How to sidestep the biggest mistake newcomers make using a teleprompter
A child-proof guide to avoiding the bloopers that will ruin your presentation (and your day)
Tired of making mistakes with your on-camera delivery that force you to start over from the beginning, even when you're using a teleprompter? Then this lesson is for you.
In part 2 of this 6 part series, I show you the simple strategy and a free tool professionals use to minimize those soul destroying (and time-sucking) presentation errors.
We’ll wrap it all up with a case study.
It’s not your fault
If you’re new to teleprompters, you may be spooked by the imperfections you notice when you play back the first few takes of your presentation.
After all, teleprompters are supposed to make content delivery easier . . . aren’t they?
Take a deep breath and relax. Understand that in most cases, you will be your own worst critic. It’s human nature.
In truth, most of the little details that have you so concerned simply don't matter. Provided your message is on point and entertaining, you’ll find that your audience is usually much more forgiving than you will ever be.
That said, there will always be show-stoppers. Even professionals suffer this fate.
Video courtesy of AppSumo
Eyes to big for your stomach?
With newbies, the most common cause of these fatal stumbles is quite simple - they overestimate how much content they can successfully deliver in a single take.
The inevitable result is that they get part way through their script and make a mistake which forces them to start over.
Unless you are a veteran, loading up your prompter with scripts that take 5-10 minutes or more to read will seldom produce a great result, even after repeated practice.
In fact, it's the fastest way to get frustrated and give up.
Chunk it down
The solution to this problem is to do what the professionals do - break the presentation down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
By focusing on one scene at a time, you increase the chances of a great performance overall.
Nothing is overly hard if you divide it into small jobs - Henry Ford
Graphics are your friend
Aside from keeping your audience engaged with visual stimulation and reinforcement, b-roll video and full-screen graphics also serve a less obvious purpose; the opportunity to transition from one scene to the next.
(If the term is new to you, b-roll is the name given to supplementary footage intercut with the main shot. Its main purpose is as a cutaway to help tell the story or better explain the concept being discussed.
It’s often used with voiceover and talking-head scenes. Budget productions will sometimes use stock footage for this purpose).
Armed with this new way of thinking about extra footage and graphics, look for opportunities to use them when writing your script.
Your secret weapon in this endeavour is probably the simplest (and certainly the cheapest) tool in your video production toolbox - the humble storyboard.
A storyboard is a graphic representation of how your video will unfold, shot by shot.
To see how this all works, let’s look at a section of Suzi Lindner’s 7 tips for getting started with a teleprompter video.
After an introduction, the script moved on to delivering the meat of the content - the actual tips. Here’s how the first three tips looked on the storyboard that we provided to Suzi.
Tip number 1 is to keep your script short and easy to read.
If you're making product explainer videos, cold audiences are much more likely to watch a video that's only 1 to 2 minutes long. If you’re making how-to style videos like this one, make each segment no more than about 5 minutes.
Be ruthless about removing words, phrases and whole sentences that are not absolutely necessary to convey your message.
Tip number 2 is stand at least 10 feet away from the camera.
By standing further away, your eyes will take in more of each line with less movement side to side. Any closer and it becomes obvious you’re reading from a script.
Tip number 3 is to have someone else operate the teleprompter for you.
That way, you can concentrate on your role as the presenter. What’s critical here is that YOU set the scroll speed, not the operator. Just read the script at your own pace and let the operator follow.
As you can see, the first line of each tip was accompanied by a full-screen title graphic. After that introductory line is delivered, the graphic disappears and Suzi delivers the remainder of the tip on-camera.
In the finished product, these tips appear to be part of one continuous presentation. But in fact, Suzi recorded these tips separately and we stitched them together with editing software, using the graphics to transition from one clip to the next.
Get the whole story
In her role as a full-service freelancer, Suzi normally delivers a finished product to her client (you can samples of her high-quality work at suzilindner.com).
However, in this case we worked with her to develop the script, supplied her with the storyboard and asked her to deliver raw footage.
In total, there were 11 scenes in the video and Suzi appeared in 9 of them. She supplied us with 2-3 takes for each scene and we simply chose the ones we wanted to use in the final composition.
To see the whole project scene by scene, download the full storyboard here.
Okay, I hope that helps. Use a storyboard to plan your next presentation. Shoot it in scenes using b-roll or graphics to cover the transitions and you should end up with a much better result.
The next lesson will be all about how to control PromptDog remotely when you don’t have someone on hand to operate the software for you and the equipment we recommend to pull this off.
See you then.
Author: Gary Elley