NOTE: The podium is the raised platform you stand on. The lectern is the stand (usually with a slanted top) you put your notes on.
With most presentations, we suggest you get out from behind the lectern and get off the podium.
It’s easier to engage your audience when nothing’s between you and your audience and when you’re on their level.
Get off the podium. Consider the multiple meanings of the phrase “on the same level.” All are positive: Equality. Balance. Similar interest. Build on this by literally getting on the same level as your audience.
The more you’re one of them, the more credibility you and your presentation will have.
Get out from behind the lectern. The lectern separates you from your audience. It’s a physical barrier. You’re—at least partially—hidden from your audience, and there are some subtle messages about openness and trust going on here.
If you’re worried about getting away from the microphone, use a wireless mike. You’ll have more mobility and greater flexibility.
Are there exceptions? Sure there are. If you’re speaking to large group (fifty folks or more), you may need a podium to make yourself visible. If you have a lot of notes, you may need a lectern to hold those notes (although you can ease some of your need for notes with your visuals).