A speech prompter might seem very easy to use, but there are technicalities on its use that require more than just reading from it. Learn important tips on how to use a presidential prompter.

Using a speech prompter can be hard

There are some speakers who think that reading from a speech prompter is easy, so they skip the practice. However, this is one big mistake. When it is simple enough to read scrolling text, it is not exactly very easy to turn into a report-building and energetic talker that will move your audience to act. A public speech is more than just words read into a microphone it is a performance that is intended to communicate ideas. If you think that these ideas are important to you and your listeners, you have to deliver them with commitment, personality and passion

It is rather ironic that communicating these ideas are mostly impeded by the need to read words. To effectively communicate, you need to build a relationship with your audience. Most first-timers who speak with presidential speck prompters end up being wooden and monotonous. If you are a business and is looking to avoid a dull performance, below are some suggestions to make your performance in front of a teleprompter a notch better.

1. Pause to refresh

One big difficulty when speaking from a speech prompter is overcoming the tool of words that can turn even the most intelligent speaker into a mindless parrot. You have to impose your rhythm on the speech, not the other way around. The most important element in rhythm is to pause. Keep in mind that the speech prompter will merely follow your lead, so it stops when you stop. Pausing is a sign of confidence.

2. Read in phrases

Pauses is not the only way to control pacing while reading the presidential teleprompter. During rehearsals, look for groups of words and figures of speeches, and read from phrase to phrase rather than work to word. Good phrasing is essential in overcoming a monotonous speech. You have to interpret the speech an enliven the words with energy. Good phrasing gives ventilation to a speck, so it is easier to understand.

3. Make the writing tense

Short and simple sentences that quickly get to the point are more easily grasped by the listener. Compound sentences and convoluted syntax are traps for the speaker. Look for interesting and dynamic verbs and make sure you do not slump into passive voice. Repetitions are good qualities in a speech. Also, restate your points in different ways. These are great for all speeches, particularly for a speech prompter.

4. Perform with Energy

So that you do not end up with a wooden monotone while delivering your speech, you need to speak through the screen where the words are reflected to the audience beyond. A good speech is considered an amplified conversation, so you need to give both halves of the conversation. Therefore, by pausing, phrasing or listening to the other half, which is the audience’s half, you will bring the speech to life.

5. Rehearse on video

A very important tool for practicing is a camcorder. Take a video of your rehearsals so you can see your energy level as you communicate. See if you look like you are talking with someone, or if you are droning in. Also carefully listen to your voice as you deliver your speech, and then play the video without they sound so see your facial expressions. The purpose of the rehearsal is to make your speech look easy.

6. Give yourself stage directions

There are newer models of speech prompters that allow you to use different font styles, color and symbols to indicate emotions, gestures and facial expressions to appear on the screen, along with text. The teleprompter operator will be very helpful in making and suggestion useful personal text notes for you. Of course, you still need to practice these kinds of things thoroughly.

7. Use a teleprompter in other ways

It is not always a good idea to have a speech written out in the teleprompter. You can break away from it and return it once you are done. There are even presenters who only have an outline of their speech typed in the teleprompter just to help them stay on track. Ensure that you have good paper notes with you while delivering your speech. Just like any device, teleprompters can let you down.

Truly, presidential speech teleprompters make the life of a business speaker a little easier. So many executes today are now reading from a scrolling white text on a dark background when they deliver a speech. However, as useful as the presidential prompter is, it also comes with its share of pitfalls. It is only by being more aware of these pitfalls that the savvy speaker can prepare and overcome the dangers of this important tool for speakers.

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I’ve been teleprompting professionally for at least 22 years now. I got to thinking how cool life is. I just felt it needed to be put out there, as a simple act of thanks to many of the people who have given me some nice opportunities and who have been fun to be around in this cool industry.

The following is kinda long. Read it if you feel like getting to know me better. Skip if you know I’m pretty happy in life and that’s enough:)

Big thanks to my film teacher at Chico state, George Rogers who got me my first internship at Murphy Film Group near Sacramento. Bob Murphy and Carolyn Belz were excellent and kind as they allowed me to learn on the job as they made commercials and political spots.

They introduced me to Cal Image who put the first teleprompter in my hands. I ended up working for both Murphy Film Group and Cal Image freelance after my internship ended. Because I was using temperamental “well-used” gear and expected to provide professional service, I chose to purchase my own prompting system to augment what Cal Image provided.

They quickly let me know since I now owned equipment, they saw me as a competitor and stopped hiring me… which forced me to be self reliant and by default, ta-daa: a competitor:) I sincerely thank them for letting me go, and forcing me to start my own company.

When New View Films came to shoot several spots in Sacramento for the Money Store, Murphy Film Group gave them my name as a good Production Assistant.

Danny and Barney Colangelo introduced me to a higher level of commercial filmmaking, plus many crew members whose skill and humor amaze me to this day. Dave Lezynski, Lambo, Garrett Freberg, Carolyn Tyler and Mary Sue Thomsen. Eventually, I moved up from PA, to art department, to teleprompter operator. Working with the Colangelo brothers was my entry to the Bay Area filmmaking. Much gratitude guys!

It was my awesome roommate Pat Sielski who gave my name to Total Media and Magnetic Image that started my audio career…

The wonderful people at Mag Image in turn gave my name to Susan Reimenschnieder who brought me aboard the Cisco/ Howard Charney/ Mary Barnsdale/ Jeff Eby/ Arnel Torres “world traveling teleprompter” train for about ten incredible years. Whew… I still miss that stuffed passport.

When Total hosted a shoot for Oracle, I met Bruce Hamady who facilitated many fun shoots with me now billing myself as a corporate art director and set builder.

Emery Clay is like a brother to me, working together on HGTV shows, and even convincing them they should do a “House Detective” show on my “should have never been built” house in Point Richmond.

I’m super grateful for my incredible, fantastic team of prompter operators: Ralph Kelliher, Jim Thylin, Martin Hyland, Charlie Kuttner, Jason LaBatt, Crystal Nickerson, my brother Thom, Marcos Johnson, and my new scheduler, Dawn Scribner. Zak Eby and Chris Thylin are just starting with my company:)

There’s been so many other cool people and companies, too, and in no particular order: Chater Camera, Rebel Sun, Alan Steinheimer, Jon Francis Films, Lucasfilm, Little Giant, Greg Freeman, Hub Strategy, Mac House, Ken Butler, PacSat, Acme Spots, Macy’s Satellite Network, Mark Herzig, Craig Patterson, Luke Seerveld, Robert Strong, Chris Coughlin, Doug Freeman, Paul Tisa, Japji, Conchita, and JP Morgan, too.

I’ve not listed everyone cool in my career here, sorry. Know that I appreciate you anyway. A lot.

Even Mr. “Got to Go!” Bennett.

I’d list the entire past & present Reel Directory if I could (Thanks Lynetta Freeman)
This is such a great career—where I can honestly say I love coming to work—serving clients, learning a ton, and making the talent be comfortable and authentic.

I’m just in a special place: Thanks y’all! Here’s to another 20 years of fun, camaraderie, and magic.

In humble amazement… Neil Tanner

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“Couldn’t I just rent your teleprompter and do this myself?”

People watch us operate our gear and see that the show is smooth with great results. They then wonder if they could do the same thing without having to spend money on an operator— just do it themselves.

I admit I’m biased with my response. My team and I have countless years doing teleprompting and training of speakers. We know all sorts of tricks to make the speaker appear more natural on camera.

Learning new software is doable but not when a camera crew and your CEO is waiting:)  More than once a client handed me a new script right before walking on stage. I had three minutes to get it right. Do you want that pressure?

We definitely offer rentals.

If you have a casual job and aren’t rushed, then renting from us is a good, inexpensive solution. Producers know the difference between a high stakes job and one that is “Good enough.” Not everything has to be perfect.

All of our equipment is available for rental including  iPad prompting systems. We’ll happily train you or someone on your team. And we’re available by phone when you have questions on set.

Your choice.

By doing it yourself, you save money up front. Plus, teleprompting can be fun. You will need to split your attention between your current role and running a teleprompter, so the shoot may go longer or be stressful.

By hiring a professional teleprompter operator, you get years of dedicated experience and service. You can focus entirely on the presentation and your speaker’s needs. Yes, it’s costlier to have a dedicated teleprompter operator, but compared to what?

Ultimately, no one wants to waste time or money. Whatever you choose, we’re here to help with useful teleprompting advice, rentals, and experienced operators.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.


You don’t need to hire a teleprompting professional.

But I really recommend not using a teleprompter app on autoscroll by yourself. Just get your spouse, friend, or admin to run the app and match your speed.  For example, the number “$23,577” takes up a small amount of space on the screen, and would go by quickly on a preset speed. However, to speak aloud “twenty-three thousand five hundred and seventy seven dollars” takes a lot longer. Suddenly you’d be behind and quite likely hating prompters:)

Your assistant can match your pace with a handheld speed controller, or even another iPhone or tablet.

Phrases that look good on paper don’t always sound great when spoken.

Your friend can listen and give feedback too. Speakers get passionate may not notice they missed words or made no sense. A friend will catch it immediately. This saves you from only noticing it when you’re editing the video, long after you’ve put away the camera and lights.

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A history lesson on teleprompters from the early 90’s…

Instead of bright, lightweight LCD or LED monitors that you can use outside in the sun, running off your iPad or laptop… I learned how to do this on paper scrolls and heavy CRT monitors.

Actually, that’s not entirely true… here’s the story. The place where I was interning circa 1991, loaned me out to neighboring production house. They put me in the role that no one wanted to do: the teleprompter operator.

So, they showed me their old paper-scroll dinosaur. Someone would type or hand write the script on a very long seamless roll of paper. This paper would be scrolled by hand or motor in front of a macro lens video camera. This image would get fed to the flickery CRT monitors for the talent to read. Editing was simple: cross out the words with a Sharpie, use Whiteout or tape a new scrap of paper on top of the existing scroll paper.

The production house was proud of their new purchase, a field teleprompter computer!! It was heavy, awkward and definitely not mass produced. This was built like a tank and used proprietary software. It connected to a keyboard and had outputs for connecting to the same blinky CRT monitors… but this was computerized!!! You could edit it!!! Sorta. And since it was not a sexy but rather time consuming job with little prestige… it fell to the intern to operate it. :/

Welcome to the future of teleprompting, my young friend!

Here’s an old card I found of my cheat sheet for running the software. You had to type the script into the keyboard. Technically, you could load in an ASCII file from a disc that you wrote on another computer, but that was torture and often times useless. The screen that you could see, both for editing and scrolling live, was three lines by about 20 characters in a dull, glowy LED characters. The bug was if you scrolled backwards in edit mode more than three lines, it would crash the whole system and need rebooting. Basically, as the young college kid, I had defacto become the on-set computer geek that beat the cutting edge high tech into submission, or vice versa…

Dot matrix LED display of the word

There was no battery powered version, and no monitors that were readable outside anyway… but we could now take this out of the studio! Which was revolutionary. And throwing the intern at it, allowed me to get my foot in the door and choose a career that I now love.

Thanks Murphy Film Group and Cal Image Associates for taking me on and placing me where no one else wanted to go. That sort of logic has persisted in my life: do the thing no one else wants to do, and become the expert at it.

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Both… I generally try to take mass transit when I do teleprompting in downtown SF, even if it means lugging cases and carts on BART. (that’s Bay Area Rapid Transit for those of you outside of San Francisco)

Today however, its because I’m temporarily car-less. Last night, as I drove up the 101 from another teleprompter gig, the rear hatch on my Ford Focus wagon magically opened… at 70mph. Because of the wind, the hatch stayed down until I cut across the five lanes and slowed to 20mph, then it swung upwards on its own.

Luckily for me -and the cars behind me- the 80 pound teleprompter case stayed in the car. So, I calmly threw on the emergency flasher lights then gaff taped down the door:) Yay! Gaffers tape fixes everything! (And amazingly didn’t take off my car’s paint!!)

Today, I drove the car to the dealership, walked a mile pulling the teleprompter case to our storage unit, then swapped that out for an empty cart, then dragged that to the Bart station, took the train downtown, walked six blocks to my client, picked up grabbed a freestanding 19″ teleprompter unit that they were finished with, (pictured) took Bart back to the storage unit and headed home.

Whew… quite the workout:)  All on foot or train.

Final note, I got the car repaired the next day. It was a design fault by the manufacturer that was surprisingly common. So, until next time?

Even with all the obstacles, I stayed green, stayed calm, and still satisfied my clients with our teleprompting services. This is our commitment to you, our environment, and our health.

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I get asked this question a lot. I imagine it helps with the pedigree and trust. 

I’m proud of my clients over the 20 years of teleprompting. It’s always an honor to hear who I’ll be working with next.

Even though I’m closely contributing to their speech and performance on-stage, I may not have direct contact with the speaker. Some presenters, like senior politicians, just run in, deliver their speech and then disappear into a waiting limo. However, their advance team has worked with me closely to ensure everything is right. Both the President and the First Lady have very detailed instructions on how the Presidential teleprompter mirrors are placed. And while I’ve shaken President Obama’s hand and got a photo, I often only get a peek at these political speakers from down a hallway as their agents whisk them backstage on to the stage. Still… knowing that people at this level rely on my skills is a great rush.

On the other hand, I can work much closer with executives—like Sun and Union Bank’s CEOs—to help craft their speeches and work with them on their presentation and delivery. My skills help them better deliver their message to their clients— and that makes me proud to contribute.

One of my favorite experiences was in 2009. I flew to Mexico to work for a week coaching the “Pan American Games 2015” team from Lima, Peru. An amazing speech coach, Dia Bondi, and I worked with a team of 9 presenters including the Mayor of Lima, several government Ministers and Olympic athletes to fine-tune their presentations. Lima was one of three finalists for the right to hold the Games.  Toronto, Canada and Bogota, Columbia also presented. Each finalist team was given a short session on-stage to win over the judging panel of princes and other country representatives. After the tense sessions that followed with representatives and royals promising to support one city or another, Toronto ultimately won.

Trusting us with your scripts is very important to me and our team. I work on all sorts of political campaigns, like those of John McCain, Mitt Romney, both Barack and Michelle Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, other elected officials and countless propositions.  Again, your trust is something I take very seriously. Because of that trust, I’ll often sit in high-level “war rooms” where speechwriters hammer out what their candidate will say against somebody I may very well teleprompt for the next day!!! I’ve worked for both sides of California Governor races with candidates Jerry Brown against Meg Whitman, and earlier candidates Gray Davis against Dan Lungren. I have to be neutral and just give everyone my best.

I’ve also assisted many faith based organizations: ArchBishops, Bishops, Priests, Rabbis, Jews for Jesus, Muslim Advocates, Mormons and  Scientologists—plus some potentially controversial organizations like GLAAD, NARAL, and AIPAC.

Sir Edmund Hillary is still likely my favorite… He’s like royalty in my book:) My next biggest fan boy moment was the honor of going backstage at ILM’s Skywalker Ranch and the Barn with George Lucas and his creative team.  My mom’s favorite celebrity that I’ve assisted is Charlie Rose. And I figured I had finally made it, when I was faced with the very tough choice of referring Al Gore to another team member so that I could work with Robin Williams and Robert Redford on the same day instead:) The most surreal and unique celebrity experience was easily David Hasselhoff, who never broke character as “The Hoff,” even when rehearsing for his US musical tour. He was a great guy regardless of what I expected.

Live shows are a blast: they really put me to the test… Dmitri Martin did several episodes of “Important Things” with me in San Francisco over a two year period. I really enjoyed working with his talented, hilarious scriptwriters. Making edits just seconds before they went live was a real challenge that kept me on alert. That same kind of calm and confidence is what allowed Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s assistant to change his script on one laptop while I was simultaneously teleprompting on another laptop, for the executive immediately preceding Steve . (I don’t ever advocate this move… Always finalize the script 30 minutes before the show so I can format and massage the words.)

Working with musicians is a special feeling since I get to be part of the ensemble… I recently worked with T Bone Burnett and just loved it. Previously , I’ve assisted Rufus Wainwright, Michael Bublé, Liza Minelli, and Taeyang. My team has worked with Sting, Snoop Dogg and Metallica.

Because some people are not comfortable with the potential stigma of being seen as relying on teleprompters, some request not to be listed on my Clients Page but most of the big names I’ve assisted are there, even companies that are no longer in business or have been acquired. This was really common in the Dot.com era. RIP Alza, Sun, SBC, Veritas, Macromedia and most recently URS…

Ultimately, it’s an honor to be trusted with clients’ VIP speakers regardless of celebrity or executive status. Give us a call today. No matter who you are or represent, we’ll make sure you get the same exceptional treatment that our safety and confidence creates.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.


Zen Teleprompting

Teleprompting is a dance.

People often assume that the teleprompter operator drives the speed of the speech. They think that we just set the pace and the speaker has to follow us. It’s not uncommon for people to think they’d just get an iPad to loop the script. There’s even those that believe teleprompting is really just setting up the gear and that anyone can do it..

Whether it’s a live event or a video, we actually follow the speaker as they move through the speech. Ultimately, that’s the biggest factor of our success: our focus on the presenter. We feather the control to perfectly match their speed.

I can be working backstage for a live event, with the whole crew on headset, and even though they’re all chattering away about work or sharing humor, I need to tune all that out and focus on the presenter. If I allow my focus to drift, even for a second, the speed and the words I control can affect the speaker.

I’ve seen it happen on video shoots too. If I get distracted by even the slightest bit, I can feel the speaker drift, or start adding extra words or making mistakes.

One of the greatest, but most subtle compliments I ever got was from the assistant to the First Lady. She told me that when Mrs. Obama, who has used teleprompter operators all over the world, was having a bad teleprompter experience, she would add lot’s of umms in her speech. In working with me, the assistant pointed out that the First Lady didn’t “umm” once. Again, it’s a subtle scale, but one that counts:) It made my week!

Teleprompting is finessing the script as well.

Words that seem fine on paper may just trip the tongue when spoken aloud. So, as operators, we wordsmith the document. Often we’ll be given the speech just an hour before the presentation, and we’ll run through it, sorting things out. For example, we’ll make screen directions—like “Turn and leave the stage” or the name of different speakers— in a different color than the main body of text. This alerts them that something other than black and white is not to be spoken.

When we’re practicing with the the speaker, we’ll notice how some words are trouble, and we’ll either suggest substitutes, or ask the speaker what they’d say in their own words… since often the speech was written by someone else. A finer point of teleprompting is when we notice that their eyes might jump down to the next sentence line early, so we’ll purposely add some returns to make the words flow.

Again, these are just some of the subtle things that we as teleprompter operators do to make your experience the best possible.

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I’ve seen a lot of changes in the teleprompter industry.

Dot matrix LED dispay of the word When I first started, a teleprompter was mostly limited to the studio. I used my client’s crazy proprietary “remote” teleprompter system that would give a composite video out, but only display to the operator 3 tiny lines of text. So, I learned to be veeeeery focused. As a bonus, if you went backwards, it would crash and require a reboot.

CRT teleprompter monitors.When I got fed up using other people’s gear, I bought my own system. It was an Apple Powerbook 180, running Quickprompt by Marietta Designs. Prompting with a laptop computer? That was high tech! I fed it into a MirrorImage TP-140, a tank of a CRT (cathode ray tube… the non- flat panel monitors) teleprompter that was very reliable and very heavy. It required a Magliner dolly to transport the massive Thermodyne cases and counterweights, but wow, no downtime, ever… definitely the early stages of portable teleprompters.

I upgraded to a Powerbook 5300cs, followed by a Powerbook G3 Series, a Lombard, a Pismo (my favorite Apple ever), a couple black Macbooks, G4 12″ (I still have some as backups.) We currently use 11″ Macbook Air units for my team while my personal machine is a 13″ Macbook Retina display.

Teleprompter software went through changes as well.

I ran Quickprompt until OSX came around, and then moved to Magicscroll.  Marietta Designs was working on ScrollTrain, which was their OSX teleprompter software, that would be capable of showing JPEG graphics as well. Sadly, they moved on to other projects, and ScrollTrain never made it to beta… I used Magicscroll until it stopped updating. I finally found a worthy successor: Presentation Prompter. I like it because it’s updated regularly and yes, it uses JPEG graphics. More on why I love that option for teleprompting, in another post.

For prompter hardware, I’ve liked MirrorImage over the years. I currently own two 15″ units, and two 12″ units. One is a highbright unit with monitors by Boland Communications. I modified all of these to balance quicker, extended the mirror angle options, and increased the mirror size for the 12″ units to 15″ hoods. You can see all my current teleprompter gear on my Camera Mount Teleprompter page and look through the various systems.

Building a custom prompter

When I was asked to teleprompt in conjunction with a film camera with massive matte box, I built a custom trapezoid prompter with a soft hood on the back, similar to the old wet plate cameras of the 1800s. I also inherited three QTV prompter hoods from the CRT days and retrofitted them to LCD monitors. Because of the metal hoods and large sheets of glass, these are still heavy units, but I modified the mounting hardware for quick setup and freestanding options.

Our 7 inch prompter in handheld modeI also bought a very well machined QTV master series PSP8 that I fell in love with at NAB. I swapped out the monitor, then added a pair of handgrips and a shoulder mount for handheld shooting. I’ve since been supplied with a several PRomptBox units, both VGA and tablet based. These are great since they fit to the shoe or 1/4″ of a camera.

I built my own presidential or speech prompters system years ago, with clamps and mirrors from MirrorImage. I later purchased a great outdoor presidential system from them, that I’ve modified for quicker and lighter setup, and also some windproof options.

When I saw the need for a robotic rise and fall presidential teleprompter system, I asked my brother, Thom, who is a robotics and mechanical engineer for help. Together we designed and he manufactured our TeleStepper. It’s gone through three versions and been used by Michelle Obama, various Senators, Lucasfilm, Chevron Corp., UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Dr Oz among others. I’m proud to announce it’s now for sale.

When I first did an Interrotron rig for Birkenstock, I immediately recognized the need for an HD option. So, I purchased a 20″ Boland highbright monitor to interface with the QTV hoods and pair with my 12″ HD unit and made my first Interrotron.

I also have a great IDX wireless video system for teleprompting with Steadicam or handheld. Plus I have all sorts of gizmos and other odd size prompters that I’ve custom built or modified for special situations.

The EyeDirect Mark III also own a couple EyeDirect units which make for riveting interviews.

All this equipment is available for rental, and in some cases, like our TeleStepper, for purchase.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.




The awkward Michael Bay teleprompter moment has been shared worldwide, yet it could have been easily prevented.

Director Michael Bay spoke briefly at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to talk about the new large screen curved displays from Samsung. The talk was streamed live. Michael was supposed to read from a downstage monitor (DSM.) Apparently, when Bay jumped ahead in his script, the teleprompter operator tried to find a place for Michael to regain sync. After a few moments of uncomfortable ad libs, Michael apologized and left the stage. Many people have since commented that they recognized the signs of a panic attack. Watch this video, then I’ll talk about how to prevent something like this unfortunate experience.

I’ve been teleprompting live events like these for over 20 years. Since I don’t know the teleprompter operator at the venue, I can’t speak to what actually happened. However, in my experience, many things can prevent this. The first, is to do at least two full length rehearsals. When you’re dealing with high level celebrities, their assistants and schedules often leave little or no time for these rehearsals. People assume that speaking on stage using a teleprompter is easy and may decide to just “wing it.” A full rehearsal covers everything a speaker does on stage: their walk-on music, roll-in videos, moving lights, their script start to finish, their slides, plus interacting other speakers or any objects on stage like the monitors here. Full rehearsals are critical for situations like this where Michael Bay was reading what someone else wrote.

Have someone who knows the teleprompter script at your side

Downstage Monitor, or DSM teleprompter, is great for performers walking around on stageBecause the DSM teleprompter equipment only displays a portion of the entire script, the speaker is reliant on the teleprompter operator to show the current lines. When we do these shows like this, usually after rehearsal, we’ll be very familiar with the script and can recognize when the presenter jumps off script to ad lib. We’ll wait and then when they begin reading again, we start scrolling the script again in sync with them. However, there are some shows where the script is complicated, the content confusing, or where there are many speakers. In these cases we get either an assistant or someone from the client’s team who will sit next to us. Having someone who really knows the script and product (or even the speaker) can help in deciding when to move forward.

Listen for clues after Michael Bay exits

Bay left Samsung Executive Vice President Joe Stinziano alone on the cavernous stage. While Stinziano was not comfortable, he clearly has experience with a teleprompter and speaking publicly. Most importantly, he stays focused on his intention. Around 1:39 on the video, you’ll hear him say “Look, how about right there.” He’s likely talking to the teleprompter operator, who was moving the script forward to find an acceptable spot to get back in sync. This event will actually be the catalyst for my future talks with speakers “If we get out of sync, here’s how we handle it…”

Have a backup plan and stay in control

Yes, most speakers rely on the teleprompter operator and equipment to function perfectly. However, this is a great example of why I always suggest my speakers have a printed copy of their script in 18 point font at the lectern. In this case, since the presenters wandered freely about the stage, notecards with bullet points would be great to have in a pocket.

Ultimately, the presenters need to be clear on what the intention of the speech is. In this case, the intention could have been to introduce why a curved TV makes the most sense for displaying Hollywood blockbusters. If somehow the speaker and teleprompter operator get out of sync, the speaker should just step back, make a joke, ad lib a little and give the operator a chance to find out where to come back to. Michael Bay and his aborted speech is a perfect counterpoint to Bill Clinton. The President said that he uses his teleprompter as just that—something to prompt him on what he already knew to say. It wasn’t a word-for-word life support.

A similar show with similar high stakes with a better ending.

I did a show once in Mexico where the Mayor of Lima, Peru was addressing the Pan American Games Committee in hopes of hosting the 2015 games in his city. This was a very important speech with pride, jobs, and millions of dollars at stake. We had rehearsed plenty, in fact an entire week ahead of time. However, during the event, the Mayor went off his teleprompter script, suddenly jumping approximately five paragraphs ahead. By the time I found where he was, he had panicked and was talking about something else. Luckily he was comfortable with the script and material, and could ad lib without the audience suspecting much.

What I did was to gently scroll his teleprompter script back and forth until he found something he could latch on to. Once he found that phrase, he stayed locked with me the entire rest of the speech. When the applause was over, he came backstage and clasped me in a long bear hug that spoke volumes about our invisible dance.

Watch how Joe Biden handles a similar situation with humor.

Seriously, he comes off grandfatherly, but he masterfully catches his teleprompter being out of sync, makes light of it, and carries on.

So what are the lessons from this uncomfortable CES stage show?

Avoid awkward disasters like the Michael Bay CES speech by running full rehearsals, being clear on the intention of the speech, and having a back-up plan if sync is lost between the speaker and teleprompter operator.

Learn how our friendly team of skilled teleprompter operators can save you time and money.