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Top Tips for Using a Teleprompter or Autocue

The autocue or teleprompter can be a helpful tool for speakers and presenters.

Whilst researching the topic I discovered a great little post written by broadcaster and voice-over artist David Riley.   I contacted David to ask for permission to share it with you and he instantly agreed so here is his post.

Using Teleprompter/ Autocue To Camera
“There are many arguments about whether or not “non professionals” should use teleprompter. Most business presenters are better off working from notes, as they appear less constricted and more relaxed then when using some form of on screen prompting.

IMage of a teleprompterBut this is partly because they’ve never learned to use a prompter properly. In some instances where legal or financial statements have to be 100% accurate to avoid potential confusion or unwanted repercussions, teleprompter is a vital way of guaranteeing this accuracy. But the time to learn is not two minutes before you start filming. Much better to learn the tricks of the trade in a more calm and relaxed atmosphere.

The script or text is shown on a monitor mounted on the camera, beneath the lens It’s in mirror image because it is reflected up to a glass panel in front of the camera lens which flips it the right way round and makes it readable. The text is scrolled bottom to top by an operator on a laptop. There may be a little cursor on the screen, towards top left to give a guide. To see more pictures go to Teleprompter photos

  • Remember the speed of the scroll is controlled by the operator, and they will follow you. Don’t try to beat them or worry you’ll run out of words. If you pause, they will pause
  • Ask the operator to set the font size to suit your eyesight. The bigger the font the fewer words on the screen, so the less chance you have of seeing what’s coming up. Too small and you’ll be struggling to read accurately
  • Unlike a document you can’t see very far ahead, so do read  the script beforehand and be familiar with it on paper. Of course if you have written it yourself so much the better
  • Mark in any changes of thought or topic, so you can navigate your way through the text. Speak to your operator who will type in any words in bold or underscore – whatever you prefer. Don’t ask then to type in too many “stage directions” though. These take time to read, can be distracting,and there’s always the risk you’ll read these out as well. This provides plenty of amusement for everyone else, but your credibility plunges to zero
  • Remember, in looking at the words you are also looking directly into the camera. So smile and speak to the camera as a friend
  • Keep your head, neck, and shoulders relaxed. If you lock your head into a rigid position, only your eyes can move to read the text. If the camera is fairly close it’s very obvious you are reading, and it reduces your credibility
  • Let your head move naturally. Study how you speak to people in a normal conversation. Your head is rarely still. In fact it only needs tiny movements laterally and vertically to stop it getting locked into the “stare”

Used properly, a teleprompter can take away a lot of the strain and stress associated with presenting to camera.

Instead of struggling for the right words, you can concentrate on being relaxed and believable. Where legal or financial requirements are paramount, there are no slips of the tongue which can come back to haunt you.”

David has other articles about the use and abuse of the teleprompter – check out his blog www.davidriley.co.uk

Gavin Meikle, The Presentation Doctor

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