By hiring a teleprompter operator, you’re never alone on stage.
But first I want you to notice the stock photography image above, included for educational purposes.
That’s a photo that some people think represents presidential teleprompting. But actually, the glass is turned 180 degrees, facing the audience… and it’s way too short for the presenter, who’s not centered either. Yay!
So, please hire professionals. I’m happy to say we got hired once to make sure things were correct for the movie Wall-E, when the sole live action actor, Fred Willis was reading from a prompter.
Sometimes I do presidential teleprompting for just one presenter, out of the many that are speaking.
I ask if the others want to use the teleprompter. Some jump at the chance saying “I always wondered how these worked!”, or “This is so cool—just like the Academy Awards!” We practice before the show and they do great! All smiles after the show.
Others may decline the offer. They say they don’t want to be perceived as having to rely on a crutch, or being weak for not memorizing a 30 minute speech. Or, I hear “My note cards are fine.”
You don’t stare at people’s shoes when you talk to them, right?
Presidential teleprompters offer more connection with the audience than note cards. Most people reading cards are just able to glance up for a millisecond. Instead, they are hunched over the lectern. They don’t get the full opportunity to look around the room and focus on the audience. Those that use sheets of paper are just as bad. As they pause to shuffle through the pages, they lose any connection to the people in the room.
I always position our presidential teleprompter glass so the presenter is looking right at the audience. This means their head is up straight, and their body stance is positive. They look comfortable and in control.
Also, have you really tried memorizing a speech since 9th grade? How about a speech that needs to introduce a major donor and include all the correct facts in their bio? No one wants to mess up and forget an important name or fact. No one needs that stress.
I have been on too many awards dinners where a speaker used note cards or their memory and forgot something really important. And, they only remembered it right after they stepped off stage. Presidential teleprompters remove that possibility. We make it easy to say what you want.
It’s still your speech.
Lest you think everything is read off a teleprompter word-for-word, here’s a (paraphrased) quote attributed to Bill Clinton.
“I use it to prompt me. It’s not life support.”
I do teleprompting for politicians including Barack Obama, Mike Pence, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney. I can say, with a lot of experience, that they adlib throughout their speech. Or, they may use a prompter for a section, then do a large chunk of casual speaking, then go back to the prompted script.
Honestly, it’s rare that someone reads exactly what was written. Instead, they make the speech their own. They tailor it to the crowd or the current events.
For example, I was teleprompting a commencement ceremony at UC Davis in June 2016. The horrible shooting at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, took place the previous night. Acting Chancellor Ralph Hexter ad-libbed a heartfelt and appropriate message regarding the massacre before launching an impromptu moment of silence. He then followed the prompter for the rest of the speech.
“Someone just said what I was going to say.”
You are sitting on stage, perhaps next in line to give your speech. The presenter right before you talks about the exact same point you were going to talk about. And that line is still in your script with no way to edit it out.
In my prep or coaching with presenters before a show, I’ll often have conversations about this possibility. They need to know to feel comfortable that it’s handled.
Either on my own, or with their scriptwriter nearby, I’ll remove those duplicate lines from the script. Or if there’s no time, when my presenter is getting close to that duplicated section, I’ll just speed past those words in the script.
An experienced presenter may make reference the previous speaker “As Bob already said…”, or “I’d like to elaborate on what Mary said earlier” and then continue with their script.
Regardless, the solution, I want you know that your teleprompter operator is there to make you look natural and comfortable on-stage. You’re never doing this alone:)