by Susan Ruth
Editor’s note: For 2 years our meetings have been held virtually. For newer members and for those of us who may have forgotten, an unfamiliar piece of furniture is emerging in our meetings. Thank you Susan for reminding us what that weird contraption is and why each club has one.
Have you ever wondered why Toastmasters stand behind a lectern? Did you think a podium has the same meaning as a lectern? To further confuse the terminology, let’s ask, what is a pulpit?
Pulpits are usually ornate furniture used in churches for sermons. However, they can be portable and travel all over the world. On a recent trip to North Carolina, I visited Billy Graham’s Cove, where different organizations hold training sessions. In the basement of the chapel is a museum of Pastor Graham’s life. It was there that I found his traveling pulpit. I stood behind the pulpit and thought about Toastmasters and how it must feel to give a sermon to thousands.
Now, what is a podium? A podium is a raised platform. A conductor or performer stands on the podium to increase their visibility. Usually, a person stands on the podium, not behind it like a pulpit or lectern.
Once, while in London, I visited the Speakers’ Corner where you could bring your own podium, stand on it and speak to your heart’s content.
I am sure you have seen a podium used at the Olympics where winners receive their medals. Or you might have heard a race car announcer say, “he is heading for a podium finish!” Toastmasters could use the term podium to call our meetings to order.
But the definition of a lectern is a reading desk with a slanted top. It will support documents or books that are read aloud, as in a lecture. In Toastmasters, the lectern is used to help control the meeting and hand over responsibility to others.
Need a great topic for a speech? Google “Toastmasters Meeting Etiquette” for a list of articles including one in the April 2018 International Toastmasters Magazine.
In summary, I think Toastmasters have it right with the original definition. We stand behind the lectern, trying not to get on our soap box podium and refrain from preaching a sermon.