So, you’ve written what you think is an amazing script for your on-camera video message. You plan to use a teleprompter to ensure the perfect delivery. You rush the digital script to the prompter operator. Lights, camera, action! The first paragraph works well until you reach a place where there’s some extra space in one of the lines. You goof up. Back to the beginning, you’ve got this now. You make your way through the first paragraph flawlessly, but then the operator has to speed up to account for the space between paragraphs, you lose your rhythm, and goof up again.
Those are two common problems when your teleprompter skills are not on par with a seasoned professional like Ron Burgundy. A successful teleprompter read is a dance between the reader and the operator. The operator must constantly vary the scroll speed to accommodate the performance and the formatting of the script. Timing is everything and can be upset when improper formatting forces jerky speed changes. Fortunately, these are easily fixed. It starts with your script. Here are a few script techniques to make for a smoother teleprompter experience.
The spacing between paragraphs is the most common thing to interrupt the flow during your performance and cause you to stumble over your words. As you craft your script, use paragraphs as you normally would when writing. Once complete, simply add a short string of nondescript characters at the end of each paragraph and then delete the paragraph line breaks. Here’s an example:
When reading, (((((((()))))))) will be an obvious indicator of a pause, and not a word you will accidentally read. An advanced technique is to adjust the length of characters to simulate the intended length of a pause. For example, Captain Kirk might ((((())))) speak ((((())))) like ((((((((((())))))))))) this.
Microsoft Word is a menace to the teleprompter. It adds unnecessary, often invisible, formatting into your text. Most teleprompter software will not be compatible with this formatting. The most common problem I see in a script is “superscript.” Superscript occurs most often when you type something like “2nd” or “20th” and Word, by default, automatically corrects the “nd” or “th” to be smaller and raised above the normal text. This is not generally a problem for most users, but in some prompter software, it increases the space between lines and could cause you to mess up your timing.
Microsoft Word is not the only word processor that adds formatting. There are few easy fixes.
– Superscripts can be turned off in your software settings.
– Saving the file as plain text (.txt) will remove any formatting, leaving only the plain typed form.
– You can write your script in simple text editing software that doesn’t add any formatting. All computers running a Windows OS have Notepad, and there are many free alternatives available.
Formatting – Apple vs. Windows
I noticed on one teleprompter operator’s website they required two extra days if you submitted a script that was written on an Apple computer. I’ve never seen anything like that before, but if you are an Apple user, you may want to check before submitting.
Sometimes when writing, especially when writing for ourselves, we use abbreviations. This is another area that can trip up your read. Whether you use an abbreviation or the long form depends on the intended audience for your video. For example, if speaking to an audience of attorneys, abbreviating “the U.S. Department of Justice” to “DOJ” would be readily understood and appropriate. To an audience of laymen, it would be better to use the long form. You may want to establish the full name and the abbreviation at the same time. For example:“…when it came to the U.S. Department of Justice, DOJ for short, the task was…”
Additionally, if your script was all about the DOJ, you may want to mix up the abbreviation and full name to avoid repetition.
If you often use text messages, you may be tempted to use other abbreviations. While this makes typing your script easier, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to read on a prompter. Again, it’s about timing. Even if you easily understand what you wrote, something like “@TEOTD” is much shorter than “at the end of the day.” The operator may need to slow down abruptly and then speed up to normal speed to compensate.
Write for Spoken Word
Many people don’t write for the spoken word, instead using a more formal style. That may be fine for your message. Often, though, you will want to establish a more personal connection with the viewer and natural speech is one way to accomplish that. You’ll have to determine the tone of your script based on your audience and how you want them to perceive you.
One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is long sentences, causing the reader to run out of breath. Even if grammatically correct, they might not be suitable for speech. I suggest reading your script aloud and make adjustments before your recording session. The practice won’t hurt either.
As you gain experience with the prompter, you may not need these tips. Having a competent teleprompter operator will help with these problems, but preparing beforehand will reduce the stress for you and the video production crew, saving you time and money.
Many are recording themselves for videos today. Using a teleprompter by yourself is not impossible, but it is difficult to control the speed while simultaneously reading naturally. This makes creating a script that flows smoothly even more important.
Mastering the teleprompter may be crucial to effectively telling your story. I can help you reach your goals. Contact me.
Todd Roberts is a multi-passionate, award-winning filmmaker who helps people tell stories for marketing and entertainment. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he uses a solopreneur approach to best serve his clients throughout the world. Todd can help you meet your goals by refining your story for your ideal customer or audience.