has had some kind of podium or stand if the person has notes.  This is why I am surprised we never used one in class.

Julian D.

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3 comments so far

  1. sritch15 on

    While I see your point of view, and agree with it in some aspects, I’m not sure I agree that we should have used a podium for our class. I do think that for large-scale, more “official” speeches that a podium helps to polish off the speech by adding a focal point, a sort of “home base” for the speaker to return to. A podium is also a good way to hide the problem of shuffling papers or notes.

    On the other hand, though, I do not think we needed a podium for our speeches in this class. I can’t remember any speeches where the speaker was waving their notes around or doing something else distracting with them like rolling them up or folding them. I also think that one of the main purposes of this class was to help us become comfortable speaking in front of others, and a podium could have been used as something to hide behind, which would hinder us working towards the goal of being comfortable standing in front of the class by ourselves. Also, because our audience was so small, our classroom environment was a perfect place to get this practice in order to become more comfortable, and I think that many of us improved this throughout the course of the semester. So, although I do agree with your main points, I think that a podium could be saved for the more practiced and established speakers.

    • sritch15 on

      the above comment was written by Sarah Ritchey

  2. kbrickman on

    While I understand your thoughts, and definitely agree that in a more public setting, speakers almost always deliver their speech behind a podium, I agree with Sarah in that without a podium in our class, we were pushed to become more comfortable delivering a speech in front of an audience. If we had used a podium, the majority of our body would have been hidden by the structure. If a speaker’s legs or hands were shaking because they were nervous or they were changing their stance or balance, it would go unnoticed by the audience. Therefore, making it hard to learn from our mistakes or things we could do better. In order for us to learn the basic techniques of public speaking, it was important for our speeches to be delivered without a podium so we became more comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

    Although, I do agree that there are definitely some advantages to using a podium, for example there is a place to put the speech so the speaker cannot hid behind the piece of paper and it is easier to maintain eye contact with the audience. But, for this class it was important not to have a podium in order to become comfortable public speaking.

    Kara Brickman


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