What's in this session?

  • 7 feet between the teleprompter and the talent (1:50)
  • Pre read the script (3:01)
  • High contrast (3:37)
  • Expressive face (4:07)
  • Resting spot for your hands (5:49)
  • Keep chin and feet flat (7:17)
  • Gear (8:31)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there, and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift that we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man. It is Brady Shearer, and today we’re talking about the beginner’s guide to using a teleprompter.

Brady Shearer: Alex, I have presented more than 30,000 individual church announcements over the last five years.

Alex Mills: That’s not a little bit.

Brady Shearer: It’s not a little bit. It’s an unusual skill. It’s not … It’s not especially helpful, but it will be for this episode-

Alex Mills: Yeah, it’s pretty niche.

Brady Shearer: … of Pro Church Daily, where we’re going to be talking about the beginner’s guide, the starter’s guide, to learning to read on a teleprompter. It is incredibly difficult. It is not something that comes natural to anyone and unless you had a news anchor mother or father, it’s unlikely that you have any experience in this. Maybe you had to give a speech during public school. Maybe you’ve taught a sermon before. It is nothing like that.

Alex Mills: No, it’s way harder than you think it is and now that I know how hard it is, when I’m watching videos on the Internet and I know somebody is reading from a prompt, but I see them doing it really well. I’m like, wow, respect. You’re reading really well. I can’t even … I know you’re reading, but I can’t tell that you’re reading. I would not have been able to respect that before because I just thought you just get up there, you read the words, move along, but it’s way harder than you think it is.

Brady Shearer: That being said, it can be learned and you can get better at this. We’re going to get into a ton of really practical tips. There’s really only one tip that you need to take away from this, which is you only truly get good at this by practicing a ton. It’s kind of like pushups. You can learn as much as you want about pushups. We can do a Pro Church Daily episode on it, until you actually do one and practice every day, it’s really hard to get [crosstalk 00:01:42]-

Alex Mills: You’ve done over 30,000 and you’re still just okay.

Brady Shearer: Are you talking about pushups or announcements?

Alex Mills: Announcements.

Brady Shearer: Harsh. All right. Let’s move on to the tips. Tip number one, the maintaining a distance, a minimum distance, of seven feet between the teleprompter and the talent, and this is to minimize the eyes darting back and forth as they read left and right on the teleprompter. I went in with a tape measure to measure the distance between the teleprompter where we film our video announcements and the mark on the floor with our gaff tape where the talent stands, and it was just about seven feet.

I would recommend making it eight feet or greater, but our studio is so small that that was the most room that we could get. Seven feet, we don’t notice any eyes darting when our talent records on video announcements, but the more distance, the better. The closer you get to the teleprompter … We did this once. We put on a wide lens and I wanted to get this really cool look where there’s this really wide lens that made the room behind me look really big and then I had to stand so close to the teleprompter. Then we watched afterwards and you can see my eyes going back and forth, back and forth because I’m literally like 18 inches away from the lens. It’s a huge giveaway to see eyes moving back and forth. First is make sure you have a minimum distance of seven feet between the teleprompter and where you’re standing.

Secondly, I did this tip all the time when I was first getting started. I would pre read the script-

Alex Mills: Of course.

Brady Shearer: … before I actually hit play. Now, this is probably a given for most of you. You probably write your own script. Nowadays, when I’m doing video announcements, I’ll jump into the studio. I’ll film 25 to 30 in an hour to an hour and a half and I won’t pre read any of them because I’ve just got to be as efficient with my time as I can. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll make maybe one or two mistakes in that 90 minute period, but at the very beginning, churches would send in their video announcement scripts, and I would make sure I pre-read them to be like, “Okay, that word, I don’t know how to pronounce that. I got to focus on that.” That’s just a great way of preparing your mind what’s about to happen.

Tip number three, high-contrast words and a high-contrast background. When we set up our teleprompter, we have neon green text on a black background. You really want the words to pop on the screen. You don’t want anything hindering you in your ability to read the words and so making sure that there’s a high contrast between the background and the words is key. Again, we use neon green and a black background. That’s kind of the preset that comes with our app. We will talk about the app in just a little bit. Okay, let’s get into the actual presenting patterns that you need to consider. You want to be more expressive with your face than with your hands, and this is in exact contrast to if you’re teaching a sermon from stage. You, from stage, need to translate your gestures and emotions and expressions to an entire room. When you are speaking on camera and reading from a teleprompter, it’s very much like me and Alex speaking to one another.

If I’m this close to Alex and I’m like, “Great to see you, Alex. It’s going to be great. So great man. You’re such a good guy, [inaudible 00:04:40] yet you need to settle.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, you need to relax.

Brady Shearer: So inverse to what you would do normally onstage to a live audience. You want to be very expressive with your face, but you want to understate your hand gestures. One litmus test for this is when you are recording and you’re playing back your recording of yourself, hit pause. If your face looks really silly, really silly, really dumb, that’s a good … that’s a good thing. That means you’re being expressive enough with your face. If you press pause and you don’t laugh at yourself, you can probably take it up a notch. Expressive with your face understates the hand gestures.

Alex Mills: It’s funny because we put out so much video content and most of it has you in it, and so people online, especially in Facebook groups, will like take screenshots of you and pause the video, you’re making outrageous face and they’ll post in. All in good fun, and tag you or whatever. They think they’re like making fun of you or whatever. It’s like, no, like that’s actually telling me that I’m doing a really good job of presenting this on video, so thanks for that.

Brady Shearer: That’s a great litmus test.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Actually, I just created that litmus test to make it so that no one can make fun of it. Okay. Here’s another great pro tip. You want to have a resting spot for your hands. So the way I do it is if you’re watching this video, I kind of clasp my hands. What is this part? Where my thumb … where the base of the thumb meets the base of the pointer finger.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: It’s kind of just like this in between part.

Alex Mills: It’s your … Yeah.

Brady Shearer: I put those two areas together on my hands. So I don’t clasp my hands, but I just have this comfortable resting spot that I use as my default position. From there, I really only have like three or four moves that I recommend to new presenters. It’s like go right, go left, right hand, left hand. Then if you’re being really expressive, it’s the two hand. Thank you, Lord.

Alex Mills: There it is.

Brady Shearer: That’s all you have to worry about. Because what I see newbie presenter struggling with is they’re all up in their head about what they’re doing with their hands, that they struggle to actually read the words well. And then they come out very robotic. It’s very difficult to focus on those two things at once because one is mental and one is physical and there’s only so much brainpower that you have, and if you’re trying to dedicate it to both, you can’t really do both. Then you end up dedicating one more than the other, and if that’s the case, you want to dedicate as much brainpower as you can to focusing on what you’re reading and making it feel natural.

To help with that, just have that default resting position. Go right, go left. When you’re really wanting to make a point, “Thank you, Lord.” Two hands out, like you’re receiving from Jesus. Those are the movements that I recommend. That way you don’t have to think about what your hands are doing and you can focus all of that brainpower and energy on reading and presenting well.

Alex Mills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: Moving onto some other tips. This is a weird thing that I did. This is probably a dumb tip. There were two weird things that I did when I first started on camera. One, I would always raise my chin to the sky. If you go back to our earliest YouTube videos, the church video series, there’s 40 of them on this gray green screen. The reason we used a green screen was because it was in my one bedroom apartment. Collapsible green screen. Had to set it up, tear it down so we could eat dinner. Good times. You’ll notice this thing where I’m always lifting my chin up like, “Well, hey there, how’s it going?” Maybe it was hard to hear that because I was lifting my chin to the sky.

I also did this thing, I would have trouble keeping flat feet. I would have Mitchell set me up with a perfect amount of head room and then I would stand up on my tippy toes and [inaudible 00:07:57] go like up and down. I’m probably making more of it than it actually was, but they were just like these slight lifts with my heels, probably just because I was having so much energy and I noticed that to a normal human, it wouldn’t look bad at all, but when the whole screen is static and the frame is static and you have your talent like bobbing up and down, it’s tremendously distracting.

Just focus on keeping flat feet. I have noticed this with other presenters that I’ve trained, so I don’t think it’s completely a weird thing to me. Maybe I’m just blaming [crosstalk 00:08:27] Maybe it is a weird thing to me, you’ll never know. Finally, let’s talk about some tools that you can use. We use the Telmax tablet teleprompter for our iPad, which is what we use for our video announcements. We also use the Parrot teleprompter, which is very mobile and very portable. Also, tremendously affordable, it’s like $99.

Alex Mills: Tiny.

Brady Shearer: We use that for when we want to present from an actual mobile device, from a phone. Then finally, the app that we use is the Teleprompt+ app. It’s not great, but it is the best available from what I’ve found. If you want to compare yourself to how I present, this is on a tablet. I present at 3.5 speed at 60 point font. Really, being comfortable comes down so much to having the words at a pace that you are comfortable with.

Each of the presenters here does something a bit different. Some are a bit slower with smaller text, some are a bit faster with bigger text, some are a bit slower with smaller text, whatever it is. You got to experiment, find what works with you. For me, I like 3.5 speed, 60 point font.

Alex Mills: There you go.

Brady Shearer: That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you next time.

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