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Design of Lecterns and
AV Presentation Millwork

presentation millwork at a corporate sales presentation centre

above lectern from the presenter's sideOne of the most important aspects of a room intended for AV based presentation or instruction is the lectern or presentation millwork. It tends to be at the visual focal point of the room so it is a major architectural feature, but more importantly, it also houses all the "hands on" AV equipment that the instructor or presenter needs to communicate with their audience. The presentation millwork has to combine basic ergonomic functionality with architectural interest.

With the growth of AV based presentation technology we have seen an increasing demand for various types of AV hardware in the millwork. A typical lectern may have a permanent computer (sometimes two, an Apple and a PC) with a keyboard and a mouse per computer, the facility to connect a laptop computer, a computer monitor, a control panel that may range from 5" to 15" in size, sometimes an annotation tablet that replaces a computer monitor, a document camera, a VCR or DVD player, and a fixed microphone that all have to be placed in a usable location for the presenter.

In addition to all that hands on equipment there will undoubtedly be a substantial amount of not-so-visible support equipment including; power supplies, computer video interfaces, small video switchers, isolation transformers and line drivers, and a vast amount of cable, plus adequate cable raceway to provide conduit entry through the floor.

another variation
many variations on a theme
Chemistry lecture theatre demo lab table/lectern
sometimes the lectern is large for architectural reasons
and they can be portable if absolutely necessary
There are always two competing demands for a lectern; A) to have it be small, svelte and minimalistic so it doesn't look like a two car garage parked inside a lecture theatre; B) to locate all that AV equipment within arm's legth of an instructor or presenter so that they never have to break their contact with the class or audience while delivering a lecture. In a classroom setting there is often a desire for the lectern be small enough that it doesn't become a wall between an instructor and their class, they'd like it to be transparent and no larger than a stick with space for their notes on top so it is easy to walk around. At the same time there is a need for horizontal space to layout the presenter's notes and material, sometimes to have an extended horizontal display or demonstration surface on top, plus the need to access all the AV equipment when it's required without undue effort.

Inevitably the client and architect or interior designer always envision a tiny, airy and elegant structure that could be moved out of the way when desired. As the lectern equipment list and cable count increases, there's always a point in the process where no one can believe a lectern has to be as big as it has grown, and that it can't be made smaller and portable or mobile. Once the ergonomic location study is done, and all that "hands on" AV equipment is located in 3D space so that it is accessible and at a usable height for a presenter, everyone is distressed to find that, even when the lectern is "shrink wrapped" around the presentation hardware, it's still the same size, and sometimes ends up being even larger. If the AV equipment position or function is compromised by the aesthetic demands, the presentation millwork will draw a great deal of criticism from the users.

The AV, power and data cable bundle can be as big as a person's leg, it usually isn't practical to make a high tech AV presentation lectern movable. It isn't impossible, but it requires an additional set of architectural design compromises that extend to include provision of a deep recessed floor box large enough to contain all the needed connectors, or accepting a large umbilical cable bundle stretched across the floor. A cable bundle that has to be connectorized at the floor will grow to a minimum of double the cross section area at the connectors, and you still need space to get hands and fingers between the connectors. A cable bundle that might be 6" in diameter will likely require a box about 18" square to accommdoate all the connectors. Connectorization will add several thousand dollars of expense, and will introduce a potentially terminal failure point into an AV system. If the connectors or cable are damaged while moving a lectern it may render the entire AV system nonfunctional, not just a single item. We haven't mentioned the additional labour component of having to pay someone to setup and connect the lectern and test it before a presentation, or the requirement to book that setup in advance of using the room. We generally recommend against movable AV presentation lecterns unless there is a suitable support staff available to configure and maintain the AV system in the room.

presentation desk in council chamber
Movable council chamber presentation desk for seated presenters

umbilical cable and connectors to allow presentation table to be removed
Connectors to allow presentation desk to be removed including
a tether cable to prevent it from being removed while cabled.

There's numerous other design factors that have to be considered including: handicapped access, vandal resistance or security in university applications, practical and cost effective materials and construction details, incorporating available cabinet hardware to minimize custom fabrication, colour and light reflectance in video conference and distant education applications, etc.

We have a great deal of experience in lectern and presentation millwork design for AV intensive applications, we work closely with the architect or interior designer to coordinate the technical requirements while allowing as much latitude as is practical for the aesthetic design of the millwork. We've assisted universities in developing standardized lectern designs, and we've done elaborate custom one-off lectern designs for corporate applications.

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Mc Squared System Design Group, Inc Mc Squared System Design Group, Inc
323 - 901 West 3rd Street
North Vancouver, BC V7P 3P9
Phone 604 - 986 - 8181