Saturday, February 12, 2011

What are you standing on (or behind)?

In the theater they simply call that elevated platform you stand on the stage. In public speaking a very small one might just be called a soapbox. A larger one might more grandly be called a podium. (As I have discussed previously, in modern usage podium also describes what you stand behind).

Those enamored with history might even refer to a more complicated stage as a rostrum. The Romans had one decorated with six bronze battering ram prows (rostra) from captured warships. Rostrum also is the name of both an Australian association of public speaking clubs, and an American magazine.

In the U.S. Capitol building the House of Representatives has an elegant three-tiered rostrum where the Speaker presides during the session. The lower tiers are occupied by other staff.

Originally a lectern simply was a wooden (or perhaps metal) stand for holding a speaker’s script or notes.

Now there is a more complicated taxonomy of floor or tabletop models, and either plain or with built-in sound systems. Other options include lights, and casters. Some office supply catalogs even call them presentation stations, since they also may have shelves for holding laptop computers.

There are carts for auctioneers that are a stage plus lectern with a battery-powered sound system. I once attended an industrial auction in an aircraft plant. They pushed the auctioneer around all morning. He just kept talking for miles - like the Energizer bunny.

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