8 Steps to Writing Better Scripts and Making Yourself a Better Teleprompter Operator
1. Know yourself – Using a teleprompter requires a combination of skills: organization, time management, a desire for improvement and the ability to focus 100% of your energy. Being a professional is knowing when you can have fun and when to get down to business. Know yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses. Reinforce your strengths and work on improving your weak areas.
2. Know your talent- I once had a female anchor that preferred to have the camera shooting her raised very high to minimize any shadows on her neck. But I also knew that she was not wearing her normal glasses while on the air so her ability to read distances beyond 10 feet was severely limited. Knowing the physical limitations of your talent with any preferences and their reading ability and reading distances of your talent are what make the difference between a good teleprompter operator and a trained monkey.
In practice sessions: In 2004 Obama struggled to master using the teleprompter. Looking on are Michael Sheehan (standing), a Washington speech coach, and (seated from right) Obama's wife, Michelle; campaign manager David Axelrod; and chief press aide Robert Gibbs.
3. Know your equipment - My most recent adventure was with a script that was too large for the computer. It kept crashing and the operator didn't know why. She did keep getting an error that read “Overflow Error.” The size of the script exceeded the maximum number of character the software could safely display. A good operator should be able to setup and break down all components of the teleprompter equipment, if for no other reason that if something isn't working properly, the problem area can easily be identified and resolved. Know the equipments limitations, abilities and how to repair if anything goes wrong.
4. Know your location - This will save your life in an emergency. Knowing where you can print a script, buy a replacement part or get an Internet connection are all in my permanent bag of tricks for every location I work at. I can usually get this information by asking someone working at the venue. Know where you can print, get coffee and connect to the Internet.
5. Break up the script - Cut the script into manageable chucks using paragraphs to show pauses, use phonetic spellings of difficult or foreign names. Whenever possible research the Internet or program guides for the or correct pronunciation of people’s names. If it’s not a common name, check it. Spell out all short cut words like & and % and @. Use line breaks to show places for the talent to pause.
6 Rehearse at the location - This is a simple tip and can sometime be inconvenient. But by performing a read through on the location you can find problems that you didn't know existed. I was once doing a read through with the mayor of a large town and noticed that he was having problems reading the teleprompter on stage left. As it turned out the round glass room we were in and the exact location of the teleprompter caused a glare that made it difficult to read. By simply adjusting the podium 2 feet we easily solved the problem.
7. Be Prepared for the worst - Always have a paper copy available. During reversals make notes on it and transfer those notes to the teleprompter. For the final performance always have a fresh copy available. In a worst case scenario, you can read from the paper when all else fails.
8. Practice - Practice will not make you perfect, but not practicing is an invitation for failure. As coach always said if you don't do it in practice, your never learn it during the game.