Here’s a fun social experiment – get a group of your most articulate and talkative friends together in a room, and wait until they start a natural conversation.
Then in the middle of their rousing discussion, pull out a video camera and start filming them. Now watch their personalities change right before your eyes, as soon as they notice the camera. Watch as their relaxed self-assured speech morphs into nervous interjections and stage fright.
Filmmaking crews face all manner of variables on set, but the most unpredictable element is often human behavior. Cameras have a way of making the most knowledgeable experts and skilled orators fumble over their words. That's where the teleprompter comes in.
Teleprompters are a crucial element in numerous settings, from political speeches to news broadcasts to documentary interviews. Even the most experienced public speakers and performers can be a bit of a mess without a teleprompter, as evidenced by Jimmy Fallon at this year's Golden Globes.
The value and precision they provide cannot be understated. Here are just some of the ways that adding a teleprompter to your toolset can maximize the efficiency and quality of your interviews and dialog.
1. IT KEEPS THE SPEAKER FOCUSED AND ON-TOPIC
Given the highly competitive and rigorous nature of today's media platforms, every second of your video matters, and can count for or against your viewership. Putting the important information front and center allows the speaker to focus on the most relevant content. With an exact script to work from, unnecessary speech is eliminated, and verbal stutters are substantially reduced. And the more concise your video is, the better you'll maintain audience engagement.
2. IT ALLOWS THE SPEAKER TO MAINTAIN EYE CONTACT
In many ways, video production is about selling ideas to viewers, and a good salesman always makes eye contact. Addressing the camera directly is a key component in engaging viewers, and getting them on board with what the speaker is communicating.
A camera-mounted teleprompter allows your talent to read from their script while simultaneously locking eyes with the camera lens behind it, bridging the gap between the speaker and the viewers. This provides an ideal natural focal point for the talent's gaze, helping to eliminate darting or wandering eyes – a potential distraction to the viewer.
3. IT BREAKS THE NERVOUS TENSION OF THE SPEAKER, AND IT SHOWS
Being the center of attention for a film crew often has a paralyzing effect on all but the most seasoned commentators. It's easy to get lost in the uncertainties and questions that arise during the process ... How does my hair look? How many people are going to see this? If I slip up, will they edit that out or keep it in?
Think of a teleprompter as a pacifier for your subject's performance anxiety. Their nervous inclinations are far easier to manage when they know the content is solid. And the more relaxed and confident they are, the better they'll look and sound on camera.
4. SCRIPTING SAVES TIME DURING THE PRODUCTION PROCESS
When prep time is short, as it often is with video projects, having your subjects memorize or improvise their lines puts extra pressure on them, causing more slip-ups and detracting from the efficiency of your shoot.
A definitive script displayed on the teleprompter allows for fewer takes and better footage, especially when the talent is required to introduce complex and intricate talking points. Fixing stammers and pauses is always a necessary part of post-production, but the fewer mid-sentence edits you're forced to make, the easier it becomes to make their speech flow naturally.
5. IT ALLOWS FOR BETTER PACING AND DELIVERY
Displaying copy front-and-center helps your talent worry less about what they're saying, and focus more on how they say it. Plus, when two or more people are on camera at the same time, a teleprompter helps immensely to cue their speech in the proper order, eliminating unplanned interruptions.
Additionally, a dedicated operator for your prompter can help set the pace and improve the clarity of your talent's speech, as it affords direct control over the speed at which the text is scrolling. Many prompters nowadays employ a direct connection to a laptop, allowing for smooth control (pause, play, repeat, fast-forward) and easy text edits on the fly.
Whether you're a seasoned professional or a first time on-camera talent, a teleprompter is a great way to make sure that your message is well received. Reduce the stress and increase the productivity of your shooting session. You'll achieve a noticeable increase in professionalism and clarity for your interviews and dialog – a significant added value to any video.