...or is there a word or expression more common than 'rostrum'?

When you want to give a speech, and there's this in the room:

image of a wood rostrum

...where do you stand? At, on, behind a rostrum?

Ngram was quite unhelpful, showing only trace amounts of any of the variants.


Dictionary.com says that a rostrum is the platform and not the strange item of furniture, so you would stand 'on' the rostrum. The strange item of furniture is a lectern. You certainly don't stand 'on' it. According to Ngrams, standing 'at' or 'behind' a/the lectern are both possible. If there is a difference, standing 'at' a lectern gives you a little bit of freedom of movement - you could briefly stand to the side of it while still being 'at' it.

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    People also often refer to it (incorrectly, albeit) as a podium. – Catija Mar 10 '15 at 8:52
  • Then what the heck is Google Images showing me? – SF. Mar 10 '15 at 8:59
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    @Catija any reason why wouldn't you call that as a podium? – Maulik V Mar 10 '15 at 10:41
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    @MaulikV I think it's quite likely that in AmE, saying podium will make people think of the lectern rather than the raised area. – Damkerng T. Mar 10 '15 at 10:50
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    @MaulikV Because, technically, podium and rostrum are synonymous... meaning that it's the stage that's the podium, not the object one stands behind (the lectern). – Catija Mar 10 '15 at 16:03

You may call it a podium, soapbox, dais, etc.

However, when you want to use it for your speech, I'd go for the preposition 'on' ignoring my physical position. I mean that's what you are asking -if we are giving speech using that thing, where are you?

Get on to your soapbox
the conductor on the podium tonight is one of the leading figures of classical music

You asked -how does one use a podium (mainly for giving a speech)? ~ By getting 'on' it.

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    I like this answer, except for soapbox, which is usually metaphorical, for a wooden crate used as a portable platform for making speeches on. So a politician touring your neighbourhood may literally get on a soapbox, and your friend who persuades everyone in the room of his complaints about income taxes may metaphorically get on his soapbox, but an invited speaker will stand at a lectern, on a dais, a platform or a stage, or on (or at) a podium, as you said. oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/soapbox and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soapbox – Qsigma Mar 10 '15 at 14:24

The term "podium" is used correctly to refer to the horizontal surface upon which a speaker, conductor, or other such person stands; while such surfaces are often higher than the immediately-surrounding floor, the term "podium" may refer to such an area whether it is raised or not (one may think of the area as having "elevated importance").

Because the term "podium" is often used in rooms where the speaking position does not have a raised platform, but does have a lectern (bookstand) in front of it, and since "going to the podium" in such a room would imply walking behind the lectern, many people have come to interpret the term "podium" as referring to the lectern rather than the area behind it, and will thus use the term "podium" to refer to the former (e.g. "place the books on the podium"). Note that a construct like "take the books to the podium" would be perfectly reasonable if they were intended for use by someone standing on the podium (behind the lectern) as would typically be the case.

In cases where the standing surface area behind the lectern is physically higher than the surrounding floor, the term "rostrum" would be appropriate, but it is not appropriate when there is no raised floor. The term may be somewhat less subject to misinterpretation than "podium", since it refers to the platform, but that doesn't mean it always refers to the horizontal surface. Some kinds of movable rostrum have a permanently or semi-permanently attached lectern, railing, or other such pieces that extend above the floor surface; a request to place something on the rostrum could be interpreted as either an instruction to spread the item on the floor, place it on the lectern, or hang it from the railing, depending upon the nature of the item in question.

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