A politician speaking at a podium during a conference.
A politician speaking at a podium during a conference.

The terms "podium" and "lectern" are sometimes used interchangeably but are actually two different things. A podium is the platform that a speaker or politician stands on while speaking, while a lectern is the stand he uses to hold his notes. A microphone may also be attached to the lectern.

Beyond the Basics

An easy way to remember the difference between podium and lectern is to think of the roots of the words. Podium is based on Greek and Latin terms meaning "platform." The "pod" portion of the word also means "foot," as in "podiatry," so the feet rest upon the podium. A conductor sometimes stands upon a small podium while conducting an orchestra. "Lectern" links back to a Latin term meaning "to read," as in a speaker reads his notes that rest upon the lectern. A lectern is sometimes used by college professors or professional speakers during classes or speaking engagements.