On the use of teleprompters

March 6, 2009

The New York Times has a piece on the American President’s constant use of teleprompters. Apparently Mr. Obama uses them every time television cameras are around to capture prepared remarks.

Heck, why not? Even his adversaries recognize the man is one of the most gifted public speakers of his generation. Far from making him appear insincere, the teleprompter seems to enhance his performance. It works.

So, does that mean you should train your spokesperson to use one? I would say Yes, if one of the following conditions applies:

  • The spokesperson frequently addresses groups in venues where teleprompters can be set up. That includes seminars, conventions, news conferences, etc. If you can replace cue cards with a teleprompter, you should certainly consider it.
  • He regularly has to make videos, public service announcements, or those annoying free-air-time political messages. By using a ‘prompter, you will drastically reduce the number of takes necessary for anything longer than 30 seconds.

Notice how frequency of use is important. For most people, using the teleprompter requires practice. If it gathers dust for months between uses, chances are your spokesperson should not be using it at all.

You obviously need to train somebody to operate the ‘prompter. Ideally, it’s always the same person (or two) and they have trained with the spokesperson. It’s fairly embarassing to see your boss struggle through his text because the teleprompter operator is not familiar with his delivery speed.

The situation when the teleprompter is most useful in when the boss is tired. She can barely think straight, but there’s this 5-minute address we have to tape (in French!) and send out to the Quebec regional office tomorrow. Getting the teleprompter out of its box is the only way you’ll get quality delivery out of her.

One obvious caveat: if your spokesperson doesn’t like to read from prepared notes during his public speaking performances, he will not be able to use the teleprompter effectively. He will get frustrated, he will hate the machine and he will resent you.


Obama, Rex Murphy and I

January 26, 2009

Can’t remember the last time I liked a Rex Murphy column. This time, however, I agree with the old geezer when he says Obama’s inauguration speech was underwhelming.


Forgotten PR campaigns in the shadow of Obama/McCain

October 28, 2008

With all the hoopla around the Obama / McCain (and Palin) contest, it’s easy to forget that in the United States, elections are also about voters deciding on a wide range of specific issues. In most states, voters will answer a variety of questions, from taxation to law enforcement.

A total of 153 initiatives, referenda and referrals will be on various ballots on November 4, according to Ballotpedia.org. Many of those, such as propositions on gay marriage, are hotly debated locally. Those keep quite a few flacks very busy, whether they are working pro bono or billing for their services. Unlike most of us who measure results in quarters and years, some flacks actually specialize in those short, intense and sometimes brutal campaigns.

The most passionate PR seems to be taking place in four states about marriage-related questions. Gay rights are an issue the presidential candidates are not too fond of, so the state PR campaigns pretty much have a clear field.

This being the age of YouTube, it’s interesting to see some of the videos that are being produced by amateurs, mostly film students.