At a recent conference, several otherwise charming speakers, blew it by teleprompter. In front of 6,000 people.

Management thought a teleprompter would rescue their group from poor speaking skills. Unfortunately, speaking by teleprompter is just as deadly to an audience as hearing a zombie drone on — just as stilted, stiff, and robotic.

Audiences can’t connect with speakers who stare at the floor (where the teleprompter often is). Glassy eyes are a turnoff. When your brain struggles to process writing on the prompter (instead of speaking from the heart) and your emotions are cut off (other than suppressed terror), audiences suffer. It makes my heart ache, because this is all so unnecessary!

Short of enrolling in Center Stage, what can you do when the teleprompter comes calling?

Unless you’ve had training to read scripts, do not write your entire presentation out. Thus, you won’t be tempted to read verbatim with your eyes glued to the screen.
Write bullet points, with 3-5 words for one idea that could be several sentences. You want the bullets to jog your memory.
Imagine making eye contact with someone at the back of the room. Talk to a person and then another person and then another one as your eyes reach out to different sections of the audience.
Rehearse several times in private with your bullet points made on large pieces of paper, over several days, and at several different times during the day.
Keep the rehearsals short, 5-10 minutes at a time. Stop and do something else and return to it later.

Don’t murder your audience with a teleprompter. You can learn how to manage your nerves, speak with authenticity and connect with an audience. Bring your own charming self to the party. Invest a little time practicing with an effective approach. Before long, teleprompter or not, you’ll master your own personal ability to touch an audience ─ and the zombies can go back where they belong.