As more and more events become hybrid or completely virtual, the ability to use a teleprompter with ease will enhance the quality of your presentation. Of course, the opposite is also true; fumbling with your script on a screen can make you look panicked, low energy, and under-prepared.
Being a great presenter means you have developed mastery with all the tools at your disposal. When used well, you may utilize a teleprompter at your next event and vow to never go back to improvising your content using only your memory, bullet point notes, or a slide deck as a reference. Teleprompters, when used correctly, should make you look polished, confident, and natural. But once you know you’ll have access to a teleprompter, this is no reason to slack off and slide into the room 20 minutes before the event. Good results with a teleprompter take practice and patience.
These are three of my top tips for using a teleprompter during business presentations:
- Make the content conversational. As a coach, I notice that many people type content much more formally than they speak. A client might have scripted, “I would like to now share with you all a helpful preview of the current market and how it will be very different in the year 2021.” People rarely speak this formally in person. We like to say speakers often “write it to be read, not said.” In this example, all the contractions have been eliminated, making the speaker sound tense and too formal. Also, the sentence is too long to be delivered naturally. As their coach, I’d help them rewrite the content to read more like this: “I’d like to give you a quick preview of the current market and what to expect in 2021.” A tip for sounding natural while reading a teleprompter script is to dictate your content into your phone how you would say it to a colleague and then type it out while listening to playback.
- Maintain energy and infection. A strange phenomenon happens with people who read a teleprompter: they almost go into a trance as they read the scrolling script, turning their delivery monotone and robotic. Have you ever driven to the grocery store, and when you get there, you realize, “Oh wow, I don’t even remember driving here!” The same thing happens when reading a teleprompter; it almost soothes you into becoming Ben Stein, the Economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Be sure to add back in your infection, conviction, energy, and enthusiasm. And guess what? Most people don’t realize you can mark up your script for the teleprompter, such as using BOLD, underline, and colors. This attention to detail helps make your inflection easier to deliver when reading a scrolling script.
- The lens is your friend. When you look at the words on a teleprompter, you are looking at the reflective glass, and the camera lens is behind the words. For this reason, presenters need to look at the content with more than a mechanical cold stare. Imagine you are presenting to a ballroom full of approving listeners who think you are brilliant, funny, attractive, engaging, prophetic, and a world-class presenter (because you are, of course, all these things). Or, if you don’t have a deep-seated need for approval from others (weirdo), think of someone who makes you happy; your spouse, your best friend, or your Amazon Prime delivery guy. Either way, let that warmth and energy help your content “pop” and your personality come through, and avoid looking at the camera like it’s an unwelcome insect on your bedroom ceiling. (To look at an actual unwelcome insect here in Austin, Texas, where I’m located, click here. My kids saw one at school last week)
Virtual Speakers Can Also Use Teleprompters From Home
It’s important to note that you can also use a tablet, iPad, or iPhone and turn it into a teleprompter using a bracket mounted to a tripod, or a teleprompter app can be used directly on your phone. A laptop can also be transformed into a teleprompter. This setup is ideal for occasions where you are prerecording content or speaking at a virtual conference, webinar, or meeting from home and want to access your notes in complete sentence form. The text scrolls remotely (often with voice control auto-scrolling) and is easy to read at a distance, just like a traditional teleprompter.
Although it’s not difficult to learn, using a teleprompter takes time to develop mastery and comfort. To set yourself up for success, don’t have your assistant write your content for you. It needs to be your words and phrasing to look and sound natural.
During recent work for a private equity client who was recording their annual investor meeting, I told a few of my nervous, first-time teleprompter clients, “If you can read, you can succeed!” Of course, there’s much more to it than the ability to read but smiling and staying loose is an excellent place to start.
By collaborating on content with your speech coach and taking an hour to practice with the teleprompter, you’re sure to nail the presentation and even enjoy the freedom that a teleprompter provides. Have a meeting or presentation coming up and need to master the teleprompter? I’m happy to hop on a Zoom call and share a few tips. Please email me at [email protected], and one of our coaches worldwide will be glad to get you 100% ready.