This may be the shortest blog I ever write. With good reason. The message is simple:
Trash the podium.
Throw it away.
Don’t ask your production company to bring one.
Don’t ask for a new one to be built.
Don’t dare let the hotel put one on stage for your event.
My emotion is NOT because I’ve seen hundreds— if not thousands— of people deliver terrific talks without one. It’s because in the last month alone, I’ve attended or seen posts from events that suffered mightily from having one. It is driven also with the knowledge that 60% of how we communicate is non-verbal.
Let me demonstrate a few with some good, albeit grainy, iPhone photos:
1. The floating head keynote. This event did not have cameras projecting the speaker’s image on the screen. Therefore, the 500 people in the audience had to try to find her, a rather petite woman, on stage and BEHIND a podium that was almost as big as her. The result? More than half the room only saw her head. A floating head. She tried to move around, but the ginormous podium was still in the way.
2. The panel discussion. This event I attended did project the panel (there were five people on this stage – do you see five people?) onto a screen, but I was in the front row, just three tables away from the stage. I should have been able to see the speakers just fine without my trifocals. Instead, I had to stare at the podium, or crank my chair around to watch them on a screen in the corner of the room.
3. The conversation. I caught this photo on my social feed. I’ve blurred out the faces to protect the innocent. But can you imagine how awkward both the speakers and audience felt? Not to mention – what a horrible social media representation this image is of what was likely a consequential conversation.
Okay, okay, podiums have a place for presidents, graduation speakers and debates. But other than that, speakers really don’t need them and audiences really don’t want to see them. Well prepared speakers can talk from a few notes in their hand, use some well designed slides to guide through a talk, and guess what will happen? No, the speakers will not fall off stage – but the audience will be able to see the speaker clearly and be more engaged. After all, isn’t that the goal for a live event?
So go do it, I know you can. Trash it.