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To Use or Not Use a Teleprompter?

To Use or Not Use a Teleprompter?

We all have our pet peeves. Maybe it’s as simple as the toilet paper being put in “wrong” (pull down, not up, right?) Or, it’s the dirty socks that end up all over your house. For video production folks like us, one of our biggest pet peeves involves a simple reading device called a teleprompter. You’re probably familiar with it. Brian Williams uses it for the NBC Nightly News. Local news anchors use prompters. You may have even caught a newscast when the teleprompter crashed, and the news anchors were scrambling to find their place on their paper (or these days electronic) scripts.

A teleprompter is a great device. You can look directly into the camera and tell the day’s news without ever looking down. A teleprompter reflects the words directly over the center of the camera lens. Sounds good, right? Sure. If… and here’s the big IF… you know how to use one. It’s not as easy as Williams makes it seem. Using a teleprompter requires practice. Lots of it. The news anchors aren’t simply reading word by word on a script. They’re telling you a story. They use inflection and expressions. They know how to control their eyes so that you don’t see them “read.” They know how to look down at just the right moment to give a meaningful pause. They’re professionals.

Put someone in front of a teleprompter that hasn’t use one, and you’ll get eye-darting, monotone reading and poor delivery. The inexperienced person will focus so much at looking at the words that they sound like the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. (Anyone. Anyone.) Your audience will be bored and your message will be lost.

Bring in the cue cards then, right? Wrong. Even worse. Cue cards are placed above, below or to the side of a camera. What happens? The talent’s eyes dart off to the cue card. They don’t look the viewer “in the eye.” The powerful remarks dissipate.

So, what’s the solution? VideoEnvy recommends a few options. Each depends on the type of video production you need.

  1. Shoot your portions in segments. Editing separate wide and tight speaking segments together will look seamless.
  2. Speak from the heart. Don’t try to memorize line by line. Be familiar with your portion and talk like you’re telling a story to a friend.
  3. Keep your on-camera segments short. Delivering 15 seconds of quick content is much easier than delivering two minutes of long copy.
  4. Cover the remaining talking points with visual images that give you a more impactful video than a simply talking head.
  5. Interview style. Shoot your on-camera segment with an interview style. Just keep the interviewer right next to the camera so the talent will look closely to the lens to avoid the profile view.
  6. Practice. Still want to use the teleprompter? Practice, practice, practice.

When you’re spending time and money to spread your message, you want to be sure it’s heard. Nine times out of 10, it’s best to leave the teleprompting to the professionals.