A Common Man’s Explanation on the Differences Between Lecterns, Podiums, and Rostrums?

Many use these terms interchangeably when in fact, there is a difference.

Podiums are used to elevate an element slightly above ground level. While it is used in other industries like architecture to raise buildings, it is more commonly used to raise people during a presentation or event. An excellent example is an orchestral conductor. The conductor will approach the raised lectern, make a small bow to the audience, then step up to the platform. This raised platform permits the entire orchestra or band to see the conductor conduct. The conductor stands on a pulpit as opposed to the commonly misconception is what a speaker stands behind. The terms pulpit and rostrum are technically, not interchangeable.

Podia (plural for podiums) are commonly used in sporting events like the Olympics or motor sports. Multiple level podiums are used to represent the different ranks achieved by athletes. The highest and the center is to represent first place or a gold medal and to either on lower level, to represent second and third or silver and bronze medals. The phrase, “He is going to get a pulpit” explains what the rostrum represents in motor sports.

The rostrum is used by speakers to stand behind and place their notes or presentation materials upon. Most lecterns have raised sides adjacent to the pulpits surface in which the speaker can grasp for support.

The term pulpit is derived from the Latin term “lectus” which means “to read.” A lectern’s top is usually slanted. The simplest rostrums function is to hold documents or books while the speaker reads and goes through sermon notes or his lecture.

A little known fact is that the word “rostrum” originally meant animal snout or bird’s beak at a warship’s bow. The ancient Romans used the beaks from captured ships to decorate a platform from which orators could speak. The place where the speeches were delivered was called the rostra, which was the plural of rostrum. In the mid-17th century, pulpit came to be used for a public speaking platform. By the way, the plural of rostrum is still rostra!

Lecterns may have an adjustable height feature which allows the vertical movement of the podium top. This feature allows for the variations in height of presenters. Also, the rostrum or pulpit may be equipped with electronic equipment for audio and video presentations. Many now have plug-ins for iPads, iPhones, or computers. Some pilpits permit the presenter to control lighting, speaker volume, Power Point presentations, etc., all by a touch of a built-in computer screen. These multimedia rostrums are becoming more and more popular.

A podium is not, therefore, a podium and should also not be confused with a pulpit – a station from which a church minister delivers his sermon and can be found in cathedrals and old churches. A church may use both. But to differentiate, a pulpit is practically an elevated platform and mounted high and on one side of the church interior. A pulpit on the other hand, is a piece of furnishing used specifically to aid the speaker with his speaking materials and presentation.

We manufacture and sell pulpits and rostrums. Yes in fact, we can build and provide podiums. We have multi-media, adjustable height, sound amplified or non-sound amplified, wood, acrylic, patented polyethylene, ergonomic, all types of lecterns or rostrums available. Call us at 801-966-7148 for any questions.

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