Obama and Irish PM in teleprompter mix up
Teleprompter gremlins can strike at even the best, with Barack Obama and Brian Cowen the Irish Prime Minister getting each other’s speeches on their screens (see The Times, 19 March 2009) .
By all accounts they made light of it, and amused everyone which is the best way to handle it.
Teleprompter is best used is for large set pieces where the words have been carefully crafted, or where sensitive information needs to be 100%.
Becoming reliant on teleprompter even for short statements can reduce credibilty, and increase the likelihood of gaffes like this occurring more often.
It highlights the need to have a plan B.
In the early days of teleprompt the discs were prone to corruption. I remember opening a conference and the words started to jumble, and slide down the screen like a videogame. Plan B was a paper copy of the script nearby . Out of the corner of my eye I could see the two executives I was about to interview scrabbling under their seats for their notes. Their bullet point answers were also on teleprompt.
That was a technical problem and it rarely, if ever happens these days, short of a power cut! I did a car launch presentation, and the big moment was the “reveal”, accompanied by swirling dry ice, pounding music and flashing lights ( all this for a Vauxhall Corsa!) . When I came back on the stage to conclude the presentation, power to the teleprompt panels had been cut so the screens were blank. Fortunately I knew the gist of what to say so it wasn’t a problem.
But in a TV studio there’s nothing worse than smugly concluding an interview, turning to camera to move on to the next item and finding a blank screen. That’s why newsreaders always have the paper copy nearby – it’s not just a prop to shuffle during the credits!
Cut and paste doesn’t help either. Scripts can get so mauled by changes, it becomes nonsense ( more so than usual) Even one stray word or missing full stop can make it incomprehensible, so best always to check it on screen if there’s time.
For more see 10 top tips for using teleprompter at a conference