Teleprompters and laptops in the rain. Expensive electronics and water. What could be better?

Still, when I’m asked to come up with a solution, I’m happy for the challenge.

I’d like to share some solutions and best practices for teleprompting in the rain or other wet conditions, like boats.

One event was for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 inauguration as California Governor in Sacramento. We were told the weather forecast and that I would need to place my camera teleprompter on a jib.

Giant 55 gallon contractor garbage bags are your friend. I wrapped the camera as well as the jib motors in such a way that any rain wouldn’t pool (affecting the weight and balance.) I also had to prevent any water that might drip down cables to the monitor. I bought clear plastic bags to cover the monitor screen.

Everything worked perfectly. Luckily, it stopped raining after the event, so tear-down was easy. I still had to let the cases and other exposed gear dry out for a few days… so, perhaps I’d suggest hazard pay or an extra gear charge if I did this again.

An associate of mine, Aaron Ralph Thomas, sent me these lower images of his experience, teleprompting in Delaware. He asked me about solutions for operating a presidential teleprompter in the rain. I repeated the clear plastic bag suggestion and a few other tips including having cables drape lower so that any rain wouldn’t enter that way. He used the tips, made a few modifications to his system, and everyone was happy. Good job Aaron!

For boats, I’d do the same: wrapping everything a little tighter since the spray would come from more directions, and be extra careful with the sealing, and rinsing because of the salt content in the water… depending on where your boat is.

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Yup, emojis have crept into teleprompting!

This was a special circumstance, because the dialog was between two actors looking at camera. Their talk with my 20″ teleprompter  was rapid fire. Their names would actually take up too much space scrolling  on the screen.

Normally the solution is to just delete their names entirely and specify colors like what you see: Larry’s text is in Yellow, Mary’s text is in White etc

…but the talent wanted… emojis. And we try to make everyone happy.

So, I snuck online, found a site that is a copy/paste dictionary for emojis at a decent resolution… then asked the talent who they wanted to be…

A Unicorn and a Koala. Boom: find/ replace!

And that’s the story behind this image:)

Actually, the teleprompter software I use, Presentation Prompter, will allow for jpegs, too, so if you need to include a reference slide or the picture of a happy cat to make the talent smile… it’s now easy!!!

Yay technology!

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Whew…I know I say this a lot:

“I love my job.”

Yesterday was an example of this, not just because I got to teleprompt for Hillary Clinton again, which was awesome, but also because of the awesome crew and the awesome audience that was there with me.

Hillary looked great on stage and rocked the crowd, btw… but being in an environment where the caliber of people attending was just so high, was fun on its own.

Yesterday’s conference was for the Professional BusinessWomen of California. Politicians, entrepreneurs, sports heroes, actresses, teachers, moms, and lawyers came from all over the state. They came for conferences, breakouts, and to share best practices. Four young women were celebrated as risk takers and business creators, and hence scholarship winners, too.

In short, these were some great people and great vibes. So, yes fellow attendees play a large part in how a show is perceived by the rest of the audience, the speakers, and well… me, too.

And working with a talented crew drawn from across the Bay Area is also a blast. I marvel at the skill and knowledge packed into this industry. So, going to work is always good, knowing I’m going to be working alongside people I truly admire, and who trust me with my role, too.

All of this is why I love my job and am grateful for those who ride along with me:)

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Wow. Teleprompting for Sir Richard Branson followed by an attemped robbery on the Bart train just an hour later.

Over all though, last night was great!

I got called last minute to “teleprompt for a few speakers” at a fundraising gala. It wasn’t until I got to the site that I learned it was about mixing VC leaders and extreme sports athletes with Sir Richard Branson to benefit MaiTai Global and OceanElders, whose collaborative work to tackle critical issues with other ocean organizations and world leaders have profoundly impacted efforts towards protection and conservation of the world’s ocean and its wildlife.

With multiple speakers of varying heights, I knew that I needed the ability to raise and lower the teleprompter glass without interfering with the show flow. The presidential teleprompter system I initially brought was just static: good for only one basic height.

I quickly called Ralph Kelliher from my team to drive across town with the proper gear: a TeleStepper which my robotics engineering genius brother designed and manufactures.

Ralph and the TeleStepper saved the night. Now the mirror could smoothly adjust to different heights and also hide out of the way when an awesome ballet couple took the stage.

The auction raised a ton of money for a great cause. I’m in such awe of brilliant auctioneers who can expertly pull dollars through their mixing of entertainment and more than just a bit of psychology and alcohol:)

Afterward, I lugged the (now two) heavy cases a few blocks to the Bart train station. And after getting a few stories underground, I caught the train to my direction within one minute of waiting. Yay, since at late night, the trains run with 20 minute intervals.

On board my train were three people, all looking as tired as I was. One stop before my exit, a guy stood up and made his way to the exit doors. My two cases with laptop were in between me and the door. Right as the door opened, he grabbed the closest case and made off with it.

Luckily, it’s a damn awkward and heavy case and in his rush to tug it, it fell to the ground. I was cursing him pretty hard and was able to grab the case before the doors closed on it. Whew.

I made it to the next stop, and the remaining guy asked me if I was okay. He was the same skin color as the bandit and was quite apologetic for the connection he felt people placed on his skin color and theft. I agreed that it was just individuals, not races, and we chatted for a bit. I learned he was an out of work contractor. I explained what I did for a living and he proceeded to ask me how to break into shooting X-rated videos.

Thank you SF!!!

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The answer is a good editor and teleprompter software of course:)

Most editing software can make scrolling titles for your credits. However, when you need to match what a presenter is saying at a live event, that’s another matter. The presenter could be perfectly in sync with the video which is what most people plan on.

But what if people applaud, and the presenter pauses, so now the timing gets off. Or if there’s a difficult name to pronounce or the presenter sneezes or needs to take a drink of water. Sync is lost for good.
You could also try playing the video but shuttle the speed, but that results in tracking and shuttle errors.

My solution was to use a teleprompter and adjust the scroll speed, live as needed.

I was given this task by a local hospital celebrating its employees’ service. They had tried many things in past awards and were disappointed. They asked me what I could do, and together we came up with scrolling.

The spreadsheet they gave me from HR needed quite a bit of editing. Abbreviations had to be expanded, job titles were standardized, the first and last name columns needed to be reversed, then merged into only one column, and finally to alphabetize seven categories of names within the larger total list. I learned how to do the work in Excel thanks to helpful experts on YouTube. Thanks folks!

Once I re-formatted the spreadsheet, I had the client double check my progress. After that, I moved the file over to my favorite teleprompting software, “Presentation Prompter.” I changed the size, color, and certain words to Bold to fit in with other graphics at the event. After some tests with the projector on-site, we further changed the font sizes and spacing.

Doing a rehearsal was mandatory, so that the presenter and I could get a sense of our pacing together. We fixed and issues and then did a great show.

The client was happy and brought us back for this year.

I wanted to share the tips I learned in this process so that if you ever need to scroll text live and match a presenter reading the words, you now know what to do.

Thanks for reading!

Speechwriters need to be aware of double meanings.

I just finished four days teleprompting with an awesome crew, working backstage with some of the most amazing speakers… including CEOs, publishers of major magazines, heads of  major ad agencies, actors, international humanitarians… and this guy named Dick.

Richard is an interesting name for your kid. Because even if he grows up to be a kazillionaire philanthropist and has advised the last ten presidents, this is how they’ll introduce him to the audience: with a straight face, with admiration, and care… while the crew on headsets are doing their best to stifle their Beavis and Butthead giggling.

The lesson? Give any speech to your kid to proofread first.

I got requested to operate my down stage monitor lyric teleprompter for this cover band…

…a super group, they said, made up of ex- or current members of Jane’s Addiction, A Perfect Circle, Billy Idol’s band, NIN, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc… “OK, very cool. I’m in!”

They gave me the set list when I showed up with my teleprompter and laptops: songs by Oasis, Stone Temple Pilots, the Cars, Ozzy, ZZ Top, and Billy Idol. The usual standards of fun rock songs for a private corporate event.

It was a good rehearsal. Donovan Leitch sang most of the covers with his goofy, high-energy style.

No surprise the show was a blast. Donovan did the first few songs as planned. Then… surprise: Billy Gibbons was there to sing his songs from ZZ Top… after that, Billy Idol was there to sing his songs, and then after that: freakin’ Ozzy Osbourne was there TO SING HIS SONGS!!!!!

Idol came by and shook everybody’s hand backstage. A truly good guy rock and roller. Would it be weird to call Billy Idol a gentleman? 🙂 By the way, that’s Dave Navarro in the photo, too. Just fun!

As a kid, I never imagined I’d be on the same stage, let alone doing teleprompter for Ozzy Osbourne.

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Ozzy Osbourne standing with arms upraised, in front of a cheering crowd. Dave Navarro plays guitar in the foreground. Teleprompting by Neil Tanner, Inc of San Francisco

Microsoft Word has been spellchecking me for decades with TelePrompTer whenever I type in teleprompter. Why?

Well, much like Kleenex, Xerox, and Google have become generic words for facial tissue, to copy, and to search, respectively, so has TelePrompTer.

No one capitalizes it that way anymore… sorry Word…

Originally though, the company TelePrompTer was created around 1950 by three people: Hubert Schlafly, Fred Barton Jr, and Irving Kahn from Schlafly’s original design. The teleprompter side of the business was sold in the 1960s and then the company invested in cable networks. In 1973, TelePrompTer was actually the largest cable provider in the US. It was since merged and sold many times but the weird capitalization remains for the company’s name… but not in real life usage.

Oh, and there’s a British thoroughbred horse called Teleprompter, too. He won a bunch of races in the mid 1980s and died in 2003, RIP.

Do you have to type all those speeches in?


People think we type in the entire script. Nope, this energetic cat does.

Mercifully, nope.

Speechwriters or the speaker themselves do the writing. We end up doing a rather critical task of formatting a .docx file into larger font and specific styles.

We will often then do some wordsmithing like adding specific hyphenation, emphasis, or phonetic spelling so the final text flows off the tongue because sometimes sentences that work okay on paper, like this 75 word run-on monster, don’t really hold up as well when spoken aloud which can cause the speaker to turn blue or take awkward breaths so hire a good teleprompter operator who can edit horrors like this sentence into a smooth phrase.

We’ve seen much worse in real life:)

Once the script is input and formatted, we’ll scroll the speech at the speaker’s pace, word for word.

And what do you call the person who DOES the teleprompting?

Actually, the machine is the teleprompter. The person who operates it is called a teleprompter technician or teleprompter operator.

Or, often “Hey, teleprompter dude…”


While we’re on our teleprompter soapbox I’d like to address where to place  the teleprompter technicians on a production call sheet: with the camera department, not with the Production Assistants.

Thanks for listening:)

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So last night was awesome.

First of all, it was a venue I hadn’t worked in before—the City View—above the Metreon in San Francisco.

Second, it was a fundraiser for a cause I love and support: EWG. They’re they people who rate the safety of the ingredients within the confusing variety of haircare, skin, and beauty products. (Think: what IS in my shampoo or sunscreen anyway???)
And finally, it was teleprompting for Michelle Pfieffer. And she rocked it! Not many people I’ve ever worked with have been able to sight read a script so naturally and make it as if she was thinking it up on the spot.

She rehearsed once, cold, then made some edits with me, did another rehearsal, and then showed up again two hours later for the show. And nailed it: Applause every paragraph.

The funny part of it was that the control booth was over 300 feet away. Since I didn’t bring THAT much cable for my teleprompter, and everywhere else was in public view, they placed me behind some palms… right next to the stage… And so, for two hours, I stayed camouflaged and still, like a tiger in the jungle.

I’m certain people saw me, but I played the part of intent technician, never making eye contact or acknowledging this was, in any way, even just slightly odd 🙂

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It’s all fun and teleprompter games…

I recently worked for a PC company that refuses to see Apple products in their facility.

So, much like the days when we’d read comics hidden in our science textbooks—I present my solution:

I simply placed my Macbook Pro behind an open PC laptop in their studio. So there!

To the client, their authority is complete while they get the awesome teleprompting experience they expect.

Yay, everyone is happy.

We play games even in adulthood 🙂

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