Why use a prompter?
During a presentation in front of an audience or a television camera, have you ever forgotten to mention a key point or later wished that you'd phrased something differently? Have you ever been too busy reading from your notes to engage your audience? Have you simply been too nervous because you were afraid that you'd forget something? A prompter solves these problems by displaying the text in front of you. A trained operator scrolls the script at your speed--it rolls like movie credits--and you can relax and speak with confidence because you can concentrate on your message.
If you've ever watched a political convention or seen the President's State of the Union address, you may have noticed two pieces of glass that are positioned near the corners of the lectern. Presidents have used this type of electronic cue card since the Johnson Administration. Television news anchors appear to be looking at the viewer, but actually they're reading their script on a similar piece of glass that's positioned directly in front of the camera.
What is the difference between teleprompting and speech prompting?
Not much. When we talk about teleprompting, it involves someone speaking primarily to a camera. For us, speech prompting means that speaker will primarily address a live audience. Some events involve both types of equipment, but all live events require experienced, cool-headed operators with redundant equipment.
What's the set-up time?
That depends on the type of shoot and the type of teleprompter. A freestanding prompter takes 15-25 minutes to install, depending on the complexity and layout of the set. A camera-mounted prompter takes a little longer than that. A live speech requires more equipment and many adjustments, and we prefer a minimum of an hour to set up before the scheduled start of rehearsals.
Can changes be made during a shoot or speech?
Usually. During a shoot, an operator can make a change in the script on request. Of course, taping must stop while the operator types and formats. To save time, we recommend that a finalized script be ready before the time of the shoot. For live speeches, changes are typically made during the rehearsal. Small, last-minute changes may be necessary and will be accommodated, but if graphics, video, or other elements of the show are involved, time should be allotted to ensure that everything in the presentation is well coordinated.
How and when should I provide a script?
We prefer to have a finalized script at least a day in advance, when possible. Email is the best way to send us a script, but if the script is not ready until the day of the shoot, plan on using a thumb drive.
In what format should the script be written?
Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx)
Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Plain Text (.txt)
How should scripts look?
Certain script formatting choices will help a reader give their best, as well as aid in formatting for the prompter. This can be important, especially if the script is available only on the day of the shoot. Essentially, plain text in mixed case, broken into paragraphs is best for prompting. We'll be ready sooner if you include only the text that the talent or speaker will be reading. Columns, colors, tracked changes, tiers of bullet points, and other special formatting add to script preparation time, will not be clearly represented by the prompting software, and could distract a reader. But if you don't have time to eliminate additional information like headers, graphs, tables, charts, and production comments, we'll do it for you.
If your script has multiple speakers, we recommend speaker names be typed in capital letters and contained within brackets at the start of each speaker's sections. To add emphasis to any words that need emphasis, typing those words in capital letters or underlined is best. We try to maintain any words in italics or bold, but they can be harder to notice in the prompter than capital letters or underlining, and they can sometimes be lost in the script formatting process.
What are some good tips for using a teleprompter?
Remember that the speaker is always in control of how fast the script scrolls. The teleprompter operator will follow the speaker, so if he or she talks faster, the words will scroll faster. Similarly, if the speaker slows down, the words will follow his or her new pace. If the speaker pauses, the words will stop moving. The text will generally stay on the screen until the speaker has read everything.
The best way to feel comfortable using a teleprompter is to rehearse a speech prior to your event. We strongly recommend scheduling a rehearsal time a few hours, or even a day, in advance.
Since the speaker does not need to turn away from the audience in order to look at notes or search for the right word, here are some suggestions for speakers that can make a speech sound more natural:
Allow for natural breaks or pauses. You can even add a note to yourself in your speech, for example, "[pause for applause]"
The teleprompter operator can underline or put words in ALL CAPS for emphasis
Use contractions. We'll sounds more natural when spoken than we will, but sometimes we will can give more emphasis. Again, read your speech aloud to see how it sounds.Ask a trusted colleague for feedback.
Concise sentences and paragraphs are the best way to get a message to the audience. Minimizing long statements also makes reading from the teleprompter easier.
The speaker should read from the top of the screen so that the next piece of script is visible below.
To make the best use of the presidential prompter, the speaker should read a few sentences from one screen. When switching to the other screen, if the speaker can remember a sentence or a phrase that can be delivered to the center of the audience, that will look more natural. It's pretty easy, and we'll be glad to coach you.
And practice, practice, practice. A speaker should read his or her speech aloud repeatedly. That's a great way to find errors in your speech that would otherwise slow you down during the show rehearsal. We recommend using the show rehearsal to practice how you want to deliver your address and not what you're going to say.