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.

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?

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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!

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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! 🌷

Coaching crisis public speaking

Unlocking the Power of Paralipsis: Say More by Not-Saying It

Decades ago, my community decided to ban teaching contraception in grade nine sex ed classes.

My sex ed teacher was a pretty crafty guy, though. He used a clever rhetorical device called paralipsis to teach us the necessary material.

Paralipsis allows you to bring attention to something by pretending to ignore or omit it. In the case of my sex ed teacher, he started his class by saying,

“You probably heard this, but a new law says I’m no longer allowed to teach contraception. For example, I can no longer tell you about condoms, the pill, diaphragms, vasectomies, and….”

And then, he would tell us how he couldn’t explain what each was, how they were used, or their effectiveness rates. Naturally, we eagerly took notes on everything he wasn’t saying!

Paralipsis can be an extraordinarily effective technique for gaining and keeping the audience’s attention! Here’s how it works:

1️⃣ Creating intrigue and curiosity: Paralipsis piques interest and captivates your audience by hinting at something without directly stating it. It creates an air of mystery and intrigue, making them lean in and actively listen to uncover the implied message.

2️⃣ Addressing sensitive topics: Paralipsis can be valuable when broaching sensitive or controversial subjects. You can acknowledge the issue indirectly, acknowledging its existence and even dare to dive deeper into it. This approach allows you to navigate tricky waters while still recognizing the importance of the subject matter.

3️⃣ Sparking audience engagement: Using paralipsis strategically invites your audience to actively participate in deciphering the hidden message. Your audience is encouraged to fill in the gaps. This fosters engagement and creates a more interactive presentation experience.

Paralipsis is a delicate art. Use it sparingly and purposefully to amplify your message. It’s a powerful way to say more by saying less, leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

Heck, I remember my teacher’s message, and it’s been DECADES.


Laura Bergells teaches public speaking and business communication classes and workshops. Hire Laura.

Take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

Coaching Presentation public speaking storyfinding

Expressing Fears of Wild Boars, Roller Coasters, and Public Speaking

I was walking through the woods when a wild boar with red eyes and huge tusks stumbled out of the brush. He was panting furiously when he stopped to glare at me. We were about 8 feet away from each other.

I froze in my tracks.
He stared at me.
I stared at him.
He panted furiously.
I was as quiet and still as a rock.

After a minute, he snorted and dashed back into the brush. I stood there for another 5 minutes, not moving at all.


There are different ways we express fear, aren’t there?

When you’re on a roller coaster, you might start screaming as you make a drop. That’s your body’s way of saying, “Holy moly, what a thrilling experience!”

It’s a mix of adrenaline, excitement, and perhaps a touch of terror. Plus, screaming on a roller coaster is socially acceptable behavior. In fact, it’s almost expected!

When you face a menacing boar in the woods, it’s probably a good idea to freeze in your tracks and be as quiet as possible. They can easily outrun and tear you to pieces if you start screaming and running.

Now, let’s focus on how we express fear of public speaking. When you’re up there, facing a sea of faces, it’s a different environment than facing a wild boar or a roller coaster. You’re not soaring through the air at high speeds or staring down an animal that could easily tear you to bits.

Instead, when you’re on stage, you’re baring your soul through the power of expression. Your fear of public speaking is undoubtedly genuine, but screaming or freezing on stage might not be the best approach to captivate your audience!

Screaming is excellent for roller coasters. It won’t get you any attention. It’s socially acceptable and part of the fun!

Freezing is great for facing wild boars. It can prevent you from injury or death.

But neither freezing nor screaming are great ways to express yourself when standing in front of an audience! Instead, we rely on other forms of communication, like speaking clearly, using body language, and engaging in storytelling.

The good news is that you can manage your fear of public speaking with breath and body work. With practice, you can improve your presence. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned, honed, and refined over time.

So, let’s work on our stage presence, shall we? And if you ever find yourself screaming on stage, we might need to reevaluate your delivery techniques!


Laura Bergells teaches classes and workshops. Hire Laura.

Or you can take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

Coaching fun Presentation public speaking

Speak As If You Were on a Roller Coaster!

“Speak as if you were on a roller coaster.”

Like riding a roller coaster, your speech needs to have its ups and downs, moments of excitement, and moments of calmness.

By incorporating variation in your tone, pitch, and pacing, you can engage your audience and keep them entertained throughout your presentation.

This technique adds energy to your delivery and helps you capture and maintain your listeners’ attention.

Remember, public speaking is a journey, so buckle up and take your audience on an exhilarating ride!


Laura Bergells is a business communication coach. You can her public speaking foundations video course on LinkedIn Learning. It’s FREE until June 12, 2023.

The course is in English, with Italian subtitles, for extra fun! It’s a wild ride, so buckle up!

Here’s the link:

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Class v. Workshop: What’s the difference?

A class is where you learn facts and theories.
A workshop is where you learn skills and practices.

A class is where you get grades and certificates.
A workshop is where you get feedback and stickers.

A class is where you have homework and exams.
A workshop is where you have projects and presentations.

A class is where you have classmates and friends.
A workshop is where you have colleagues and enemies.

And finally,

A class is where you sit and listen to a teacher who knows everything and tells you what to do.

A workshop is where you sit and listen to a facilitator who knows nothing and asks you what to do!

Laura Bergells teaches classes and workshops. Hire Laura.

Or you can take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

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How to Repurpose Content for Maximum Impact: The Power of the Story Arc

How can you tell one story across different channels without losing its essence or impact?

It can be so frustrating! You want to repurpose that story, but each platform has different requirements and audiences!

The answer is to start with the arc! Create a story arc to adapt your story to different formats, lengths, and audiences.

What’s a story arc?

A story arc is a structure with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s called an “arc” because it has a rising and falling action. The arc follows a clear progression of building up events and emotions and then winding them down toward the end.

The story arc can help you craft a compelling and coherent narrative that can be easily modified for different channels and audiences. For example, you can use the same story arc to create a blog post, a social media post, a video, or a podcast episode. You can also adjust the length of your story depending on how much time and attention you have from your audience.

How to create a story arc:

To create a story arc, you need to identify four elements:

  1. The Hook: Grab Your Audience’s Attention

    The hook is an opening sentence or paragraph that grabs your audience’s attention and makes them curious about your story. It should introduce the main topic, problem, or question that your story will address.

    For this blog post, the hook is the first line.
    “How can you tell one story across different channels without losing its essence or impact?”

  2. The Challenge: Create Tension and Emotion

    The challenge is the main obstacle or conflict you or your protagonist faced in your story. It should show what was at stake, why it mattered, and how it emotionally affected you or your protagonist.

    For this blog post, the challenge is “It can be so frustrating! You want to repurpose that story, but each platform has different requirements and audiences!”

  3. The Solution: Show How You Overcome the Obstacle

    The solution is the outcome or resolution of your challenge. It should show how you or your protagonist overcame the obstacle, what you learned, and how you changed.

    For this blog post, the solution is:

    “The answer is to start with the arc! You’ll want to create a story arc that you can adapt your story to different formats, lengths, and audiences.”

  4. The Takeaway: Share Your Main Point or Message

    The takeaway is the main message you want your audience to remember from your story. It should relate to your purpose, audience, and channel and include a call to action if applicable.

    For this post, a solution might be “Start with the arc!”

Use the Story Arc as Your Building Blocks

Once you have these elements, you can use them as building blocks to create different versions of your story for different platforms. Let’s use this blog post as an example:

  1. The Hook: Use it to create a headline or an Instagram caption

    I riffed on the hook to create the headline for this blog post. I might also use it for an Instagram caption or a Twitter post.

    Blog Title: “How to Repurpose Your Stories for Maximum Impact: The Power of the Story Arc”

  2. The Challenge: Use it as a video/podcast teaser

    If I was going to create a YouTube video teaser or a podcast episode, I might start by riffing on the challenge.

    Video Intro: “You want to repurpose one story across a variety of platforms, but dang it! Each platform has different requirements and audiences! What are you supposed to do?”

  3. Solution: Use it as a case study, LinkedIn post, or presentation

    If I was creating this blog as a case study or an instructional presentation, I might go straight to the solution:

    “To repurpose content that you can easily adapt to different platforms, start by creating a story arc. Here’s how…”

  4. Takeaway: Great for titles, rallying cries, and tweets

    I can always use a takeaway as a conclusion, a call to action or a rallying cry. I might even do a simple tweet on Twitter.

    “Want to repurpose content more easily? Start with the arc! Here’s how:”

By creating a story arc, you can more easily repurpose your stories for multiple platforms without losing their essence or impact. You can also create a consistent brand message across different channels and audiences, which can help you build your authority and reputation online.

I think you can see how this blog post is going to end! I’ll give you a final rallying cry for repurposing content:

Start with the arc!

Laura Bergells teaches public speaking and business communication classes and workshops. Hire Laura.

Take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 


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How You Can Learn to Be Authentic by Pretending to Be Someone Else

Speaking on a stage isn’t the same as chatting with your friends on the phone. Duh.

On stage, you’re standing up straight, using broad gestures, and commanding the room with a well-structured narrative. If you’re good at it, you’ve probably even rehearsed. (Please tell me you’ve rehearsed!)

But when you’re on the phone with a friend, you’re slouched on your couch, curled under a blanket, and breezing through half-baked plans and ideas. And there’s no rehearsal at all.

Just Be Yourself and Act Natural??? Whaaaat???

And yet, some public speaking coaches will tell you the key to public speaking is to “just be yourself.” Oe “just act natural. Or “just be authentic.”

Whaaaa? Obviously, this advice isn’t specific enough to be helpful!

For many, being on stage in front of a roomful of people and commanding their attention isn’t a “natural” situation!

Public speaking requires many skills we don’t use in everyday conversations! Before speaking in public, we structure, format, design, and write. We rehearse our words, content, voices, and gestures. These planning, performance, and rehearsing skills don’t necessarily come naturally!

Curling up on the couch in yoga pants comes naturally to me. Standing up in front of a roomful of strangers in a business suit? Not so much!

Try this One Wacky Rehearsal Exercise

So how do you “act natural” in a completely unnatural situation, like standing on a stage or staring into a camera? And you have to do unnatural things like write, plan, and rehearse?

The key is to find your authentic voice. And for many, that requires practice, too!

Here’s one wacky exercise to help you find your authentic voice. Of course, it’s totally contrarian, and it’s peculiar. But here goes:

💡 When you rehearse your next presentation, practice it in different accents or while impersonating other characters.

Will you look and sound ridiculous? Yes. Oh, yes. But this exercise can help you in four ways:

  1. Bring the levity. Do you hate rehearsing? Many people do, that’s why they avoid it. By bringing humor to the rehearsal process, you might find you enjoy practicing your speech. Especially if you rehearse it as if you were Beyoncé. That way, you won’t avoid it, you’ll look forward to it!
  2. Decrease the tension. Practicing your speech as if you were a pirate or Mr. Rogers still lets you focus on the content of your speech. You’re taking your topic seriously, but you’re taking yourself lightly. This can help you lighten up and loosen up.
  3. Express your emotions. Speaking as if you were Barney the Dinosaur or a space alien can help you break out of your usual speaking patterns. It lets you discover new ways of expressing your emotions. You can also find surprising in-the-moment insights about yourself you aren’t even aware of! 
  4. Find your own voice. And finally, the contrast between a 1920s gangster and your own character helps you identify the unique aspects of your vocal patterns. A surefire way to find your voice is to hear the contrasts when they come out of your mouth!

Weirdly, playing with voices that aren’t authentic to your character is the key to finding your authentic voice. That way, you can hear and feel the difference in a light-hearted way.

So the next time you have a speech or rehearsal, try practicing it as if you were your boss, Bart Simpson, Oprah Winfrey, or any other character you choose. Yes, it’s weird. But think how much fun it can be to talk like Spongebob Squarepants when someone tells you to “just” act natural and be yourself!

That’ll show ’em! 😀

Laura Bergells teaches public speaking and business communication classes and workshops. You can also book a private, one-on-one Zoom consultation here: Hire Laura.

Take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at  LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members!