Have you ever seen someone really struggle while trying to read a TelePrompter? It can be a painful experience. Luckily there are some easy things we can do to help on-camera talent get comfortable with the prompter.
First: Be familiar with your script. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people have not even looked at the script until they get in front of the camera. That is a very bad idea. You must be familiar with the words you are going to say. That has to happen before shoot day.
Second: Practice reading. Ideally, practice reading your script from a real TelePrompter, days in advance of the shoot. If that’s not possible, read the script from your computer screen rather than paper.
Third: Own the words. There is a big difference between just reading words off a screen, and actually speaking. Practice with a trusted colleague and ask if you sound like you’re reading. Remember that each and every sentence has a word of greatest importance. Learn to stress that word. Try reading a Dr. Seuss book out loud. Seriously.
Fourth: Slow down, then speed up. The first few times you practice your read, do it slowly. Linger on words and sentences to let them sink in. Then when you’re confident with the script, pick up the pace. Your on-camera read should be at a normal, conversational pace.
Fifth: Get comfortable. Good posture helps your delivery. If possible, stand rather than sit. Find something to do with your hands (other than stick them in your pockets.) If the lights are bothering you, let your director know. Too warm? Too cold? Too many distractions? Speak up.
Sixth: Bring your personality along. Rather than advising you to “be yourself,” I’d suggest that you “be yourself plus 10%.” By that I mean, make your delivery and your mannerisms slightly larger than real life. (Unless you’re a jackass, in which case you might want to make them smaller.)
Seventh: Get to know your Prompter operator. You will be dancing a tango with the prompter op. He or she will stay in lock step with you, speeding up and slowing down to follow your delivery. Know his name and develop a rapport before the camera rolls.
Eighth: Have a drink. Not bourbon, but water. Have a bottle of water within reach and take a sip between takes to avoid dry mouth.
Ninth: Smile. All sorts of minor stumbles and gaffes can be rendered unnoticeable with one simple technique: A smile. Take a breath and smile at each break point. Make it look like you’re having fun, even if deep down inside it’s the most terrifying experience of your life.
Now if you do all these things, will you automatically become a world-class TelePrompter reader? As a matter of fact, yes you will. Good luck and let me know if this helps.