No matter what your personal politics are, this most recent election cycle has shown a compelling spotlight on the ways that powerful political personalities communicate with the world. We have been treated to a variety of different approaches to speech-giving, debating and stumping and much has been made of the distinctions between the ways that some candidates convey ideas versus their opponents.
However, what all the candidates have in common is that, overwhelmingly, their speeches are aided by a teleprompter. A teleprompter frees speechmakers from relying on written notes or presentations in front of them, allowing them to face their audience directly and move naturally in the space they are given. This creates an intimacy and naturalism that can reinforce effective presentation skills and lend you vital credibility.
Yet with this freedom comes a variety of unexpected challenges. Using a teleprompter is one of the more involved presentation tools that requires practice and consideration, which is why we've included a series of quick tips to help you master it.
Writing to Read, not Be Read
As with all speeches, consider how your words will sound when read aloud. Rehearse your speech and focus on making it sound natural and confident. Consider writing in contractions like "we've" instead of "we have" to give it a more organic flair. Matching what is written to your normal cadence will help convey your innate credibility and expertise without having to put on airs.
Even though you should practice ahead of time, format your speech as readable as possible. Use clear punctuation, note pauses, and write out any numbers in full. For instance: Write "one-hundred and sixty" rather than "160."
Tie It to What You Know Best
One skillful way to activate this emotion is to include examples and anecdotes from your own life experiences where appropriate. A memory from childhood, a folksy aphorism that is passed around in your family – these things all come from a place of deep familiarity, and are your greatest tools. A well-worn anecdote that you could recite with your eyes closed, combined with your subject matter expertise, can smooth over any bumps that occur while reading from the prompter.
Be Collected, Confident, and In Control
The assistance offered by a teleprompter means that you can keep your eyes forward and your hands free. This is an excellent opportunity to consider your non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and hand gestures to help hammer your point home. Smile and maintain a forward focus as much as you can.
Much has been made of how President Obama often uses a closed-fist, thumb-slightly-raised gesture to punctuate his statements. This kind of hand movement, while seemingly inconsequential, is in its own way a brilliant touch of theater: Rather than pointing in accusation and separating himself from his audience, it conveys a confidence and power and allows him to emphasize a particular point while drawing the audience in closer.
The key is to create intimacy with your audience and convey that you are to be trusted. The teleprompter is a powerful tool, one worth mastering as part of a suite of executive presentation skills. To this end, approach it without apprehension, taking advantage of the freedom it provides.