How to Untether Yourself from a Speaker Podium

Think of the podium as "The Dark Side" and step away!

Recently a C-Suite level executive came to Interact Studio and told us about an unsuccessful talk he had given at an important meeting of his peers.

When I asked him why he wasn’t satisfied with the outcome, he said “I got stuck behind the podium with my notes and before I knew it I was making it all about the slides. I lost everyone!”

Staying behind the podium puts you in The Dark Side

Podiums seduce us to staying hidden and blocked from the vulnerability we might feel if we were freed up to connect with the audience. But the moment you step away from the podium the audience feels your presence increase.

At Interact Studio, we have an black podium we call “Darth Vader.”  We found Darth in the back of a used furniture warehouse. He was grey with awkward legs and wheels. We painted him black and brought him home.

Our goal was to create a memorable prop for teaching people to move away from the “Dark Side” and into the light of “The Force.” Next time you see a podium, think “Darth.” It will set you free, emotionally.

How to take purposeful steps away from the podium

To physically detach from the podium, remember—the more you move, the more you own the space.

At Interact, we teach people to envision a baseball diamond on the floor, scaled to the walk space you have in the room. Don’t stay on one base. Don’t lap the bases—walk with purpose to each base, and stay there for a bit to connect to the space and your audience.

You want your movements to be purposeful yet not distract from your message. To this end, always take at least two steps and you will look like you know where you’re going.

If you’re working on pausing, do so while taking steps; use the time to segue from one focus area to another.

Take command of your slides

Our client, the C-suite exec mentioned earlier, lost control of his presentation when he gave control to the slides. The best scenario for the speaker who wants to command their slides is to move, connect with people and gesture freely. To do this, use a wireless mic and have a remote clicker.

There’s a nuance to using the remote clicker effectively, and that is to be the lead in the dance steps. Practice using the clicker as an extension of your arm versus the “point-and-shoot” action of a TV remote.

Always announce a transition or the next focus area before advancing the slide. This establishes you as the owner of the information.

Too often speakers let the slides lead with this formula: (advance slide) “and-this-slide-shows,”  (advance slide) “and-this-slide-shows.” Again, you’re giving your power over to the slides.

Instead, say something like, “The final piece is crucial” (advance slide). See the difference

What if I get stuck behind the podium without a remote clicker to advance my slides?

If the equipment is limited, and you’re stuck with a stationary mic at the podium, make sure you are animated from the waste up. Don’t become a mannequin behind a piece of furniture. Turn your shoulders toward slightly toward each slide of the room from time to time. Use your eyes to connect and shorten the distance between you and the audience.

We are always delighted to help you take command of your next keynote or high stakes presentation. Please contact us to begin the conversation.

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Avatar for Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.