Stuck Behind the Podium?

A client recently asked what to do when forced to deliver a presentation from behind a podium. I’ve been in that situation a few times and I don’t like it. Even if it makes some sense because of lighting requirements or microphone limitations, I still don’t like it.

If you’re ever faced with that situation, your first strategy should be to make the case for why you shouldn’t be stuck there in audience-centric terms. Answer the question ‘What’s in it for them if you’re not behind the podium?’

Failing that, try moving the microphone so you can stand beside the podium where the audience can still see your full body, but still have appropriate sound pick-up. Or, remove it from the stand and hold it in your non-gesturing hand.

If that won’t work either, then deal with it:

  • Realize that an engaging presentation from behind the podium has the same qualities as one when you’re not stuck there – audience-centric content, various engaging techniques, lots of audience questions, NO ‘Death by PowerPoint’, etc.
  • Maximize your physical skills from back there – make sustained eye contact with all parts of the room, gesture above waist so people can see them, be careful about volume relative to the microphone, etc.
  • Use the podium monitor as your prompter, but make sure it’s in your line of sight to the audience if you can. If you must look at the screen to remind you what to say, do so in silence. Only talk to faces in the audience.

So, if ever stuck behind the podium, make the best of a tough situation – don’t complain to your audience about it and never let them see you sweat.