How to Use a Teleprompter so You Don’t Look Like You’re Using a Teleprompter

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” –George Jessel

IMG_20150413_170021629_HDR  Years ago I worked with a brilliant science professor who was also a gifted writer, teacher, and storyteller.

The only problem was that he had heard that memorization was the only way to deliver fluidly before a camera. He decided, therefore, to memorize his entire course before we recorded it.

All 130,000 words.

Not surprisingly, this effort failed miserably. It was too much to memorize, and we had multiple delays before I finally convinced him to give up the effort and use the teleprompter. Here’s how I did it.

I asked the producer to load the teleprompter with a lecture I hadn’t read yet. Then I went into the studio and delivered it so naturally that you would think I had written the material and practiced for hours.

The professor was astounded that I didn’t look or sound as if I were reading. I delivered his complex material with expression and ease, and not because I am an incredible speaker. I just know the secret.

Now you’ll know the secret too. Here’s all you need to do.

  • Change up your language as you read.

By this I mean that you look for words you can easily rearrange or replace with something else. For instance:

  • You might add, drop, or change a transition.
  • You might add, drop, or change an adjective, noun, adverb, or verb.
  • You might throw in a quick fact, example, or anecdote that pops into your head.
  • You could insert a contraction.
  • You could insert a comment.
  • You could reframe a sentence as a question or vice versa.

Don’t alter so much text that you lose track of what you’re saying. Even a few changes will increase how much you are thinking about the material, so you won’t look or feel as if you’re reading. 

Your delivery, expression, and tone will be livelier as a result. Your content will actually be better. Best of all, your audience will stay more engaged.

Here is an example of how you can change a sentence without much effort:

  • Well, here’s how you can change a sentence without a lot of effort.

Easy, right? Believe me, that is all it takes to get you out of reading each line and thinking about what you’re saying as you deliver it. And yet, you’ll still be able to lean on the written copy.

Now let’s try working with a whole paragraph, using the one above.

  • That wasn’t hard, was it? Believe me, that’s all you need to stop reading each line verbatim and start thinking about what you’re saying as you say it. And yet, you’re still able to lean on your written copy. Amazing!

There are other tricks to delivering from a teleprompter, such as not letting your head shift back and forth as you scan the lines. But those are for another article. And I’ve written elsewhere about how to write for the teleprompter.

This single tip, however, will have the biggest impact on improving delivery.

You can practice using this article or another you haven’t read previously. Read it aloud verbatim. Then read it aloud with subtle changes. See how much you can change without losing your place or your pace.

If you want a bigger challenge, record yourself on your phone or laptop using this article or something you’ve written. I’d love to see the result!

Please post your comments and suggestions. Let me know how these tips work for you.

Thanks for joining me for this week’s blog. Tune it next Friday for Issue #14 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.” We’ll look at the steps for creating an online course.

Like this! Please share it! Thanks!

Headshot tight  Marcy McDonald, Online Course Producer




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