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Teleprompters: the best kept secret of successful video presentation

Posted by Tim Cook on December 3, 2013 at 10:06 AM

 

Does this exchange sound familiar:

Producer:   We can bring in a TelePrompter.

Client:  Oh no, we don’t need one. He/she is an expert who gives this presentation all the time.  He/she will be fine. 

Well, after more than three decades of doing this work I can absolutely say that 95% of all “experts” would be substantially better in their video presentations if they used the prompter.

TelePrompters have been around for a long time.  And most people are extremely familiar with their benefit.  Have you ever watched local, national or international news program? 

Have you ever seen a moving speech?  “Ask not what your country can do for you….”   or “I had a dream….”

Do you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for a winner to be announced on American Idol, The Voice, the X Factor, the Emmys, the Academy Awards?

Do you watch commercials from the owners of Jordan’s Furniture, Perdue Chicken or The Men’s Warehouse?

They all use TelePrompters.  Why?  Because they are trying to get a precise message out.  

Prompters allow you to deliver exactly what you want to say as if you were handing someone a carefully worded letter. 

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Let’s face it, communication can be very challenging.  And the clarity of the message can often get obscured or even left to interpretation.  In fact sometimes that’s the desire – get people to talk about something and “read the writing between the lines”.  But more often, people are trying to precisely spell something out with no room for interpretation, and so they have to say something in an exact, specific way. Prompters allow you to do that very well!

 With a prompter, you are not searching for the right word – even more important – you’re not forgetting to mention something that, in the heat of the presentation, might slip your mind.  It is a tool to control what you say and how you say it!

For example, imagine you are working with a senior executive on a very tight schedule.  He/she has to communicate something very important – but they’ve been in meeting all morning and aren’t really concentrating on the presentation at hand.  Sound familiar?

 With a TelePrompter, they can shed the distractions of the morning and deliver the critical info easily because it’s right there in front of them.  And if you have to do multiple versions or takes, having the written word allows you to pick up at certain points along the way without “forgetting” something critical.

Of course there are a few tricks to using TelePrompters, and one of them is practice.  But the good news is that practice can happen right there on the set before the camera is even rolling.

Another trick is to learn how to pause.   Many people feel that they have to talk non stop, which often raises their anxiety level when giving a presentation.  Yet building in pauses is natural, and gives you a second to take a breath and catch yourself, just as you would in a conversation.  And those pauses are especially helpful when you build in rhetorical questions.  After all, this is a conversation – it’s just not a two way conversation. And by pausing or posing a question to the audience, you allow them to engage more in the message, and absorb it better.  Besides, the prompter operator is going to stop with you, so you’re not going to lose your place. 

The other trick, and the most important one, is to write the message for the ear, not for the eye.  Have you ever written a speech or an essay that looks great on paper; but just doesn’t sound right when it’s read out loud?

Clear, concise writing is an important commodity in all walks of life… but writing for the ear is very different from writing for the eye.  So it’s important to read your message out loud so that you can “hear” problems such as long, confusing sentences, or complex language.  This simple technique, more than anything else, will vastly improve your prompting experience, and significantly increase your message understanding.

And don’t forget… if you need to make changes you can edit your prompter script on set in real time.  It’s an easy and powerful way to shape and deliver the right  message every time.

For those who still don’t want to “read” a script, a teleprompter can prompt you with bullet points… and you can even feed a PowerPoint presentation through a prompter so that you are looking directly at your slides instead of a lens.  Add a wireless remote control to the mix and you can even drive the presentation yourself!

Bottom line… video is a very personal medium.  Even if your audience numbers thousands, a TelePrompter will allow you to give the illusion that you are communicating individually to each and every viewer, and that’s powerful!

So don’t leave a valuable tool like the TelePrompter out of your toolbox.  Embrace it, and see your performance and your message soar like never before!

-Barry Ouellette is a Senior Producer at DigiNovations and can be reached at barry@diginovations.com

Topics: Corporate Video