The #1 Best Way to Present from Behind the Lectern

Alan Parisse Speaking Behind The Lectern

What is the #1 best way to present from behind the lectern? Take a half-step back. One that is wide enough to put some distance between the lectern and you, yet close enough to maintain visual contact with your notes and vocal contact with the microphone, unless you are wearing one.

Since we intuitively knew to step back from the lectern, Lisa and I thought this was an inconsequential piece of knowledge everyone knew. Then came a series of wholesaler trainings for a large global financial services firm. They came to us a coaches’ dream team: strong, well-trained presenters who wanted to get even better. Yet something seemed to fall apart when the lectern was introduced. As Lisa was working with their choreography behind the lectern, one of our participants shouted out “take a half-step back”. SHAZAAM! It all became clear … and it works.

Taking a half-step back is absolutely the #1 best way to present from behind a lectern because it gives you the best of both worlds: the credibility that can come from being behind the lectern and having room to gesture and move.

Two Common Pitfalls of Presenting Behind a Lectern:

  • The Crutch: Lecterns are often used as a place for nervous speakers to hide. In The Speaking Intensive presenter development program, we work to bring speakers out from behind the lectern so they gain the comfort and experience necessary to have a choice about when to most effectively in front of a room.
  • The Hate: “I never go behind the lectern. I hate them.” Ok, but what will you do if there is no choice and you are stuck behind one? How about if the situation is sufficiently grave or consequential that you need a place to put your detailed notes or a script?

3 Mistakes Lectern Presenters Make:

Stepping back will also help cure common mistakes presenters make behind a lectern.

  • The Hug: If you’ve ever witnessed “the hug”, then you know what I’m talking about. The presenter’s arms placed on either side of the lectern, elbows out, as if latching on to a long lost friend. Huggers appear hunched over, somehow weakened.
  • The Death Grip: Is a description really necessary here? Gripping the lectern until your knuckles turn white is not compelling to an audience. If the audience isn’t engaged, the sweaty imprint of your hand is all that will be left as evidence you were ever there.
  • Dancing Feet: Speaking is a full body sport. That’s obviously true when you are standing clear of the lectern, and it is also true behind a lectern. A sloppy stance will sap your credibility even when the audience can’t see your lower body. They will sense something is not quite right, but won’t know why.

Each of these correctable conditions chips away at your credibility and can cause the audience to disconnect. No matter how compelling your presentation may be, audiences won’t fully buy-in if your body doesn’t support your message.


If you are as short as I am, find something to stand on. I’ve used a milk crate (shaky), a commercial dishwasher glass rack (more stable – but not suitable for some shoes) and anything else I could find. You want to see the audience and for them to see you. You certainly don’t want them wondering where that voice is coming from.

Sure, lecterns are kind of old school, but they add an aura of authority to you and your message and can even be an effective tool when used correctly. Presenters who learn how to leverage the lectern increase their range of audience connection.

Join us at The Speaking Intensive. Presenters from The Chicago Bulls, Merrill Lynch, JP Morgan, Allianz, LPL, Rockwell Collins and 40 other firms already have. Now it’s your turn. Just 1 seat left in the August session. Catch the early registration discount for the October session!

Move Over “UH”, “UM” & “AH”. “SO” Is Taking Over.

presentation filler word

In The Speaking Intensive, Lisa and I have seen noticed a trend of using a new non-word to start a presentation, link presentation segments and fill pauses. Move over “UH”, “UM” & “AH”. “SO” is in the house!

While “SO” obviously has legitimate uses as a conjunction and even as an adverb and an adjective, it’s misuse is rampant.

Here’s the funny part: within two sentences of my having pointed it out to last week’s participants in The Speaking Intensive, I did it myself. Then I did it again.

So I am working on it. 🙂

How about you?

Learn how to bring authenticity to your presentations. Register for The Speaking Intensive!

Risky Business: How Audience Capture Can Sabotage Your Presentation

DesertDon’t let your audience or hosts “capture” you and ruin your presentation.

Great speaking starts with moving from the all too common mindset of Here I Am – my ideas, my thoughts, my goals, my objectives – to coming from a place of There You Are, where you can focus on the audience’s ideas, thoughts, goals and objectives. Yet, like most good things, you can take it too far and become so focused on your host or the audience that you lose your point of view.

We call it Audience Capture and it’s similar to Regulatory Capture. That’s where regulators like the Federal Reserve Board become so close to those they are supposed to regulate that they fail to do their jobs completely. Something similar happens when speakers become so focused on what their host or audience wants that they lose their energy, passion and message.

This is risky business for speakers. Your job is deliver a compelling talk to the audience in a way that creates action. While you should begin with an attitude of There You Are, shifting 100% of your attention to what others want risks the dilution of your message. The end result will likely not be as persuasive.

It can also happen in one-to-one conversations. Think about it. Have you ever had a one-to-one conversation where you set aside or modified your opinion or belief so that you could be more relatable to the person with whom you were speaking? Let’s call this Conversation Capture. Three of the reasons this happens are that we want the other person to:

1. Like us.

2. Agree with us.

3. Support us or sign an agreement.

If we do this consciously, it’s one thing. Oftentimes, however, we do it unconsciously and that’s risky business.

By setting your opinion or belief aside, you may not be perceived as someone with valuable thoughts and ideas. You will have entered the desert of wishy-washiness.

Now, take that one-to-one conversation and change it to one-to-many. That’s you giving a presentation to an audience of more than one person. If you fall victims to audience capture, you’ve more than entered that desert. You’re alone riding a dusty camel in the hot sun seeking an oasis.

So how do you avoid audience capture? Find the sweet spot between there you are and here I am. Acknowledge that there may be aspects of your talk that not everyone can relate to or agree with. Use stories and other techniques to overcome those deltas. The audience will respect you for paying attention to their needs and, even better, be more likely to buy into what you are selling.

The difference between winning and losing the deal often comes down to how information is presented. Do more than just wing it! Join The Speaking Intensive to learn more proven techniques from my career raising capital and as a Hall of Fame speaker.

“Transformational. A professional breakthrough.”

“Fantastic!! Ultimately a straight route to improve my impact and influence.”

“As much a Leadership Development experience as a Public Speaking course.”

“Thank you for pushing me to tap into “tools” I didn’t know I had.”

“Definitely the best program I’ve ever attended.”


© Copyright 2014 The Parisse Group, Inc.

Subtlety & Perception: A Quick Lesson in Presenting from the Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve Bank Logo

“The Ray Rice video for the financial sector has arrived” – or so says Michael Lewis in Bloomberg.

On NPR’s “This American Life” this past weekend, the inner workings of the Federal Reserve Bank were revealed in embarrassing ways.

The overriding concern is “regulatory capture.” That’s where regulators assigned to oversee an institution get so caught up in that organization’s culture they fail to regulate.

In this case Carmen Segarra, a newly hired regulator, was so shocked by what she heard that she started secretly recording conversations.

In one recording. the head of the Fed’s team at Goldman said that credibility at the Fed “is about subtleties and perceptions as opposed to reality.” To a regulator or a compliance officer, this is an absolute absurdity. What matters is facts and substance – real reality.

Regulations aside – what about when a speaker presents to an audience? What’s more important: form or substance? Content or delivery?

Obviously, both is best: stellar substance and dynamic delivery. But who would be more likely to get their message across? A speaker with a strong, authentic presence or one focused on facts and figures?

Don’t let “subtleties and perceptions” bury your message. Come to The Speaking Intensive, and learn how to bring out the strong authentic presenter in you.

Join the last open to the public program in 2014 on November 6 & 7. Presenters from Pacific Life, The Chicago Bulls, Merrill Lynch, LPL, Rockwell Collins and 40 other firms already have. Now it’s your turn. Catch the early registration discount before it ends on Friday!

“Transformational. A professional breakthrough.”

“Fantastic!! Ultimately a straight route to improve my impact and influence.”

“As much a Leadership Development experience as a Public Speaking course.”

“Thank you for pushing me to tap into “tools” I didn’t know I had.”

“Definitely the best program I’ve ever attended.”

© Copyright 2014 The Parisse Group, Inc.

OnWallStreet: Ten Thousand Thank Yous!


Exciting news! OnWallStreet magazine has placed my little book, Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask … and Investors Need to Know, co-authored with David Richman, on their Summer Reading 2014, Part 2: Top Picks on Amazon list! We are truly honored to be included with Storyselling, The Million Dollar Financial Advisor and the other amazing books on the list.

Questions Great Financial Advisors Ask … and Investors Need to Know really is little … by design. After all, we know where most of our most productive reading takes place, right?

While it may be little in size, this book is heavy in content. David and I compiled the essential questions the industry’s top advisors ask. The ones that lead to the probing and personal conversations necessary to diagnose and understand their clients – and potential clients – deep-seated feelings about money. By wringing out the emotion of investing, these successful advisors set clients on the rational road to achieving their financial goals. There’s even a chapter of “great questions to ask” organized by topic.

Here’s a freebie: “Who’s my client?”.



Check out OnWallStreet’s full list here.

Buy the book on Amazon!