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.

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

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.

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

 

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 presidential teleprompter demystified: no, they can’t see your words.

Our remote controlled robotic Presidential teleprompter system for UC DavisI created a post about how the camera teleprompter works here.

When I was a kid, and I saw photographs of these glass panels around a lectern, I just thought they were bulletproof glass to protect the speaker. Like, someone knew exactly where an enemy would fire from 🙂 I’ve also had people ask if they were microphones—like those parabolic dish mics seen at football games.

The technology is derived from the Pepper’s Ghost displays made famous in the 1800’s. Disneyland uses this in its famous Haunted Mansion, where phantoms “sit” in the cab with you.

Reversed text on a teleprompter monitorIn the case of a presidential, or speech teleprompter, there’s an LCD monitor flat on the ground, pointed at the ceiling. The words to your speech are large, typically 56 pt to 72 pt.

The speed of the speech is controlled by an operator, who listens to the speaker and follows along. If the speaker pauses, or ad libs, the operator waits before moving on.

Special teleprompter software reverses the words on the LCD monitors, so that when the speaker looks through the one-way mirror, it appears normal again.

Teleprompter text from the speaker's point of view.However, the audience sees nothing of this. They just see through the glass to the speaker. They think the speaker is just glancing around the audience. This effect is amplified if a video camera is zoomed in, omitting the glass. Often in live presentations, large screens have a projected video signal of the presenter. It’s called IMAG (for “image magnification”), so people rarely look at the physical speaker.  Thus, the audience doesn’t focus on the presidential teleprompter equipment at all.

If someone does notice the glass, they normally quickly forget about it, since the speaker is more dynamic than the mysterious glass on a stick. Although, thanks to Obama’s teleprompter, it’s gotten more attention.

But what if there are multiple speakers using the same presidential teleprompter?

Good question, since multiple speakers typically means a variety of heights. The mirrors are carefully aligned for an individual speaker. And that means that anyone more than a 3″ height difference would have had to adjust THEIR height to see the words. Worse, a stagehand would have to come up mid-show to bring a box for the shorter speaker to elevate themselves… and really call attention to their stature 😉

We saw the need and created our robotic, rise and fall TeleStepper to solve this problem. It has a standard 24″ range but also a extended 40″ option when you really want to hide it after use.

This video below showcases our first version, called an RRT for Remote Robotic Teleprompter. We made a ton of improvements in v2 and re-named it the TeleStepper. New video coming soon! And we’re proud to say it’s now for sale.

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

 

 

I have a long history with graduation ceremonies.

Our remote controlled robotic Presidential teleprompter system for UC Davis This is because I used to play saxophone in the marching bands for both my high school and university. At least once a year, we’d perform ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ over and over while the seniors walked to receive their diplomas in the graduation ceremony. So I got a great feeling when UC Davis asked me if we would be interested in teleprompting their speakers at commencement. One thing to understand is that they have a lot of schools within their University… so the Schools of Business, Law, Agriculture and so on, each had their individual commencement exercises.

The people involved with the ceremony are all great—very focused and dedicated to making the event memorable for the students, their families, and the faculty. We talked over the phone initially, outlining their needs and discussing dates.

Months later I drove up to work on the first rehearsal, just a day before the commencement. We set up in their massive gymnasium. I ran cables from my workstation up to the lectern. It’s about a hundred foot run of three cables: power, signal and also a control cable for the robotic TeleStepper.

With such a variety of heights for the speakers, our TeleStepper was mandatory. It was very important to the client that the event be smooth for all parties, so it meant no stopping to adjust the height of the glass each between commencement speeches, as this would interfere with the overall flow. Our TeleStepper travels a 24″ range with presets, so that I can learn, and then match the speakers’ heights quietly and discreetly.

For the rehearsal, I met with the Chancellor, Provost, the speaking Deans, students and the Special Events staff. The culmination of working together over the past years with this group was apparent. We worked one on one for a good part of the afternoon, training each person and editing their speeches.

What happened during graduation was unexpected.

Expectant crowd at commencement waiting for Provost of UC Davis to read our teleprompters It started off as you might imagine… parents, guardians and families had been filling the cavernous gym over the past hour, murmuring loudly over the band who was performing the graduation classics. But when the students finally entered the building, it was like a wave of energy swept through the place. Parents were calling out to their kids, shouting, even dialing their cell phones, in order to get their attention for a wave, a smile and a photo. It was a little like those documentary films of penguin families finding each other across amid thousands of similar looking penguins. 😀

People were justifiably emotional since this was such a big deal for them. I saw families of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Many clearly came from out of the country, adding to the pride and excitement. Families with younger siblings had a taste of what could be in their future as well. To be very honest, I got misty eyed too.

And that was before the commencement speeches! There’s such a difference in rehearsing a speech in an empty room, and then the power of giving that same speech to a packed hall, with people giving back reactions, laughs, thoughtful silence and thunderous applause. Mercifully, no one read the 500 names off the teleprompter so I had some down-time to soak in the overall emotions.

Again, I can’t explain just how powerful the pride and link was between the families and their graduating seniors. Three hours of this left me very hopeful and very drained. It was a quiet drive back home to San Francisco. Happily, they have repeatedly asked us back, and I’ve since teleprompted other Universities’ ceremonies. This is now one of my favorite clients. Please give us a call to assist your next live event.

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