“How do you wean yourself from the lectern?”
That was the good recent question from one of the Science and Technology Policy Fellows, brought to Washington by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to work in federal and congressional offices on science policy.
We were in a workshop about communicating with non-technical audiences, and I’d been talking about public-speaking tactics scientists generally don’t use—but which better suit public audiences. “Leave the lectern to make a closer connection with the audience,” was among my recommendations.
Lecterns accomplish many things, from providing a platform for your notes and technology to hiding most of you from the audience. Lecterns are useful if you’re in fight-or-flight mode. They give the audience and any cameras one place on which to focus, and keep you from wandering into the path of the projector light. For many speakers, they make the speech feel more important.