Over the last several years I’ve come to realize that one tool beyond many others truly makes a difference in both the ease of production as well as streamlining the creation process. You already know the answer from the title of the video- it’s the teleprompter!
Back when I started creating videos over 10 years ago, I would have told you that teleprompters made things look staged and robotic- I wouldn’t have recommended them. Today, my thoughts about them have gotten more complex.
Let’s start by addressing my 10-year-ago-self; yes. It definitely can ruin a video and make it seem impersonal or fake; but it doesn’t have to. There are reasons to use a teleprompter and methods to integrate them that really assist production.
The primary reason I like to use the Teleprompter with my clients is because presenting a message is often really intimidating for someone who isn’t always in front of a camera. The idea of memorizing something and reciting it can terrify people- I’ve seen it a million times! Having a script for someone to read can genuinely help them, by bringing focus to the presentation of the message instead of the words. The presentation of the message can be huge in how a message is received. You can speak a lot about nothing and if you articulate it well- it can inspire. Check out Will Stephen’s “How to sound smart in your TED Talk”- it’s a classic.
The next reason I like to use the teleprompter is when a client, or I am trying to get a lot of content created at once, or several video’s worth. Someone who is really skilled at speaking can store up several messages or a long script, but when someone really wants to make the best of a couple of hours in the studio, using a teleprompter to help guide their videos can definitely make things more efficient.
Now it sounds like I’m all pro teleprompter at this point, but I will say it’s not for everyone. I’ve had several clients who will get stiff, crank their neck, and lose flow to their messages. For these clients, I usually turn off the teleprompter and switch to a simple question/answer format so it’s more conversational.
But if you’re planning on using a teleprompter, here are a few tips to do it right.
First, when reading a teleprompter, let it empower you to speak with your body. Most people use body language when they speak, as it helps them articulate. When you don’t have to think as much about your messaging, people tend to lose that body language. So move your hands, your head, smile a little! Just don’t rock back and forth or swivel in your chair, as that is more of a nervous movement.
Next, don’t think you need to get it all in one take. I’ve had very few clients be able to do it all in one go! It’s pretty easy to cut to another camera, or do a quick crop in or out to hide a cut.
Finally, you need to make sure your videographer knows what they’re doing. It’s easy to set up a teleprompter but it takes a lot of skill and experience to make it look good and to hide the fact that the speaker is reading.
Ask your videographer if they’ve used a teleprompter before, and if they can show you examples of it. Observe the speaker’s eyes in those videos and make sure the eye movement isn’t too obvious and that the speaker doesn’t look strained or awkward. A little eye movement is unavoidable, but too much will distract and confuse the viewer.
Anyone can buy cheap Teleprompters for mobile phones, but the small screens make things hard to read and oftentimes the glass on cheap Teleprompters will impair the video clarity. I always advise new videographers to have at least a 7 inch screen for their Teleprompters to save themselves from issues of light bleed and difficulty reading.
All in all, teleprompters are an excellent tool if used for the right person in the right scenario by a professional who knows what they’re doing.