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Difference Between A Podium And A Lectern

Let's be honest, we're all guilty here.  Who really knows what's the difference between a podium and a lectern?  Aren't they the same thing?

I know this is going to come as a shocker, but actually they're not.  A podium is a platform that you stand on to be seen better, while a lectern is a product that you read from that holds your notes and books while giving a presentation.  

You stand on a podium, and stand behind a lectern

Huh?  Yes, I know.  Shocker.   

A podium isn't a lectern, and a lectern isn't a podium.  You would actually place your lectern on top of a podium.  

a person speaking from a lectern and while standing on a podium

Where Do These Two Words Originate From?

It actually makes sense when you think about it.  Let's start with podium:

Podium can go all the way back to the Greek word podion which means base. Podion comes from the Greek word pod which means foot.  Greek architects thought that the low structures that supported the walls looked like a small foot, so they referred to it as podion ( a little foot). 

That makes a lot of sense when you're speaking on a podium because your foot is on the base.  

The Latins switched it around to podium, which the English ran with in the 18th century, and continue to use today.  

 Then you have the other word:  lectern.

The word lectern originates from the latin word legere, which means to read.  What do you usually do when you're speaking from a lectern?  Reading.  

two people giving speeches from a lectern

 Difference Between A Podium And A Lectern Example

You see podiums and lecterns everyday, and you probably don't even think about it.  When you were watching the news yesterday, what was the President speaking behind?  A lectern.  

When you're watching the Olympics, what do the winners stand on?  A Podium. 

Podium Examples:

  • A winner's podium at a race.
  • A platform used at a speech, or debate

Lectern Examples:

  • At a graduation, they usually speak from a lectern
  • At news conferences, sometimes they speak from a lectern.

Examples of a podium and a lectern


Podium Vs Lectern Vs Dais

So now that we know the definitions of lecterns and podiums, what about the other words that are similar?

Have you ever heard of the word dais?  Me either until I started this business if I'm being honest.  A dais is pretty similar to a podium.  

A dais is a raised platform at the front of a hall or room that one or more speakers can stand on.  

Pulpit Vs Podium

Pulpits are usually easier to understand from the other words.  When you're referring to a pulpit, think about a church.  

A pulpit is a raised platform or high reading desk that a pastor uses to deliver the sermon.  

animated pictures of pulpits in churches


The Advantage Of Speaking With A Podium Or Lectern

What's so special about podiums and lecterns?  Well to be honest, they help a lot.  Especially if you're a person who speaks at events often.  

A podium makes you more visible to the audience since you're raised higher.  It will be harder to see somebody if they're at the same height as you, especially if there's people in front of you.  

Lecterns can help you stay organized while you're speaking.  They can hold your notes and books in place, and much much more.  You might need some water while you're speaking.  A lectern can hold your bottle for you.  

Maybe you need a towel during your presentation to wipe your sweat off.  Place it on your lectern.  


There are over 170,000 words in the English language.  How are we supposed to know the meaning of all of them?  We can't.  It's impossible.  

Sometimes we use words interchangeably without knowing the real definitions of them.  Lecterns and podiums are a perfect example of this.  Like I said earlier, a lectern isn't a podium, and a podium isn't a lectern.  

Lecterns are objects that you use while you're speaking, and a podium is a raised platform that you stand on to be seen better while speaking.  

Next article Public Speaking Tips When Using A Lectern

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