Coaching communication public speaking

4 Tips for Speaking at the Lectern

This past month, #PodiumGate has been in the news! It’s a weird story that involves politics, a suspected coverup, and — a super expensive lectern, of all things!

Really? A lectern?

Yes. Really! You can read about it here: ‘#Podiumgate/#Lecterngate’ explained (

Hmmm. So, if the political intrigue and brouhaha is over a lectern, why is it known as #PodiumGate? Aren’t a podium and a lectern two different things?

Yes…and no!

A podium is a raised platform that a speaker stands on to be seen by the audience. A lectern is a stand that holds notes, books, or a microphone for the speaker to read from.

However, in modern usage, the words podium and lectern are often interchangeable here in the USA. If you want to keep the two straight in your head, here’s a handy reminder:

1. The word podium comes from the Greek word for foot, so it’s something you stand on. (Think soap box!)

2. The word lectern comes from the Latin word for read, and it has always meant a reading stand. (Think lecture!)

Either way you say it, I’m not a super big fan of speaking behind a lectern. If I can avoid it, I do. That way, my audience is able to see my body language.

That darned lectern creates a physical barrier between me and my audience! It reduces my connection and rapport with them!

So, generally, I step away from the lectern. It shows the audience I’m not hiding anything.

Speaking without a lectern is more honest and vulnerable. Stepping away from the lectern also frees me up physically and emotionally, so I’m able to be more expressive.

But sometimes, I cannot avoid it. I absolutely must speak behind a podium. Why?

Well, most of the time, it’s a matter of staging. For an event like an award ceremony or graduation, you might have many speakers coming on stage to deliver short addresses. The lectern serves as a central point of focus for the audience and speakers.

The lectern also gives speakers a place to hold notes for reading. In that graduation or award ceremony, for example, you might have to read off dozens or hundreds of names and categories. You won’t memorize them: you’ll want to rely on notes.

I did two lectern consults this month. These two clients were new to speaking behind a lectern and needed a little coaching. If you must speak from behind a lectern, try these 4 tips:

That’s what really matters in politics, right? Not your skills, or your ethics, or your network. Just your lectern.

Four Tips To Tame the Lectern

1. Adjust the height of the lectern. You don’t want to be too high or too low, so make sure the lectern is at a level where you can see your audience and your notes without straining your neck or bending over. Test the lectern before your speech and adjust it accordingly. Shorter speakers have been known to stand on stools or phone books behind some lecterns! #YouKnowWhoYouAre

2. Use the lectern as a support, not a barrier. One client gripped the lectern to steady herself: but she looked like she was holding on to it as if her life depended on it! You don’t want to white-knuckle, it, though. Loosen up! The lectern is there to help you, not to hide you. Don’t lean on it or clutch it too tightly, as this will make you look nervous and insecure. Instead, use it as a place to rest your hands lightly or to gesture from. If it’s technically feasible, try moving away from the lectern occasionally to create some variety and connect with your audience.

3. Make eye contact with your audience. The lectern is not an excuse to avoid looking at your audience! Try what I call an “Olde Ronald Reagan Trick.” This is where you glance down at your notes or script, memorize a short sentence or phrase, then look up to deliver the line. That way, you’re not reading with your eyes down: you’re looking up! Eye contact is essential for building rapport and engaging your listeners. Try to scan the room and look at different people for a few seconds each. Don’t stare at one person or one spot, as this will make you seem creepy.

4. If you can, use notes, not a script. The lectern is a great place to keep some notes that will remind you of your main points and transitions. However, try not to read from a script word for word. This can make you sound robotic and monotonous. Instead, use your notes as a guide and speak naturally and conversationally. (See “The Olde Ronald Reagan Trick” above!) Instead of full sheets of paper, try using index cards to help you stay on track.

The best way to get comfortable with speaking behind a lectern is to practice with one. Find a lectern that’s similar to the one you will use and rehearse with it. Pay attention to your posture, gestures, eye contact, and voice. As always, you’ll want to record yourself and ask for feedback.

You don’t need to speak from behind a $19,000+ lectern to feel more confident. Follow the above tips and practice your public speaking! That’s the key to confidence!

And speaking of lecterns, you never know when your teleprompter will fail and you’ll have to wing it! When you build your improvisational skills, you can create rapport and connection with your listeners.

That’s why Izzy Gesell, CSP and I developed the Sponto Time card deck! It gives you a fun way to practice public speaking and improv skills. Yes, you can practice being spontaneous — and have a blast while doing it!

More good news: the Sponto Time game doesn’t cost $19,000. It’s only $19.99!

Check out Sponto Time to find out more about building your spontaneity muscles! The card games make a great stocking stuffer gift for both business leaders and family members who want to sharpen their creativity skills.


Why Telling Fast Talkers to Slow Down Doesn’t Work (And What to Do Instead!)

How do I coach a SUPER FAST talker who’s about to speak to an international audience?

I don’t tell them to slow down.

What? Why? Why not????

Because it doesn’t work!

Oh, it can work for a minute or two. But then, the fast talker gets excited. Their nerves take over, and they’re working up steam and, whoopsie-daisy!

They’re off and speeding again! 🐰

The trouble with focusing on PACE is that it’s hard to gauge when you’re in the moment. A great pace for public speaking ranges from 140-170 words per minute. But if you tell people to keep it within that range — how do they know what to do?

You can’t be in the moment while counting your words and staring at a stopwatch! Not only does that take you out of the moment, it also kills your enthusiasm for your topic!

So I use a mind trick to get fast talkers to slow down. 🐢

I ask them to focus on their PRONUNCIATION, not their PACE.

I’ll get them to think about pronouncing their words carefully so their audience can understand each one!


As a result, their PACE slows down!

And yet, they can sustain working on their pronunciation because it’s word-by-word instead of minute-by-minute. Going word-by-word puts you in the moment.

(The other problem with focusing on PACE is that it can take all the enthusiasm out of a speaker’s voice. But when they work on pronunciation, they can maintain the vocal variation that makes their voices interesting to listen to!)

Don’t tell fast talkers to slow down! Instead, ask them to focus on pronunciation. They’ll get better results.

Coaching communication Presentation public speaking

Anaphora: The Ancient Art of Repetition that Makes Your Message Memorable

How many famous Ana’s can you name?

Ana de Armas.
Ana Gasteyer.
Ana Carolina…

…but what about Anaphora?

Anaphora, that linguistic enchantress.
Anaphora, it casts a spell through repetition.
Anaphora, the drumbeat that pounds ideas into memory….

Yeah, anaphora is probably one of the oldest literary devices out there! It’s pretty simple: you repeat a word or phrase. The repetition and rhythm make your message stickier.

I used anaphora pretty heavily at the start of this post with Ana, Ana, Ana — and then Anaphora, Anaphora, Anaphora.

At this point, I need to leave it alone. Because while anaphora is a pretty powerful device for getting a message to stick, it gets annoying if you overuse it!

So when can you use anaphora effectively in a speech?

When you’ve identified a key message you’d like the audience to remember!

For example, if you’re rallying your team on the importance of working together, you might try repeating “together.”

“Together, we mobilize. Together, we innovate. Together, we succeed.”

Or maybe you’ll choose the word “collaboration.”

“Collaboration is our compass. Collaboration is our drive. Collaboration is our destiny.”

Repetition isn’t just repetition; it provides a heartbeat for your message.

Now that you’ve read this: how long do you think you’ll remember Anaphora?

And how many other famous Anas can you name?

communication design fun improv storyfinding

Lost Mittens & Lost Opportunities: The 3 Little Kittens of Business Emails

I’m sick and tired of getting emails from what I call the Three Little Kittens.

You know the story of the three little kittens who lost their mittens?

Well, those three little losers are also in too much of a rush to hit “send” on their business emails. As a result, they’re missing three factors that make emails useful:

🐱The first little kitten sent me an email and forgot to do any research on me or my business. They made a clumsy pitch that didn’t align with my needs, wants, or values.

🐈 The second little kitten sent a vague email that didn’t have a clear call to action. I didn’t know what to do when I got this email, so I shrugged and moved on.

😹 And the third little kitten? They completely missed out on editing! The email was a wall of words without white space, bullet points, grammar check, or spell check. I wasn’t about to wind my way through that ball of yarn!

Don’t be a little kitten when you send emails. Be a professional.

Coaching communication content ideas design fun improv Presentation storyfinding

Five Little Piggies Wrote Business Emails: And So Can You

The five little piggies were on a mission. They wanted to craft professional business emails that resonated with their recipients! Each piggy took a different approach:

🐷 The first little piggy went to market. It knew its purpose and got straight to the point! Its message was clear and concise. Like five toes, it ticked off five bullet points that led recipients step-by-step through the content.

🐷 The second little piggy stayed home. It wrote a professional out-of-office autoresponder that told recipients when it would respond to their emails, and who to contact in case of emergency. It also provided links to resources for answering common questions.

🐷 The third little piggy ate roast beef. Now that’s a specific personal preference! But was it tenderloin or bottom round? Before writing the email, that little piggy did research to learn more about the recipient’s preferences. Through personalization, they addressed the recipient’s specific needs and concerns.

🐷 The fourth little piggy had none. By the time it got to the fourth pig, it was exhausted. The poor swine’s inbox was swamped. Don’t overwhelm recipients with too many emails, or you’ll teach them to ignore yours!

🐷 The fifth little piggy went wee, wee, wee! A little humor can make your email memorable! Still, it’s a good idea to avoid unnecessary repetition. Make your message clear.

Each little piggy’s email had an outcome. Define your email’s goal—whether it’s generating leads, building relationships, or providing information.

And remember how the little piggies tickled and made you laugh? Inject a touch of warmth and friendliness into your emails.

Who knows? Maybe a playful tone can brighten someone’s day!

Coaching communication improv PowerPoint Presentation public speaking storyfinding web meetings

How to Cope with Contrarians in Business Meetings

Mary, Mary. She’s quite contrary.

And we’ve met her in business meetings, haven’t we?

She’s the one who has been voted most likely to say or do something unconventional. She goes against the grain.

So what can we do about Mary?

With her “quite contrary” nature, Mary reminds us that diversity of thought in meetings is invaluable. We actively seek out varying viewpoints. That way, we can get contrasting ideas that lead to remarkable solutions.

In the rhyme’s bells and shells, listen to the symphony of voices in meetings. Encourage active participation, allowing each voice to chime in and enrich the conversation.

Like Mary’s magical garden, meetings can be fertile ground for ideas to bloom. Nurture creativity, diversity, and innovation. Then watch brilliant concepts grow! 🌷

fun Presentation public speaking storyfinding

Crack the Code: 5 Ways Business Presentations Are Like Humpty Dumpty

Once upon a wall, Humpty Dumpty attempted to deliver a business presentation that would leave a lasting impression. As we unravel the tale, we find remarkable parallels between Humpty Dumpty’s fall and our own presentation endeavors.

🥚 Fragile Beginnings! Like Humpty Dumpty’s delicate shell, presentations can make us feel vulnerable. Embrace this vulnerability as an opportunity to strengthen your content and delivery.

🔨 Build a Sturdy Foundation! Humpty Dumpty’s wall couldn’t hold him. Likewise, a weak foundation can topple your presentation. Invest time in research, structure, and ensure your message is solidly anchored.

🙃 Embrace Weirdness! Humpty Dumpty’s odd shape made him stand out. If there’s something unusual about you or your presentation: feature it! Use visuals, stories, and metaphors to make your message unique.

💬 Engage Your Audience! Humpty Dumpty had an audience of onlookers. Connect with yours by asking questions, using anecdotes, or involving them in the conversation. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men have insights!

🔗 Rebuild and Learn! Humpty Dumpty’s fall taught him resilience. Check your speaker evaluations. Embrace your mistakes as learning opportunities. That way, you can refine your approach for future presentations.

Like the fractured tale of Humpty Dumpty, business presentations present a story of vulnerability, balance, learning, and connection. Crack the code, and you won’t leave with egg on your face!

By the way – where in the nursery rhyme does it say Humpty Dumpty was an egg?

communication fun improv Presentation public speaking storyfinding

Presentation Lessons from the 3 Little Pigs

When it comes to public speaking, are you a straw, stick, or brick presenter?

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs—business presenters on a mission to captivate their audience and secure their success. Each piggy had a different approach, though:

🐷 Pig 1 – the Straw Presenter: The first pig built its presentation hastily, relying on flimsy straw. Similarly, some presenters rush to put together slides without a solid foundation. Result? Their message collapses under scrutiny.

Lesson: Lay a strong groundwork—research, structure, and refine your content.

🐖 Pig 2 – The Stick Presenter: The second pig opted for sticks to build a presentation—sturdier but shaky. Likewise, some presenters focus solely on data and facts without weaving them into a compelling narrative.

Lesson: Infuse your data with stories, creating a memorable and relatable experience.

🐽 Pig 3 – the Brick Presenter: Ah, the wise third pig! Building with bricks, they crafted a robust presentation. These presenters strike the balance—strong content, supported by engaging stories, visuals, and delivery.

Lesson: Invest time in crafting a well-rounded presentation that leaves a lasting impact.

🐺 The Big Bad Wolf: The big bad wolf huffed and puffed, trying to distract the little pigs from their mission. In the same way, some audiences may try to challenge you.

Lesson: Anticipate questions and objections. Be ready to address them confidently and keep your presentation on track.

Your own story begins… Build your business presentation with care and watch it withstand any wolfish challenges!

communication fun improv public speaking storyfinding

How to Bop with Bangin’ Diction

I strolled into my bank, ready to do some business. Little did I know, my diction was about to create a delightful moment!

As I approached the bank teller, I said:

“Since the Fed raised interest rates again, it would behoove me to open a money market account with a higher interest rate. Hence, I’d appreciate your assistance.”

The teller busted out laughing. She was all, “Behoove! Hence! Haven’t heard them two in a while. I’m surprised you could say ’em without stretchin’!”

So I started using the bank counter as a ballet barre to stretch while discussing interest rates and account options. Madonna played in the background, and we both started bopping while the teller conducted my transactions.

We got into the groove, boy, just her and me.

Though my word choices and head bops brought amusement, it got me thinking about the power of diction in business communication.

And Madonna bops. I also thought about old-timey Madonna bops.

Here’s what I came up with:

Vogue, vogue, vogue!
Your diction is your word choice. You can elevate your message and captivate your audience using the right words at the right time. You can convey authority, build rapport, and make an impression. Strike the tone!

Papa Don’t Preach! And while a varied vocabulary is fantastic, consider your audience’s familiarity with certain words. You don’t want to sound too highfalutin when you’re hobnobbing with the hoi polloi.

Ray of Light! Choose words that precisely convey your message and evoke the desired emotions. Simple words can pack a punch, too.

Human Nature! A little humor adds charm and relatability. A well-timed wordplay or witty phrase can create memorable connections.

Express Yourself! Use words that reflect your personality. Be yourself, and your audience will appreciate the authenticity. “Behoove” and “hence” tumbled out of my mouth without forethought, but if they aren’t your bailiwick, it’s not got gonna land well.

Words can shape perception, influence decisions, and even evoke laughter. So, let your diction shine as you craft business communication that informs, inspires, and entertains!

design fun PowerPoint Presentation public speaking

The Goldilocks Guide to Adding Detail in Your Presentations

Imagine Goldilocks preparing a business presentation. She doesn’t add too much detail. That might overwhelm her audience.

But she doesn’t use too little, either. She doesn’t leave her audience info-starved!

As usual, Goldilocks goes for that elusive “just right” amount of detail. So how does she do it?

✔ Goldilocks captivates with storytelling. She chooses concrete and relatable details that paint captivating mental images. A forest, a house, 3 bowls of porridge, 3 chairs, and 3 beds. Goldilocks also lets you know the sizes of the bowls, chairs, and beds.

✔ Goldilocks lets you in on her emotional state. First, she’s hungry. Then, she’s sleepy. But she doesn’t just say this with words; she describes her ACTIONS. She samples a taste from each bowl. She sits in each chair. She lays down in each bed.

✔ Goldilocks uses her tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language to emphasize the story’s emotional content. When she tells you how her first bowl of porridge was too hot, she makes a face. On her third bowl, she smiles and purrs, “Just right!”

✔ Goldilocks leaves room for engagement. She is all about having an interactive experience! She moves through her space, inviting you to emotionally engage with her actions. When you hear the story of Goldilocks, you relate to her experience.

But Goldilocks didn’t do everything “just right!” — did she? She made one serious misstep along the way….

❌Goldilocks didn’t read the room. She needed to find out where she was and what pitfalls she would likely encounter. The curious girl needed to uncover a few more essential details. A little audience research would have helped Goldilocks nail her ending instead of running screaming from the room!

Using the right amount of detail takes practice. It’s like putting cinnamon on your porridge. You’ll want to add flavor without overpowering your breakfast!

Aim for clarity, intrigue, and a touch of surprise. Your presentations and stories will resonate, leaving your audience well-nourished and eager for more!