Why You Should Temper The Teleprompter Temptation

A trainee of mine recently asked if he could use a teleprompter for his presentations. He whipped out his iPad and showed me a teleprompter app he’d downloaded.

While the app was impressive, I told him it was a very bad idea.

Truly, I understand the temptation. There it is, your entire presentation, sitting in front of you like a warm, comfortable, digital security blanket. Politicians use them. Television hosts use them. Why shouldn’t you?

Simply put, it can ruin your presentation.

That “comfort” you’d get with the teleprompter comes at a huge price: your connection with the audience. That may be a necessary evil for some speeches with huge consequences, such as the President’s annual State of the Union Address, but not for the vast majority of business speakers.

Remember, even if you’re saying all the right things but not connecting – say, for example, because you’re reading your speech off an iPad – the audience won’t retain your important messages. That’s why we advise our presentation trainees to remove any obstacles they can between themselves and their audience. For example:

  1. – Don’t stand behind a podium if you can help it.
  2. – Don’t use closed body language, like crossing your arms in front of you.
  3. – Remember that your PowerPoint presentation, if you’re using one, is there only to enhance you and your delivery, not to replace you.
  4. – And finally, please, don’t stick an iPad teleprompter in front of you as a high-tech cheat sheet.

In addition to jeopardizing your audience connection, a teleprompter isn’t always the most reliable tool, especially for those of us who would have to use an iPad app in lieu of the professional equipment. Imagine your iPad draining its battery in the middle of your speech, or the teleprompter going too fast, thus forcing you to lose your place in your speech. Even the pros have their scripts handy in case the teleprompter fails (and believe me, it does). The faux-security it provides simply isn’t worth it.

So what can you do to feel more comfortable with your presentations? Practice practice practice! Rehearse out loud. Have a co-worker you trust listen to and watch you and give you honest feedback. Run through your speech more than a few times to become familiar with the material.

And remember, the goal is not to memorize your presentation. You want to become so at home with your material that you can speak about it using only a few bullet points on a notecard in front of you as your guide. The more time you put into preparing yourself, the more confident and authentic you will be in front of your audience.

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