One thing we have all quickly learned during this pandemic is that all of us are experiencing new things. Besides the pandemic itself, maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever worked from home or your first video conference or, if you are like my wife, your first time needing to read from a teleprompter. A pandemic now means no more in-person meetings or presentations. Instead, corporate execs like my wife are in virtual meetings or presenting on-camera. She recently asked me for my best advice and tips regarding how to properly read from a teleprompter for an upcoming on-camera video appearance. As it turns out, that conversation led to this very informative blog! Here we go…
What kind of teleprompter will you be using?
This is a really important question because there are many different options out there which range from a phone app to a tablet which sits in front of the camera lens, to the very best option, a professional teleprompter package with an operator. It is unlikely you will have that best option because it is the most expensive but if you do-bravo! This will be the easiest to read because the operator will scroll the words faster or slower to meet your needs during your read. I’ve used this method before and it really does make the process so much easier. Well worth the money if your company has the budget.
The second best option is the Ipad or tablet-based app. Most companies use this version because it delivers a semi-professional performance on a small budget. There are a variety of teleprompter apps which can be downloaded. From there, the tablet is usually placed in front of the camera lens with a piece of glass and a cloth hood to block out light. You can then directly look into the camera while reading your script, as it is reflected on the glass. The third and least professional option is the phone-app-based teleprompter. This option is nearly free but requires you to place the phone as close as possible to the camera lens so your eye direction looks normal. It’s not easy to do and not recommended for the rookie.
Where do I look and best way to read the script?
Seems obvious but there is more to this than meets the eye. The goal is to be looking as directly into the camera lens as possible, so you are speaking directly to your audience. (That’s why having to use a phone app is so brutal because people can see your eyes going back and forth between the camera and the script). The key is to look into the camera but try not to track each and every word, as again, your eyes will be very visible. Instead, try to maintain eye focus in the middle of the screen. You will still be able to read all the words but without your eyes tracking from left to right.
As far as reading, practice first! Get comfortable and familiar with the script BEFORE your shoot day. This will make the process more natural for the recording.
Read your script out loud to your spouse or a friend. Are you reading too slowly? Too fast (very rare)? Do you have good energy? Get feedback and make adjustments, as needed.
Shoot Day Tips
On the day of the video shoot, arrive a little early and practice reading your script again. Additionally, ask the video crew to let you do a practice read as a final tune-up. This will also allow them to set your read rate speed on the teleprompter app. Don’t forget to check your hair for fly-aways and make-up too. Finally, and this is also important, try to smile at the very beginning and very end of your read. These are the two spots where the editor will be most likely to show your face on-camera. The middle is usually just your voice-over showing other shots or graphics, slides, etc.
An opening and closing smile always looks great. Do these things and you will knock it out of the park!
Rich Dubek is a two-time Emmy award winning TV news reporter with more than twenty five years of news media experience at the local and network level. He is President of the Dubek Media Group, specializing in expert media training messaging, and on-air coaching, and full service video production. The Dubek Media Group is based in Tempe, Arizona.