Which Pols Know How to Read Teleprompters?

With the Democratic Convention beginning today, watch for which politicians know how to read a teleprompter.  Almost certainly none will do it as well as the week’s star, Sen. Barack Obama.   Obama is a true master, maybe the best ever. Possibly better than Ronald Reagan.

What makes him so good? Simple. It doesn’t seem like he’s reading. If you go back and look at some of his primary victory speeches, you will be hard pressed to tell whether he’s reading the teleprompter. He just seems like he’s giving an extemporeneous speech.

But he’s on the prompter. It’s amazing.

So what is the key to being good on the teleprompter?

The single most important thing is to vary your speed and speak with exaggerated feeling. Most people slow down and speak in a monotone when reading a teleprompter. That makes their speech seem halting and phony.  Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton both do this.  They sound like they’re reading a theme in a high school essay competiton.

We coach our clients to pretend like they’re reading a book to a child and they’re trying to put lots of feeling into it. When you do that, you tend to read with more variety in your voice and with lots of expression. That exaggerated expression is what makes you sound real. I know that it won’t feel real when you do it. Nothing about using a teleprompter feels real for the person using it. But it will sound real.

Watch the parade of politicians this week. All of them will be trying to match Sen. Obama for his teleprompter skill. I suspect few will measure up.

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