Teleprompters have been around since the late 1940s, as a piece of rolled-up paper in a suitcase. Thankfully, they’ve come a long way since, and are now used worldwide for all sorts of speeches. It’s not usually something we think about, but news anchors all around the world, or even politicians giving grand speeches are usually reading off a thin pane of glass which tells them exactly what to say, word for word.
If you are in need of some voice-over help for a video – take a look at our series of posts: A beginner’s guide to preparing voice-overs.
So what exactly is a teleprompter? How do we use them? And, more importantly, when should we use them? Join us as we explore all this and more in the exciting world of teleprompters.
What is a teleprompter?
Simpler than its name might suggest, a teleprompter is a device that shows someone a script, telling them exactly what to say. The aim is to aid someone in giving a clear and consistent speech while keeping the existence of the script hidden. Teleprompters are used in all kinds of situations, whether it’s helping the local news anchor read the weather for today or a public speaker. The use of the teleprompter helps a speaker look professional by aiding them in maintaining eye contact with the audience – whether they are in person or watching on a screen.
How does a teleprompter work?
There are several types of teleprompters that work in different ways, most of which require the use of a teleprompter app. This software allows you to set a script that will show up reversed – an important feature as teleprompters make use of reflection to hide the existence of the script. These apps can be found on most types of mobile devices, such as tablets or mobile phones. Also necessary to use a teleprompter is a remote control, used to stop, start and control the speed of the text to the speaker’s will.
Each type of teleprompter comes with its own strengths and weaknesses, and is important in deciding which will work best for you:
The camera mounted teleprompter
A camera mounted teleprompter works with text which is bounced off a thin pane of glass placed in front of the lens of the camera itself. One of the more flexible types of teleprompters, they come in various shapes and sizes so can be fitted to suit your needs. However, due to this inconsistency, should you be using an AV company, it is imperative that you make sure these details match up with your AV provider to ensure your teleprompter matches up with the camera provided. Otherwise, you might be left in a situation where you can’t use your teleprompter as intended.
The presidential teleprompter
Similar to the camera-mounted teleprompter, this model also features a mirrored glass pane. The difference here however is that the pane is placed on a pole rather than directly on a camera. Because of this, this teleprompter is more popular for giving speeches, as it allows the speaker to look at the audience through the glass. Another strength of this specific type of teleprompter is that multiple screens can be placed in several spots around the venue, allowing the speaker to look at the entire audience throughout their speech making it look even more natural.
The floor/stand teleprompter
Unlike the previous two teleprompters, the floor and stand variants use monitors which don’t require mirrored glass. These types can be angled on the floor, mounted on a stand, or even hung in the air from rigging points, allowing them to be placed in more places than the previous kinds. Just like their presidential counterpart, these are good for speeches given to a live audience, however, due to their placement, it can sometimes seem obvious that the speaker is looking down or around at teleprompters around the room.
Why and when should you use a teleprompter?
Depending on how formal or informal your presentation might be, teleprompters help maintain professionalism as well as showing confidence. If you pair your teleprompter well with the situation you’re giving your speech in (camera mounted for television, presidential for a live audience, etc.), you can maintain eye contact with your audience, allowing you to connect with them making a more effective speech. Additionally, as the teleprompter delivers a script directly to you, there is a reduced likelihood that you might make an error or miss out on any important details in your speech.
On the other hand, a teleprompter might not be necessary for your speech. If the environment is less formal, a simple set of cue cards and notes might be a better idea. Teleprompters are expensive, as are the people that operate them. Furthermore, if your audience is small, a teleprompter might seem large and in the way, especially if you have multiple presidential teleprompters set up, for example.
Now that you have a better understanding of what teleprompters are and when and why you should use them; once you’ve come to know your equipment and the types of audience that suit it, you’ll come to love how easy speeches can be with the use of a teleprompter.
If you’re interested in writing scripts for your speeches, why not check out our guide on how to write great voice-over scripts.