Teleprompters – Making the Most of a Necessary Evil

An illustration of a woman shaking hands with a teleprompter

Teleprompters can be great when newscasters need to nail facts during a live broadcast. But they are trained media professionals who learn how to sound natural while reading a script.

The executives at your company, on the other hand, might not benefit from a teleprompter in the same way. They might come across as stiff and rehearsed rather than informed and confident. Tribe has learned over the years how to make the best out of a necessary evil.

Execs Aren’t TV Talking Heads

In the movie Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, someone in the newsroom accidentally adds a question mark at the end of the news anchor’s sign off—and the dimwit reads it on air.

Ron Burgundy demonstrates it well: Teleprompters are a mixed blessing. Technically, they’re meant to help on-camera performances by allowing the speaker to read from a prepared script. But often you’re so busy reading the words— there’s little room for you to be yourself in the process.

Teleprompters Can Cause Stiff Speakers

Part of the problem is that we subconsciously lower the bar when someone is using the teleprompter. We expect a certain level of inauthenticity to creep in when someone is reading off the screen, because it is nearly impossible to speak naturally.

When leaders and their communication team operate with this belief, they’re suddenly willing to settle for “good enough.” They’re more likely to check off the box that the communication is done, but are they really communicating in the true sense of the word? Are they making an impression, moving people, connecting and engaging with them?

There will be times when leaders will need to depend on a teleprompter—however unpopular they might be—if they have to deliver concise messages.

An Inauthentic Performance Kills Your Video Message

The biggest problem with teleprompters is that they often impede leaders from being themselves on camera. They don’t leave much room for your personality to come through when you’re reading your exact script of a screen. This is especially the case when the leader doesn’t spend time getting familiar with the script before filming. Many CEOs want to show up, read the words (which unfortunately they may be seeing for the first time), and call it a day. That approach doesn’t help anyone—not the leader or the viewer. But teleprompters do have their place in filming video if paired with even a little preparation.

Execs Need Teleprompter Practice Before Performance

Nobody can walk onto a film set and rattle of a great teleprompter performance on the first try. Even revered performers struggle with the teleprompter, so you can’t expect yourself to nail it on the first or second take. It takes patience and lots of self-forgiveness before you can truly find your groove reading from a screen.

If you fall into a situation where you have to use a teleprompter for your entire on-camera presentation (perhaps your legal team requires you to word something exactly right, for example), give yourself a break. Be aware that like any skill, you have to put in some real time to learn the craft. Most CEOs tell me that after a half dozen sessions, they start feeling more comfortable. And after a dozen, they have found their own rhythm.

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“It’s one thing to understand the role of video in business communication, it’s another to know how to use video to solve actual business problems. Vern Oakley gets that.”

LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT

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