How to Use a Teleprompter for Podcasting

Teleprompters get a bad rap for being both a crutch to the person in front of the camera and a hindrance to an otherwise natural and personal connection with the audience. On the contrary, a teleprompter can be a great asset to both the host and the podcast itself. Words that flow freely can be better formed in a script so the host doesn’t stumble while attempting to remember all of the points he or she needs to make. Not everyone is suited to use a teleprompter, just as not everyone is able to speak openly from memory and/or improvisation. A talented host may improv exceedingly well and struggle with a teleprompter. It’s usually a good idea to try a written script first before investing in a more expensive teleprompter.

Hardware Options

Recently, we here at LockerGnome started trying out a new format for our podcast and YouTube channel. By condensing five longer videos into one more compact package, we are better able to share more information without necessarily flooding our subscribers with tons of videos that they may or may not have any interest in. With this change, a teleprompter became an important component of our daily production routine.

The problem with setting up an iPad around the camera is that you’re never really looking at the camera, but at something slightly off-center. Chris Pirillo took to Amazon to find the perfect teleprompter that replaced an otherwise extremely expensive screen with an iPad. What he found was the Teleprompter R810-4 with Beam Splitter Glass from InterAct.

The R810-4 is a relatively simple unit that cradles the iPad and positions a pane of glass in a perfect position to reflect the iPad or Android tablet screen to the speaker while allowing the camera to capture an accurate image without picking up the text being given to the host.

Another option from InterAct allows you to mount the teleprompter along with the camera on a standard tripod. The R810-5 is a sufficient solution that still keeps your overall expenditures under $100.

iOS Software

The software Chris started using is called ProPrompter from Bodelin Technologies. It’s a very robust app available on iOS (with versions available for Pocket PC) that turns your mobile device into a teleprompter screen. You can use an iOS device such as an iPod touch or iPhone as a tether to the iPad in order to control it remotely from your broadcast desk or other location without having to step toward your iPad to adjust settings.

One advantage of the ProPrompter software is that it allows you to load scripts remotely, making it possible for remote writers and producers to contribute to the finalized script (and make changes) without being present at the actual shoot.

ProPrompter also gives you a large array of different display options to customize the look and feel of the message to suit your individual needs.

Unfortunately, the software ignores screen orientation preferences, making it possible to shift orientation with a bump. You also can’t manually scroll backwards or forwards during filming from the iOS remote control. Devices can disconnect mid-read, and you can’t edit the script on the device itself. So certainly, this software has its share of cons to go with its pros.

For an alternative, Teleprompt+ is also a very capable solution, available at around $15.

5 Advantages of Using a Teleprompter

Memory Aid
A teleprompter is literally a memory aid for the speaker. While you can make a reasonably convincing presentation using a teleprompter without any practice, its real strength comes when the speaker has rehearsed the piece prior to recording. Instead of seeing a teleprompter as something to be read, think of it as a helpful guide to keep the speaker on the right pace.

Often, someone who speaks purely from memory will forget a point or two. With a scrolling script visible to the speaker, every point is presented in a way that is both clear and thought out. The organization of talking points is also laid out in a way that makes better sense to the host, and the audience.

Perhaps one of the more interesting (and unexpected) advantages of using a teleprompter is the way the glass creates a barrier between the lens of the camera and the glare of any surrounding light. Beam splitting glass allows the scrolling message to reflect and appear to the host without presenting itself to the lens on the other side of the pane. Usually, this glass allows roughly 70% of the room’s light to make its way to the lens, creating a slightly darker (but more uniform) look.

Below are two images taken before and after Chris Pirillo started using a teleprompter. The image above is before, and below is after. Skin tones are slightly more muted, glare is significantly reduced, and otherwise washed colors may appear slightly richer. On the contrary, in the event that you’re in a low lighting situation, the addition of a teleprompter may actually have an adverse effect.

How to Use a Teleprompter for Podcasting

How to Use a Teleprompter for Podcasting

Bottom line: Your presentation looks more professional if the speaker is looking directly at the camera and making points in an organized and expedient fashion. Being able to go point-by-point without saying the “ums” and “uhs” so typical in day-to-day speech greatly improves the overall flow and audience impression of your show. Presidents, actors, reporters, and seasoned anchors with dozens of years of experience are all frequent users of the teleprompter.

Imagine a president, standing in front of cameras that send a message to the entire world, trying to remember a dozen specific points in addition to keeping track of body language, eye contact, and controlling any nervous tics that come naturally to anyone in such an extreme situation. Not only that, but just think about how many speeches this one individual has to give on a near-daily basis. The few times a public official does go off the teleprompter, you’ll probably see their flubs and bloopers all over YouTube.

As mentioned before, a teleprompter enables the host or speaker to maintain eye contact with the lens, hence the audience. By looking at the lens, you can dramatically increase the likelihood that an otherwise random viewer will maintain interest. No one wants to see someone talking to an area off camera, unless they can see where the host is looking. As a general rule of thumb, unless your show is a fictional Web series or interview format, you should avoid any off-camera cue cards.

In fact, even placing a smartphone or iPad under or next to a camera can alter your eye’s position enough to break subliminal engagement with your audience. You’re talking to them, and not to a cue card.

Teleprompters keep you on time. Timing is everything in the world of multimedia, and whether you’re on a set schedule or not, being able to control the timing of your puns and points makes a world of difference in the flow of your show. Setting a steady and quick pace is important to maintaining audience attention. After all, would you be inclined to keep watching a show that slows down to a drag while the host tries to remember what they were going to say?

Speed is quickly becoming one of the most important factors in online media. Some podcasts are produced at double-time, while others rely on jump cuts to zip past breathing and other pauses during production. Keeping a strong, steady pace is as important today as any other component of your show. Long-form media is dying, and nowhere is this more prevalent than online media.

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