Audiences will gaze into your eyes whilst you talk, when you use this tool

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Teleprompting is a great solution for people who read off of a script but also want to speak to the audience through the camera, and it’s not just for big television companies anymore. There are technologies that are available and affordable, and these can come in different parts. One is a standalone device that can be attached to the camera that becomes, in effect, a mirror of the device and uses another screen. The second form  would be using a tablet, phone, or computer screen as the screen itself.

Features of good teleprompter software

Teleprompters have different functions and different services. It can be as easy as importing a script and then just clicking play with options to adjust the speed, and one of the first things to look for when considering a teleprompter is a remote control. This allows managing the teleprompter from a distance, but with many teleprompter apps, that is not actually free and is usually part of the value added bundle. The next feature to look for is how the document can be opened. Some programs allow directly opening a file from the desktop, some allow importing it, and some allow getting them from sites like Dropbox. Some programs also allow editing and controlling the text, changing the font size and color, placements, and what not. 

Another important consideration is screen mirroring. It’s a useful function if the script will be read from a desktop screen where the camera might be, but it can also be done on a tablet or phone. Ultimately, the point is that the person speaking should be able to look into the camera and have the text as close to the camera as possible. Screen mirroring can also be done on multiple devices, and this is useful if someone else is going through the text simultaneously and editing it as you go along. 

Some software allow bookmarking, and these are for when a long speech or training course needs to be recorded or presented. Segments are read and recorded one at a time, and this makes it possible to go back and repeat only that certain portion instead of having to redo the entire thing. Keyboard shortcuts would be another great feature of teleprompter software, especially the ones on desktop, and some of them have much less applique and functionality. Apps on the phones have simpler functionality, and they’re also more affordable or possibly even free.

Photo from PromptSmart

The next element to watch out for is automatic speed control, which can sometimes be difficult to adjust to a person’s preferences, but it’s a good thing some software even have voice-to-text pacing, meaning the teleprompter will go at the speaker’s pace and will stop when it detects that the speaker has stopped speaking, making it a really powerful feature. Another aspect is the resolution settings. If the script were to be on different screen sizes, it should be adjustable to the desired width, whether it fills up the entire screen or not, and also whether it’s opaque or what they call an overlay. This is for when the speaker is looking at a picture and trying to describe it. The ability to change the image, to display the time elapsed or the time remaining, basically the navigation elements of reading a script, are also important. 

There are packages that come with keyboard and mouse settings that allow you to optimize the software and modify the shortcuts, but take note that these come at a price. Just like working with any other software, getting used to teleprompter software could be another important skill set worth having. Teleprompter apps on the phone and tablet don’t have customization, so it’s much simpler, and it could be great for short-form or narrow text. For PowerPoint presentations where you would want to speak across the slides, this will be very useful. For online learning, the ability to have this scrolling text where you can command the text pace seems to be really valuable. Some of them have also got the ability to control third party devices, so you can use different tools to manage the control of your screen flow and the text.

Teleprompter programs in the market today

For hardware, Bodelin sells a portable teleprompter which goes onto the main device, and it creates a mirror image of the screen, allowing the speaker to read the text. Prices for this start at $300+. The more expensive it is, the better the quality, so you pretty much pay for ease of use, it seems. One smartphone app is called PromptSmart Lite that costs $19.99 for a one-time purchase, but there is also a subscription model for the Pro version. This app has voice track technology, allows content to be loaded from emails, and it also runs offline. Another app is Teleprompter, which is free as a lite version. It allows up to three document imports, and after that, you would need to upgrade to the $12.99 package.

Photo from PromptSmart

There’s also Video Teleprompter Lite, and it’s very simple to use. It allows increasing the pace of the text being read, and one can record while reading. That’s another difference, as some of these software flow the text in the basic version, but don’t record what is being read without upgrading. Luckily, Teleprompter enables you to record while reading, and it allows exporting and downloading the video file that was made. The file can even be downloaded with the subtitles, saving editors from having to do a lot of work and proving to have a lot of functionality at the basic level and for free.

To export the timestamps for an SRT file when creating audiograms, the problem is that those apps only run on iOS or Android, not on desktop. One desktop software called Teleprompter, however, offers a lot of text editing functionality and the ability to import text. When recording though, the text is not that close to the camera (although it could possibly be adjusted in the settings), so the speaker could appear to be looking away from the text. 

As everyone is creating more and more content online, whether pre-recorded or live, teleprompter software is extremely helpful and it’s now very accessible. It can be used on a phone, tablet, or computer, and it’s affordable too. Teleprompting is a function of public relations, because increasingly, many people give presentations that require looking at the screen while at the same time reading from a script, and no one wants to be seen looking away from the audience as that can be distracting. In the SPEAK|pr program which aims to Storify, Personalise, Engage, Amplify, and Know, the Engage part is about delivering engaging content which requires a basic social skill. That is to look at people when presenting to them, and teleprompting offers a great way to do that. 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Wish Qatar

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