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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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.

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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! 🌷

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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!

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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!

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How is Public Speaking Like Your Dog?

Public speaking and your adorable dog may seem unrelated, but they actually share six commonalities:

  1. Attention: Both public speaking and your dog can capture and hold people’s attention. When delivering a speech effectively, a speaker can engage and keep the audience interested. Similarly, a cute dog attracts attention and affection from people due to its endearing appearance and playful nature.
  2. Emotional Connection: Public speaking and your lovable dog can create emotional connections with their respective audiences. A skilled speaker can evoke emotions through words and delivery, such as empathy, excitement, or inspiration. Likewise, a good dog can elicit positive emotions, joy, and affection from people, leading to a strong emotional bond.
  3. Nonverbal Communication: While public speaking relies heavily on verbal communication, nonverbal cues also play a crucial role. Effective speakers use body language, facial expressions, and gestures to enhance their message and connect with the audience. Similarly, a friendly dog communicates through nonverbal cues such as wagging its tail, making eye contact, or using body language to convey emotions and intentions.
  4. Positive Influence: Both public speaking and a dog have the potential to create a positive impact on people’s lives. A persuasive and motivational speech can inspire individuals, spark change, or offer valuable insights. Similarly, spending time with a dog can uplift your mood, reduce stress, and promote a sense of happiness and well-being.
  5. Memorability: Memorable experiences are often associated with public speaking and our pets. A powerful speech can stick in people’s minds, resonating with them long after it’s delivered. Similarly, your dog can leave lasting impressions, as people tend to remember their interactions and the happiness they experienced in your dog’s presence.
  6. Forgiveness: When a speaker fumbles a word or two, the audience easily forgives them because they bring so much value. Similarly, when your dog makes little mistakes around the house, you quickly forgive them and move on.

While public speaking and a dog may have different contexts and purposes, they both possess qualities that make them captivating, emotionally engaging, and memorable to the people who encounter them.

How else is public speaking like a good dog?

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 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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Don’t Overcome Imposter Syndrome. Cultivate It!

I get calls and requests about “overcoming imposter syndrome.” But I don’t recommend it! Imposter syndrome is normal and manageable.

Frankly, I’ve heard people talk with complete confidence and authority about topics they know little about. I often think they could use a little imposter syndrome!

The times I’ve felt acute imposter syndrome are when I’ve performed at my very best! My imposter syndrome inspires me to learn more about my subject matter. It also transmits vulnerability, which audiences like.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon. Many high-achieving people experience it. So do perfectionists! So do some favorite actors, singers, writers, and performers!

It’s the feeling that you’re not as competent or capable as others think you are, and that you’ll be exposed as a fake any minute. It’s common and it’s normal.

Why Overcome Something Normal???

So instead of fighting or hiding your imposter syndrome, what if you could embrace it and learn from it? What if you could see it as a gift, not a curse?

Imposter syndrome is not a sign of weakness or incompetence. It’s a sign of growth and potential.

It means you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and trying new things. It means you’re challenging yourself and expanding your horizons.

The Benefits of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is also a great teacher. It can help you improve your skills, knowledge, and performance. It can make you a more thorough researcher, careful planner, and thoughtful communicator. It can make you more humble, more curious, more open-minded.

So, how can you embrace your imposter syndrome and turn it into a positive force? Here are four tips:

  • Acknowledge and respect your feelings. Don’t ignore or suppress them. Instead, name them and accept them as part of your journey. You’re not a fraud. You’re a learner.
  • Re-write your resume or LinkedIn profile every quarter. This can remind you of your strengths and achievements. In a resume, you don’t focus on your flaws or gaps. Instead, writing your resume helps you remember what you’ve done well and accomplished.
  • Seek feedback and support. Don’t isolate yourself or pretend to know everything. Instead, ask for help and advice from others who can guide you and cheer you on. Find a mentor, coach, or friend who can support and challenge you.
  • Take action and experiment. Don’t let fear or doubt stop you from pursuing your dreams. Instead, take small steps and try new things. Learn from your mistakes and failures. See them as opportunities to grow and improve.

Imposter syndrome is not something to be ashamed of or afraid of. It’s something to be grateful for! If you didn’t experience it, you wouldn’t be normal, vulnerable, or likeable! Plus, it inspires you to learn and grow.

Your imposter syndrome shows that you care about what you do and that you want to do it well. It shows that you have high standards and expectations for yourself. It also shows that you have room to grow and evolve!

So, don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back. Instead, let it propel you forward.

Do you embrace your imposter syndrome? How do you use it to your advantage? 😊

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!