Congratulations! You’re going on camera and you’ll be reading a script from a TelePrompter. That means somebody thinks you’re pretty darn special.

If this is the first time you’ve used a Prompter, you probably have some questions. Like, what is a TelePrompter, anyway?

A TelePrompter (Prompter for short) is a mirrored contraption that sits in front of a camera lens. The script is projected onto it in such a way that you can read it while looking directly into the lens. An operator sits not far away, controlling the speed of the scroll to stay in sync with your delivery.

Your first time using a Prompter can feel a little awkward. Luckily there are some easy things you can do to pull it off like a pro.

1. 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, and that has to happen before the day of the shoot.

2. Practice reading. Ideally, practice reading your script from a real Prompter, days in advance of the shoot. If that’s not possible, read the script from your computer screen rather than paper. Here at Allied Pixel, we are happy to have you come in and practice on Prompter before the shoot.

3. 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. To get a feel for this, try reading a Dr. Seuss book out loud. Seriously.

4. 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 clip — not rushed, and not too slow, either.

5. 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.

6. 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 little manic, in which case you might want to make them smaller.)

7. 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. Try to develop a little rapport before the camera rolls.

8. Adjust. Text formatting and size are adjustable. If you’d like the words to be a little bigger, just ask your Prompter op. You can also switch the text from white on black to black on white if that makes it easier for you to read.

9. Have a drink. Not bourbon, but water. Have a bottle of water within reach and take a sip between takes to avoid dry mouth.

10. Smile. All sorts of minor stumbles and gaffes can be rendered irrelevant 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 you would rather be walking on nails.

Alan Pratt did a nice job on Prompter in this infomercial we did a few years ago:

So, 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 have fun.

Bill Haley

P.S. Have a question about video? Let me know and I’ll try to answer it in a future post.