The lectern is an often overlooked, but important conference centrepiece. Julia Norman finds a pioneer dedicated to elevating this item to its rightful place.
The trouble with lecterns is they are not sexy; they have been forgotten. They are the stand that the presenter puts his stuff on, the necessary piece of wood, acrylic or metal dragged on to the stage by the crew.
The AV technicians set it all up, twisting and twirling cables through any available gaps in its structure, disfiguring it with its necessary circulatory system of electric and data cables, all held in place with silver or black gaffer tape. Not a pretty sight, but one we seem to accept.
The stage can be set perfectly with its backdrops, screens and lighting, but the lectern often lets it down; not always because it is poor quality, just because it is not able to cope with the electronics and the gadgetry required by today’s presenters.
Simon Fowler was frustrated for many years by the lack of lecterns suitable for the conference industry. Having trained at Bristol Old Vic specialising in stage design, lighting and sound, he is used to setting up for live shows and has spent the last 30 years running his own conference and live events companies. He turned his hand to lecterns because he thought conferences shouldn’t be let down by them.
Long experience of dealing with the niggles and difficulties involved in trying to hide cabling, attach lighting and monitors, as well as providing a place for the presenter to place his own laptop and notes, led Fowler set up The Lectern Company and to take matters into his own hands to design a lectern that really works.
All Fowler’s lecterns have in-built AV technology. A seven-inch monitor allows the presenter to see his PowerPoint without turning to look at the projection screen. It can also be used to display speaker support notes, a stop watch, or a video link to other seminar rooms. There is a drawer to hide an additional laptop for live web presentations, and an uplighter in the lectern base can be programmed to supply any corporate colour by DMX. No cables are on show to the audience with the three main designs Fowler came up with.
The Fan Blade has a turbine-like appearance and gives a sense of energy. The Spring is a heavyweight coil that can be seen as industrial or just fun, while The Bentley could be said to resemble a vintage radiator grille.
Fowler says his lecterns are not just for the technical guys. “They are for the presenter because he has everything at his finger tips and they are for the audience because they are beautiful.”