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Media Training: Mastering the Teleprompter

  July 28, 2016

Working with a teleprompter isn't just for politicians...

 Have you been watching the speeches at the national conventions?  If so, you have seen speakers who are using presidential-style teleprompter (AKA  podium style).  There is a prompter set up on each side of the podium and really accomplished teleprompter speakers know how to subtly turn from one side of the room to the other, reading from the left and right prompter.   President Obama is particularly skilled at this.   Donald Trump used to mock politicians who rely on teleprompter for speeches.  When it came to his big speech at the RNC, he too used this tool.

At the DNC director Lee Daniels gave a very personal speech about gun violence.  Near the end of his 4-minute speech he stumbled a bit and said, “I’m not very good at this teleprompter stuff.”  I think most of us can put ourselves in his shoes at that moment.

If you have a good teleprompter operator and you have practiced enough, you can ad lib during a speech.  The operator needs to keep up with you and hold back the copy when you throw in an ad lib.

Getting the proper speed is important.  You shouldn’t have to play catch up with the teleprompter copy or wait for it, as it scrolls on the monitors. Even though you are reading your speech you want it to appear as if your remarks are just flowing out of you.

I have coached speakers on how to effectively use presidential-style teleprompter.  It helps to be really familiar with your speech—even if you didn’t write it yourself.  That way, you can, on occasion look straight ahead for a line or two and then quickly turn back to one of the prompter monitors.

TV anchors use a different kind of teleprompter—it is attached to the studio camera.  They need to be able to maintain eye contact with viewers and looking side to side wouldn’t work in this situation. 

If you are shooting an infomercial for your business, or producing a website video or corporate video, you’ll want to consider using a teleprompter.  There are portable units and operators who can provide this service.  You can also do-it-yourself, thanks to several teleprompter apps that are available.   If your video is really short, you may opt to just ad lib it.

For longer videos, having the script scrolling on a laptop or tablet can be very helpful.  The key is to have the device positioned just right, so that it is eye level but it does not show in your shot.

Be sure to have your final script available when you practice.  I once trained some professionals who were about to shoot an infomercial.  Unfortunately, their producer provided us with an outdated script.  While it was good to practice with the teleprompter operator to work on speed and delivery, having the actual script would have been even more beneficial.

Always videotape your practice so you can review it and make adjustments.  If it looks like you are reading, you need to keep practicing. Having your video camera positioned to a medium shot can sometimes hide the “reading look.”

Teleprompter practice can be added to Women Media Pros media training workshops





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