Top 7 Tips for Using a Professional Teleprompter

A professional teleprompter, or Autocue as it is known in the British Commonwealth, can be a very helpful tool for speaking on camera – when used properly.

While most business presenters are used to reading from notes on paper, they will appear less constricted and more relaxed when using a mirrored teleprompter on camera.

In many instances where financial or legal statements have to be totally accurate to avoid potential confusion or unwanted repercussions, a teleprompter will substantially increase accuracy.

Here are seven tips for properly using a professional teleprompter.

1.    Most importantly, THE SPEED OF THE SCROLL IS CONTROLLED BY THE PRESENTER. The operator only follows you.  The natural tendency for people who first use a teleprompter is to race faster and faster, because they are afraid the words will disappear off the top of the screen before they can read them.  It is important to impress upon the presenter their prompter operator is listening intently to their every word.  Think of the operator as a security blanket 

If the presenter has the time, it often helps to practice speeding up and slowing down in an effort to shake the operator.  When they experience the operator is keeping up with them no matter what, they gain confidence and know they are in good hands.

2.    Ask the teleprompter operator to set the font size to suit your eyesight. The bigger the font, the fewer words are on the screen, so you will have a less opportunity to see what is coming up.  But when the words are too small, you will struggle to read accurately. Professional teleprompter software in the hands of an expert makes this easy.

3.    Unlike a regular document, you cannot see very far ahead on a teleprompter screen. Please make sure you read the script beforehand and are thoroughly familiar with it. Of course, if you have written it yourself, then so much better.  Definitely take time to practice reading it out loud on the teleprompter.  The experience is very different from seeing it all on a page.  There are usually a few minor tweaks that need to be made, which are not apparent when reading silently.

4.    Ask the operator to underline or italicize any teleprompter text you would like to emphasize.  It is best not to include too many stage directions like “turn towards Barbara and smile.” These take up space on screen and can be very distracting.  Also, there is the risk that you will read these out-loud as well. Those moments are sure to crack up your audience, but your credibility will plunge. Especially if this is broadcast live.

5.     As you are looking at the teleprompter script, remember that you are also looking directly into the video camera.  Therefore, smile and speak to the camera as a friend. It helps to imagine the face of your peer, client, or whoever you are trying to reach.

6.    Either make the teleprompter script margins smaller or move the camera further away. When the camera is fairly close, it is obvious that you are reading side to side, and it will reduce your credibility.

7.     Allow your head to move naturally. When you lock your head in a fixed position, only your eyes can move to read the teleprompter text. Notice how you speak to people in regular conversations.  Your head is rarely still.  Even small movements prove you are genuinely interested in what you’re saying.

Teleprompters let you be yourself.

However, the time to learn is not two minutes before you start filming. It would be more advantageous to learn the tricks of the trade in a more relaxed and calm atmosphere.

When properly used, a professional teleprompter can take away much of the stress and fear associated with presenting on camera.  When financial or legal requirements are necessary, there are no slips of the tongue that can come back to haunt you. Rather than striving for the right words, you can concentrate on being believable and relaxed.