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:
- – Don’t stand behind a podium if you can help it.
- – Don’t use closed body language, like crossing your arms in front of you.
- – Remember that your PowerPoint presentation, if you’re using one, is there only to enhance you and your delivery, not to replace you.
- – 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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Great article, Christina. I’ve lost count of the times these sorts of things have blown up in the middle of a presentation.
But why did you mention the iPad app because now my geek side is insisting we go check it out 😉
I certainly agree with this advice. Reading the text of a speech in a live presentation is a bad idea. If you want to have something in front of you, stand that iPad up in a seat in the first row and have it display your presentation slides so you can maintain eye contact with your audience as you click through your slides. This keeps you from turning your back on them to check that the proper slide is displaying (or God forbid, to read somthing off the slide… For Shame!).
The only time I like to use teleprompter software is when I am prerecording a presentation that will be edited and broadcast later. Having a text means you can exactly repeat something you mess up on, or even go back and do a retake later for splicing in. It keeps your speech flowing smoothly without pausing and searching for the right words. And if you position everything correctly, you can maintain eye contact with the single focal point of your camera lens while still reading the text.
The problem is that most people assume a script means they can rehearse less, which is not the case. You have to practice saying the words enough times that they sound like natural extemporaneous speech rather than sight reading. There is a skill to “performance reading” and it is not natural!
By the way, my preferred teleprompter software is Script-Q. Not free, but very powerful. I just ordered a USB foot pedal controller to manage forward/backward scrolling out of camera frame. I’m interested to see how it works out.
Thanks for the comments, John and Ken! Ken, your mention that the problem with having a script or prompter handy means you can rehearse less is exactly on-point. Your presentation can’t sound natural if you haven’t rehearsed it more than a few times.
As for appealing to your “geek side” John, I have to admit, when I saw the app, my geek side was impressed! I wouldn’t use it, but it’s cool that it’s available!