How to use a teleprompter to record videos online

You need to self record an online video, but you’d like to deliver your script perfectly, without having to worry about memorising lines or forgetting key points.

This is a perfect time to use a teleprompter.

Teleprompters scroll your text slowly line by line so that you can read at a natural speed, while at the same time looking directly at the camera.

This means you are, in turn, looking directly at your audience.

When doing a traditional corporate video production using a teleprompter, film and video professionals will set the teleprompter up in front of the camera lens, so that when you are reading your lines, you are literally looking straight at the camera.

This is the same for good online video teleprompters. These should be optimised so that when you are reading from them, you are also looking directly at the webcam camera on your laptop or desktop.

Your eyeline should be level with the top of your screen so you are looking directly at the camera, and your audience

It’s important to get yourself relaxed and comfortable using a teleprompter. And just like an athlete, practice is the key. The good news is that you won’t need to follow the 10,000 hours rule to perfect your performance reading and recording with a teleprompter.

Rather, you will be ahead of most people who record themselves online using a teleprompter – and become a better live speech performer in the process – if you follow these 6 steps:

Step 1 Read your speech out loud before recording

Read your speech to yourself, out loud, before you even start with a teleprompter or online video recording.

There are 2 benefits in doing this:

i. This helps identify the parts of your script that look great on paper, but don’t sound as good when read aloud. We tend to write in longer and more complex sentences, which is fine when we are communicating to an audience who will be reading it.

Read your speech or script out loud to yourself first before recording an online video

ii. You are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud. And this means you will be more comfortable and natural when reading via the teleprompter when you are ready to start recording.

A study from the University of Waterloo in Canada, reported that the “dual action” of speaking and hearing yourself speak helps the brain to store the information, so that it becomes long-term memory. This process is called the “production effect”. An earlier study reported on the benefits of typing or writing words in improving memory retention.


Step 2 Edit your script to be spoken rather than read

If you watch a head of state delivering a speech, or a TV newsreader delivering a bulletin, the sentences are shorter than if written to be read as a story.

Here’s an example of how to edit your script for reading and performing, either to a teleprompter for recording, or even for a live speech.

Firstly, how it would be written as a text story:

Short paragraphs of no more than two sentences are easy to read, and also easy to listen to, but even easier if you use plenty of commas when writing your script – and dashes like this – so then when you are reading and recording, these commas and dashes will be your guide to pause slightly, and in doing so it will not only make it easier for your audience to absorb, but also will allow for a more natural delivery from you, looking less like you’re reading, and more like you just really know your topic and are comfortable speaking about it.

And here’s how the same script should read for recording:

Short paragraphs of no more than two sentences are easy to read.

And also easy to listen to.

But they are improved further if you use plenty of commas when writing your script – and dashes like this.

So then when you are reading and recording, these commas and dashes will be your guide to pause slightly.

And in doing so it will not only make it easier for your audience to absorb your message, but also, will allow for a more natural delivery from you.

It will look less like you’re reading, and more like you just really know your topic, and are comfortable speaking about it.

Don’t let pronunciations trip you up. A good recording performance can be slightly undone by a mis-pronunciation of a key word or name.

If you have any difficult or unknown names to pronounce of individuals or brands, check first. Type any word into Google along with ‘pronunciation’ and you’ll get your answer.

Professional newsreaders and live performers will have difficult to pronounce words typed into their script fun-neh-tuh-klee.

Acronyms can also take a bit longer to read out loud. For 2021, are you saying “twenty-twenty-one” or “Two-thousand-and-twenty-one” or … “this year”.

Standard journalistic best practice is for the first reference to be the full reference, such as the ‘United Nations’, with follow up references taking the acronym ‘UN’ (You En).


Step 3 Vary your speaking speed

A general performance tip to help you achieve a natural delivery style when using a teleprompter, is to slow down for the final 3 words of each sentence, then pause, and start the next sentence.

Plus use commas and dashes as a signal to pause mid sentence as well. This prevents you reading at an even pace throughout your recording – we don’t speak at a metronome like level speed, so neither should you when recording yourself.

This technique of varying your speaking pace also has additional performance advantages.

Not only will you look and sound less like you are reading, but each pause allows the teleprompter to scroll up another line or two, so if you feel like you are racing ahead of the teleprompter and will soon run out of visible lines, this strategy of knowing when to pause not only makes you sound more relaxed and natural, and not like you’re reading, but every time you pause, another line or two of your teleprompter script scrolls into view.

Here’s a comparison of the earlier text script read at an even pace, and then with varying speed and pauses. The even pace sounds like it’s being read, which can be fine if it’s an instructional or information based video. However, the second delivery with variable speeds is ideal if you are after a warmer, more engaging style of presentation.


Step 4 Slow. Down.

Our brains think and process faster when reading than our ears do when attempting to process someone else speaking to us.

So when you first start reading your speech or script, you will almost certainly read too quickly for your audience to comfortably absorb – but you won’t be aware of it.

When first reading from a teleprompter, the instinctive initial reaction of most corporate clients is to say ‘the teleprompter is scrolling too slowly, can you make it faster’.

That’s because they have most likely not pre-read their speech, and if they have, they probably did so silently.

And then they read it out loud for the first time when recording, and if the teleprompter is pre-set to a default best practice speed, as it should be, within a few lines they have raced ahead and have caught up with all visible lines on the teleprompter and have to stop and wait for more to scroll into view.

Then the panic sets in. “It’s too slow, make it faster.”

They have come in from their busy day, fresh from another meeting, and especially if they are senior organisation leaders, they have another meeting to rush off to the minute filming is done. Their brain is racing, the caffeine is doing its job, and they are also a bit nervous ahead of recording. They are ready for the starter’s gun!

The first tip is to set your teleprompter to the right speed for a medium-paced read that will be optimal for the listener – that’s why you’re recording in the first place.

If you are using a good online teleprompter, it will be pre-set to an ideal medium-paced setting so you won’t have to adjust the speed up or down, especially for the first practice recording.

If you are producing your CEO or another colleague, reassure them to trust the speed of the teleprompter, and adjust their speaking pace.

Then when you play it back to yourself, you can judge the speed using your listening brain, rather than speaking brain. Better still, have someone else watch your practice recording to confirm it’s the right speed.

There will be use cases where it suits to speak a little faster. But it’s easier to judge this once you have done the initial read and record at a more moderate pace. It’s always easier to speed up than slow down.


Step 5 Don’t get stressed by stumbles. Everyone fluffs lines.

Firstly, everyone stumbles to some degree over a word, a line, a name. Don’t panic. Prepare yourself mentally for what your technique will be, if and when you do.

Either calmly and quickly recover and solider on like no-one cares, knowing it’s part of a natural delivery to have the odd mis-speak, and the less you look bothered by it the greater the chance your audience will barely notice.

But if you’re doing well with a recording, but then stumble or mis-speak and you want it fixed in the edit rather than re-recording the whole piece, pause silently for 3 seconds, regather yourself, and then go again if the script is still available to you on the teleprompter.

If not, and too many lines have scrolled up, then good online teleprompters will allow you to pause the scrolling and/or rewind a few lines with one click, with a second click to resume recording when you’re ready. The fluffed line and re-start can be edited out later.


Step 6 Own the teleprompter

Once you have read your script – out loud – and then done a practice recording and watched it back, you’re ready for the money takes.

Your second take will be better, as your brain and performance reading fitness are kicking into gear.

By the third and likely final take, you are ready to even relax a little bit, including face muscles and that wrinkled brow, and smile to start and finish if appropriate.

You’ll also notice something amazing. Because you have done the prep work by reading out loud 2-3 times, your brain has memorised a chunk of your speech.

For most people, the third attempt is the winning recording

So for this final take, you don’t need to scrutinise every word on the teleprompter, but rather use it as a comfort supporting guide to pace you through your final delivery performance.

Let your eyes imagine the teleprompter really is your audience, and look them in the eye as you speak.

If you’re ready to start practicing for your next speech or recording, test yourself out using a free online teleprompter.

You’ve got this.