Public speaking can be a daunting task, especially for the novice. In the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! This means that to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Elle Kyle, Writer, Producer at AMC
Fortunately, we at the American Movie Company have a few tips to help you feel comfortable when speaking on camera or addressing a live audience!
1. Write Your Script For Speaking, Not Reading
Reading a text and listening to someone speak are two very different ways to absorb information. Speech tends to be much less formal than the written word, so unless you’re going for irony at a robotics conference, you’ll need to use more colloquial* language. A simple but very noticeable way to do this is to use contractions. For instance, swapping out “I am” for “I’m” and “Have not” for “Haven’t” will make your speech seem more natural and fluid.
(*Colloquialism can be taken to a cringe-worthy extreme. For illustration, watch any Trump speech, ever.)
2. Make Sure Your Script Is Easy To Read.
This may sound counterintuitive, given the last tip, but let me clarify. The first tip was in reference to how the audience will receive your speech. Here, I mean that you should format your script in a way that will make it easy for you to read as you’re delivering it. While putting your speech in all-caps will make it appear bigger on screen, this makes it much harder to distinguish between sentences. Sticking to normal capitalization rules is much better. Additionally, putting extra space between sections distinguishes your points and helps you transition smoothly between topics.
3. Make a Note If You Plan To Ad-lib.
Sometimes an ad-libbed anecdote can liven up your speech and drive home your point. Bear in mind though, that while your teleprompter operator (from AMC) is skilled and brilliant, he/she is (likely) not a mind reader. If you plan to ad-lib make a note in the script to that effect. This way the prompter operator knows to stop scrolling and you’ll both be on the same page! 😉
4. Mark Page Breaks In Your Script.
If you’re giving a live presentation, it’s a good idea to have a paper copy of your script as backup in the extremely unlikely* event that the teleprompter fails. If you’ve marked your pages in your script, you’ll be able to find your place quickly and avoid the embarrassment of fumbling through your paper copy.
(*Probability based on AMC’s track record)
5. Avoid PPMS (Ping-Pong Match Syndrome)
While we’re on the subject of live events, one should always be mindful of where one’s gaze is directed. When using a presidential teleprompter system, presenters often worry they’re spending too much time looking at one panel and so switch back and forth rapidly between the two. This makes the presenter look as if he/she is watching an intense ping-pong match, which is very distracting. If you’re new to using a presidential prompter system, spend a bit more time than feels natural looking at one panel, then switch. You can also use transitions between topics as an opportunity to switch over to the other panel.
6. Practice! Practice! Practice!
Teleprompting software is not automated. It requires an operator to scroll through the text as you speak. It’s always a good idea to practice with your operator before your shoot or event so that your operator can familiarize him/herself with your pacing and speaking style. This will allow you to be more in sync as you’re shooting or presenting.
7. Remember: You Set The Pace.
You actually do set the pace; your operator isn’t attempting to give you the illusion of control. Only you know your speech patterns and what your natural pace is. Your operator will follow your lead, and if you have suggestions or concerns, address them honestly and diplomatically (no one likes a diva!). Your operator will help to make sure you sound as polished as possible and will work with you so you feel comfortable.
8. Maintain Eye Contact With Your Audience.
Whether you’re speaking on camera or at a live event, eye contact is essential for connecting with your audience. Failing to look at your audience can make you seem bored and aloof or nervous and unsure. Neither is ideal for effective delivery. Making eye contact with the audience allows them to engage with you and with your presentation.
9. Use Non-Verbal Communication.
It doesn’t matter how interesting your speech is, if you’re not interesting to watch, your audience will not absorb the content. Using hand gestures* and shifting position occasionally breaks up the monotony of talking. Moderation is important here though, because too much gesticulation is distracting, and shifting back and forth constantly makes people think you need the facilities. A good balance is key to an effective delivery.
(*Polite hand gestures)
10. Finally, Show Enthusiasm!
Unless you’re delivering very bad news (If, for example, you’re currently a newscaster working anywhere but Fox), you want your audience to be excited about your message. If you don’t at least appear enthused, your audience will not be enthused. Remember to smile, and try to make your interest in the topic obvious. Convincing your audience that what you have to say is important is half the battle. Now go forth and slay!
To ensure a stress-free experience, use AMC’s teleprompting services for your next shoot or event! With over 20 years of experience working with a clientele that includes celebrities, CEOs, and politicians, we know how to make sure everything runs smoothly on set.