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Should I script my videos with a teleprompter? - Ep #78

Should I script my videos? That's a question I hear often followed with…should I use a teleprompter? 

People think that there is just a yes or no, it's black and white, either your script or you totally go off the cuff and word vomit on video. We think that some people have this miraculous, natural talent for speaking off the cuff. But the truth is, they’re good because they’ve had experience.

Today, you’ll learn that there’s actually quite a gradient when it comes to scripting, you don’t have to choose one side. 

In this episode, I’ll share my take on teleprompters then walk you through five levels of scripting to help you find the best way for your current skill set, brand voice and personality.

LISTEN to the AUDIO of this episode:

In this episode we’ll dive into...

  • Understanding that not all video is the same and therefore requires different approaches
  • 5 levels of scripting, so you have more choices than off the cuff or rigid scripts.
  • Three key tips for using teleprompters and still sound natural and engaging
  • Connecting the dots between how you speak and your brand personality. There are words that are going to be the best descriptors for your brand which will inform how you want to show up on video which will inform whether or not you should use a teleprompter. It all connects together. 

Read the full episode transcript below.


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Youtube video: Talk with your Hands Part 1: 3 Fundamentals for Effective Hand Gestures

Youtube video: Talk with your Hands {Part 2} - 7 Power Moves to Use in Your Next Presentation

Tonya Reiman - Body Language Expert 

>>> Are you an online entrepreneur wanting to speak on live or virtual stages?

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02:58  Should you use a teleprompter in your videos? That's a question I hear all the time followed by how scripted should I make my videos? People think that there is just a yes or no, it's black and white, either your script or you totally just go off the cuff and word vomit on video and some people just have this miraculous skill of sounding really good. That's not true. There's actually quite a gradient when it comes to scripting. There are five levels of scripting that I'm going to walk you through today and we're going to talk about when and if it's right for you to use a teleprompter, so let's jump to it.

04:10 Welcome back, friend, to another episode of the Heather Sager Show. I was perusing through a Facebook group a few weeks ago and I saw somebody asked this really specific question around whether or not they should use a teleprompter for their course videos. And it started the question in my mind of you know, I get a lot of questions around scripting and I have a complicated relationship with teleprompters which I'll tell you about today. So I thought, you know, let's have a conversation around how do we make sure that we're delivering quality content without a lot of extra fluff in our videos without sounding super robotic and scripted because I know you've seen this. You've seen someone in a video where they're very clearly scripted and all of a sudden they look like they have died and everything goes from their face and they're squinting and working so hard to try to read a teleprompter video. You're done. You can't even handle it. We want to watch people that look real, that sound real, that are interesting in their voices and in their information they deliver. But the question still stands is I'm still trying to figure out my ideas and how to articulate myself, how do I actually get it into a video like a camera staring at me putting all this pressure on and you're sweaty then then you're like, ah, I sound like an idiot. Don't worry, I got you. We're gonna talk about that a little bit more today by way of a couple of things. 


05:39  So first of all, what I want to tackle is this idea that when it comes to video, it used to be video is video in our business. We treated all video the same, but the reality is, video is nuanced. There are a lot of different types of video that you could be using in your business. You can be using edited videos on YouTube, you can be doing a video podcast like I'm doing right now. You can be on video on Facebook live streams, video with your camera on zoom coaching calls, video on Instagram, video on InstaTV. InstaTV, is that what you call it? I don't know, InstagramTV, whatever you call it. There's a thing for that. Now there are new video reels, Tiktok

There are so many different kinds of videos that I bet you have noticed, there's a little bit of a different personality with each. What you see on YouTube videos, looks and feels different than you're going to see in a Facebook Live, which looks drastically different than you see on Tiktok or now reals. Not all video is the same. So for us to ask the question, should I use teleprompters in my videos? The question is, which videos are we talking about? 

Now the question that I saw in a Facebook group, which was should I use a teleprompter in my course videos, got me thinking about the real rooted question here. Is it the fact that in our course videos, do we want to be seen as really freaking smart, and eloquent, and polished, and knowledgeable and expert status? Is that why we're leaning towards using a teleprompter? I don't know. I am just speculating here. But what I want you to start thinking about today is how do you want to be seen? How do you want people to experience your personality and your content, because when you shoot video, you have the ability to bring a unique voice, like literally your voice is on video for people to experience, to listen, and they actually can see you. But the way that you communicate, it's like a fingerprint. Your mannerisms, your facial expressions, your crazy hand gestures like me, if you have those. It's like a fingerprint. People get to see you in a really unique and interesting way, even if you're talking about the same content as someone else. 

07:54 So I want you to start to think about how do you want other people experiencing your content? Now I did a whole episode back before I'll link to it down below this video or you can get the show notes if you're listening to the podcast where you can go through and help understand how do you connect the dots between how you speak and your brand personality? How do you link up those two things? Because you have to be clear. Do you want to be seen as charismatic and fun and authentic? Or do you want to be seen as serious and well educated or very articulate, or those don't have to be mutually exclusive? But there are words that are going to be the best descriptors for your brand, which will inform how you want to show up on video, which will inform whether or not you should use a teleprompter. It all connects together. 

08:41 But what I want to talk about today is the question is should we script? It's not so directly black and white. I think a lot of people think either you are born with this natural talent where you can turn on the microphone, turn on the video camera and you can just ramble and gems come out of their mouths. And then there's everybody else who sounds like a complete total idiot which most of us feel like we fall in that category.

09:06 The thing is even the most well-versed, charismatic, articulate people that you see online, mentors that you follow, even if it sounds like they're speaking off the cuff, know that you are receiving their thoughts that they have been thinking about and speaking about for years. So even the most articulate people once sounded like a fuddy-duddy. So the off-the-cuff thing, it's actually just a byproduct of a lot of work behind the scenes, a lot of conversations in real life and on video. People have just gotten great talking about what they do but let's talk about the gradient. There are actually five levels of scripting. It's not just the question of should I script or should I be off the cuff. So let me walk you through how I approached five levels of scripting, which I use, whole five of them, on different types of videos in my business. 


09:56 Level one, this is totally off the cuff. This is there's a topic somebody wants me to talk about. Let's say I'm on a coaching call and somebody asks me, 'hey, Heather, should I incorporate a video into my welcome sequence?' I don't know why that was the example that came to mind but sure, there it is. I'm gonna riff off the cuff on that, because I don't teach doing a video in a welcome sequence but I have some thoughts and opinions on that. But do I have a three step process for how to incorporate a video in your welcome sequence? No, this would be example of me being on video totally off the cuff. Same thing might happen is if somebody asked me a question while I'm on Facebook Live, I might be going off the cuff. Rarely, am I ever going to hit live and record and just go, I'm going to talk about whatever today on Facebook Live, boom, let's just go off the cuff. It's just not something that I do. I always have something in mind. So off the cuff, I think it's what a lot of us picture in our minds, but we rarely ever use it except for if we're for in a Q&A type format which side note.

10:59 Even the Q&A format, it's really not content that you're hearing for the first time. So if you struggle with the thinking on your feet, if you struggle with the how do I sound better off the cuff? Go check out I'll link to the podcast episodes, under the show notes. I actually have a whole episode around how to navigate Q and A's and how to better prepare for thinking on your feet. 


11:17 Okay, but let's move into scripting level number two, and I call this the mental plan. Level Two is the mental plan. What do I mean by this is sometimes if I'm going to do a video, I will think through, okay, what do I want to talk about here? What's the question? What are a few things, I process it in my mind, which is not the most brilliant strategy but sometimes that's what we need to do. We think about the focus of the video, what's the goal, then we click live and go. An example of this would be a lot of times in Instagram stories, it's not a huge, let me get super strategic and show everything like if I'm doing it behind the scenes, for example, I'm not going to write out the five things I want to show behind the scenes. I'm going to go, okay, today I'm doing behind the scenes. I'm doing podcast interviews, oh, I can showcase that I had a podcast interview today with Tasha and then I can talk about something behind it. You're thinking through these things and then you go, boom, Hey, guys, Happy Wednesday, I hope you're having a great day something something. 

12:14 So you've thought through it, it's not totally off the cuff but again, we're not scripted, because it was just taking place in your mind. You can do those kinds of videos in your business. I would not do them for YouTube, I would not do them for your website, I would not even do them really for Facebook Lives but something like Instagram stories  may be a live here and there. You're thinking through things, right? There's not a lot of strategy. It's just the mental run-through.


12:40 Scripting level number three, this is what I call the post it note brief. I use this one all the time. It is my go-to method for planning videos. The post it note brief is where you write down a few bullet points on a post it note and literally stick it underneath the camera so you have a mental checklist of what you want to cover in your video. It helps you stay on track but without a lot of constraints. It allows you to play with your communication, show your personality and videos. If you want to go off on some tangents, which I do all the time, this Sager site notes. It allows you to do this stuff. So the post it note for me gives me enough structure, but a lot of leeway to be able to communicate what I want to say. The thing that happens though with the post it note brief, is it doesn't give you total boundaries so it does allow for a lot of tangents. So for those who are not as experienced staying on point, you want to be cautious with the post it note brief because you can go down a lot of rabbit holes and not know how to get yourself back on track, which on video, people don't have a lengthy tolerance for a lot of tangents except for if it's in a longer show format like podcasts. We have a higher a higher tolerance for longer talking which is why I chose this podcasting platform because they're in our earbuds and we're going through the episode but if we're on a YouTube video, typically we want shorter, quicker get to the point which is why on YouTube there's not a lot of context and backstory when you see videos. Post it note brief, really effective. I use these for Facebook Lives. I often use these for IGTV if I'm going live on Instagram. I'll do these for my podcasts if it's a topic I feel really good about. Post it note brief, excellent strategy, I use this all the time. 


14:35 If you want a little bit more structure, that's where we go into number four. So scripting level number four is an outline. I'm not going to call it something fancy. It's just a frickin outline. This is the model that I teach inside my program, Speak Up to Level Up, where people are designing and creating a signature talk where they use their signature story, stories of their students, of their clients. They paint the picture for an audience around teaching on core pillars that are around their content, but then also guide people to want to work with them. 

An outline is instrumental for this because what we want to do is have a guided conversation, a guided talk, and not just a lot of ramblings. We want to have well-vetted stories, really strong messages that articulate how our audience feels, what they're thinking, what they really, really want, what they're scared of. We want to include the language of our audience so having an outline is instrumental to this. 

An outline is not a script. We build outlines in Google Docs. Where on a Google Doc, it's maybe one to two pages, where it's literally like topic one, point A, point B, point C. Topic two, point A, point B, but you remember writing outlines back in high school and college. There's an actual process. An outline is just that. It's not full sentences. It is not scripts and details, but it's the structure and the key points in what you're talking about. 

Where would we use this? Well, I think writing outlines is something exceptional to do when you're giving talks. So if you're a guest speaker on someone's Facebook Live, you're a guest speaker in a virtual summit and it's a recorded presentation, outline is great. If you are doing a podcast episode, which actually right now I am working off of an outline in my project management tool. You'll see me look at the screen here. I have no problem with that. Check your notes. You want to make sure you stay on track. Outlines are great for podcast interviews. Outlines are great for a lot of videos, especially when you want to stay on track and you have a sequence of information you want to take your audience to, particularly on longer form videos and podcasts, I highly recommend outlines because it gives you the freedom and flexibility to insert your quirks and talking language that's real of how you would normally speak versus being confined to a script, which might sound a little dry. I'll dig into more on that in just a moment as we talk about the strength of scripts and the drawbacks of scripts specifically related to teleprompters. 

17:02 So I believe outlines are an exceptional way to function. I recommend that all of my clients work off of outlines. And if you are more of an off the cuff person, I recommend you too start with that post it note brief to give yourself a little bit more structure and then you can work towards having a fully baked outline for pieces of content that you know you have some really, really valuable gems you want to share and you want to stay on track. 


17:25 Brings me to my fifth level of scripting, which is actually having a script. A script is a word for word of what you're going to say. Now a script can be used in two ways. I'm sure there's more than that but I'm gonna give you two right now where you actually use the script in a teleprompter or you have it memorized word for word and you recite it, that's one way to do it. Or you write a script where you practice it enough times, or when you deliver it, it might not be exactly the same words, but it's the gist of it. You got to figure out what works for you. 

17:55 For me, scripting is completely off brand. I'm a speaking coach. I teach people how to speak. So if I were using scripts, it just doesn't work for me. The way that I speak and the way that I write are two different things so I just need the freedom of flexibility to talk about things in a way that comes natural and out of my mouth. I don't know, a little more organically so scripting is not my strength. Actually, anytime I am forced to use a script, I forget how to speak, I don't sound like myself. I turn into a nervous sweaty mess. I am trying to get it so perfect and I forget the point of what I'm trying to do which is to connect with my audience. For me, scripting does not work. 

18:3 But I'll tell you this, I know so many people who love scripting because it gives them confidence. They need to know that they have well-vetted their words, that they know what they're going to say. That gives them the confidence to show up. So it's like your kryptonite is going to be different than the next person's. I don't know Superman versus Spider Man, if spider man had his version of kryptonite. I don't know. You got to know one size does not fit all here. So you might not be working in the same brain as me, where you literally aren't having the same brain as me, but you might not work in the same way. Don't take my advice as the end all be all have the perfect way to do it. I want you to listen to what resonates with you and choose a strategy that best aligns with how you naturally communicate and how you want to be seen on camera. So when it comes to scripting, let's talk specifically about teleprompters  because this is something that I hear people talk about all the time thinking that if I can just get my words written down, then I will create the perfect video. And I'm here to tell you that that might work. It also might lead you to the results that you don't want. 

19:46 So let's talk a bit about teleprompters and I'm going to talk about three specific things I want you to watch out for to help make the decision of if teleprompters are right for you or if teleprompters are not your friend. For me, teleprompters at this current point in my life are not really my friend but there is a time and place. So let me break down the teleprompter.


3 specific things you should be thinking about if you want to use a teleprompter within your video content. 



20:17 I want you to be cognizant of your language. A teleprompter is based off of scripts and when most people write scripts, they just do that. They write. Recognize that the way that we speak and the way that we write are technically the same language but we use different words. So for example, the use of contractions when we speak. When some people say contractions more than they write them, or vice versa. That's not always consistent. Also words like therefore. People don't really say 'therefore' but they write 'therefore', or 'such as.' I it's just not as natural. I what you think about there's some words that you may use that I don't or vice versa. I want you to be aware of, when you write, you typically write more formally and that's mostly because many of us are from professional backgrounds where we had to learn business writing, professional writing because we were living under the umbrella of somebody else's brand so we had to be very cautious around how we wrote because we represented another brand. 

21:27 Well, friend, as an entrepreneur, you're talking to other business owners or even customers. People want to be spoken to like another human being. They don't want to be talked down to, they don't want to feel like somebody is trying to sound smarter than them and sometimes using more formal language is going to just rub someone the wrong way even though they can't put their finger on it. Also, you'll find that when you say words out loud that you've written, if it's not in the same like nuanced word choice that you would use when you speak, you're going to sound weird and not like you because you don't speak that. So I want you to figure out how this works for you, whether it's the word choices that you use need to be shifted. 

But here's a quick tip of how to navigate that. If you do want to write a script, whether it's to use on a teleprompter or just to study the script to get better on video, I want you to say the words out loud as you're writing the script. So don't write the script and then go back, start by saying them out loud. You can easily do this by using there's a voice to text feature inside Google Docs. You go to Tools, voice typing, and you just start speaking in the Google doc and you can actually see your words, then you can go back, sure and edit them. But that will help you say am I actually writing the script in a language of how I speak. That's tip number one that I'll give you. If you decide you want to write first. I know many people in my audience are copywriters or love writing copy. If you really want to go that way, that's fine. I want you to then read it out loud and catch in your voice if something just sounds a little clunky and replace those words. Don't try to be cutesy or catchy. I want you to be clear and use actual language that you would be using if you were on the phone with a client. Watch that. What you might even do is say things out loud to somebody who knows you really, really well and ask them. Does this actually sound like me? And if it doesn't, well, there's your opportunity to improve a bit. So language that is the number one thing I want you focused on if you are using a teleprompter or a script. 


23:24 This is specific to a teleprompter. I want you to think about speed, the speed of your voice,  the words per minute coming out of your mouth. We all speak at a different speed or a different pace. And a teleprompter, typically speaking, you have to find the cadence of the words as they roll on the screen so you can keep up with them and a lot of people struggle to find the right pace that works for them. You can find it. That's not my beef with it. Here's my beef when it comes to teleprompters.

23:59 Y'all know by now I am a very expressive speaker, I talk about how when it comes to communication words matter. You want to have strong content, but how you deliver your words matters far more. The study came from Southern California in the late 70s talking about communication, dealing with things that are more emotional in nature, which most content marketing has an emotional layer. It says that only 7% of what we communicate the words that we say, 38% of what we say is how we deliver those words are our tone, or pitch, or cadence, and 55% of what we communicate this our nonverbals, so our body language, our facial expressions, our hand gestures, our energy and our shoulders and such. So what I want you thinking about is when we use a teleprompter, if we specifically think about speed of the words coming down the teleprompter, we're going to be at the same pace the entire time. When we're doing video, we have to keep things interesting for our audience and pace variability is a big piece of that. So if you're talking about something excited and you're building up to you and  notice I'm talking really fast right here, and then I'm going to slow it down. There is a pace change that happens, even if it's not as dramatic as what I just did there. You need to be mindful of the speed ups and slow downs and the pace at which you interact with your audience. 

Now, you might not be able to see their eyes back at you. You might not be able to see their heads nodding but when you're able to interject, pace changes. Variability in your voice, it matters. It pulls people in. It disrupts their brain might have gone off on a tangent, you said something and got them in a different line of thinking, it pulls them back into you because I want you to think about this as your voice is like a lullaby for a baby. Lullaby is used to put a baby to sleep or the same sounds over and over and over again in the same tone and talking in the same way. And even though I'm varying my voice right now, it sounds very reassuring. And what happens for most people, when they are speaking on the teleprompter, they are doing so well at varying their voice, like I'm doing right now. However, at the end of the day, it sounds all the same and at this present moment, you have fallen asleep. 

26:22 You notice how I varied my voice. I did all the right things of having variability in my voice, but the softness and the roundness of my voice, the whole time is what happens when most people use a teleprompter. This is my beef for the teleprompter. Instead of speaking and connecting with real humans, we put on performance trying to act a certain way, not intentionally, but it just happens when a camera gets put on us. And it's intensified when a teleprompter is paired with it. I'm not saying don't use a teleprompter, I'm saying anticipate this if you do. Understand how you communicate, what is the natural inflection of your voice, start thinking about these things for yourself so that if you use a teleprompter, you still can come across as you because you are the unique fingerprint for your brand. How you communicate is more important than what you say even though your quality and content, of course, has to be good. But I don't want you to lose that uniqueness, that individual way that you describe things that individually how you show up. That's what's going to connect people to you so don't let a teleprompter squash that. Don't let it mute your personality. 


27:33 Let me give you one little tip, one last tip here when it comes to teleprompters to help you level up if you're using a teleprompter or help you make the decision to use or not use one. So teleprompter tip number three. Understand what happens with your eyes. Okay, your eyes. Now we are in a world where we're communicating virtually, especially if we're talking about video. Hello, we're talking about looking at a little black dot on a camera lens I'm looking at right now. It takes work for us to get more expressive with our eyes. When we have human eyes giving us that instantaneous feedback our eyes dance a bit, there's a sparkle in our eyes. You can see my eyes open in a wide expression of excitement and enthusiasm. I mean, I'm going a little crazy right now because I'm talking about my eyes. But your eyes have a dynamic nature to them. They move. We don't maintain eye contact with people 100% of the time otherwise it's creepy. We look around a bit. We look a little here, we look a little there while we're thinking maybe not all at one time, because then I look like a crazy person but you look around. You maintain eye contact about 70% of the time is what builds trust with other people. I learned that through body language expert Tonya Ryman.

28:39 70% of the times what you're shooting for when it comes to eye contact. The same holds true for a camera lens. I'm looking at you a majority of time, but you'll notice every once in a while I'll look away. I'll glance away for a moment. I'll look down at my notes. I'll think, look up, look sideways. Be natural with your eyes but here's what happens when it comes to a teleprompter. It's one thing to learn to be more expressive on a camera lens. But with a teleprompter, you also have the additional intensity of trying to read text on something. So you have this intensity in your eyes that's almost squinty like that you're trying to follow the words but what happens is what I call dead eyes. Dead eyes where it's the, okay, you can hear someone even if they've mastered the voice, even if they've mastered the language as we talked about so if they've mastered language, they mastered voice. They have the variability, but from the nose up, it's like the lights are on but nobody's home. We've seen that in a YouTube video.

I just saw another entrepreneur posted a phenomenal video earlier this week about content strategies. The content was good. The language was good. She had variability in her voice, but her eyes were missing that spark because they were flat and a little bit dead eyed because they were reading a teleprompter. So if you will use a teleprompter, which again is not a bad thing. You just want to know how to leverage it to be in integrity and integrity with your brand and your personality, you need to be mindful that your eyes need to have expression, turn the lights on because our eyes, they say the eyes are the window to the soul. I think that's an expression and I don't know who says it, but it's a beautiful thing that we'll insert right here. The eyes, that's the connection point with people. And if you can't express yourself through your eyes, somebody watching your video is going to tune out, they will pull away. But if you're able to make eye contact, where you see, I see you, I am talking to you right now. I'm looking in this camera and I'm imagining you watching this crazy video with my crazy hand gestures. Side note, if you're listening to the podcast, this is now available for you on YouTube. So you can watch me in all my craziness on the Heather Sager show. But what I'm communicating to you is my eyes tell you I'm 100% here with you. My eyes communicate something different and when we're looking to teleprompter be cautious of the dead eye effect. 


31:02 Now, if it happens and you've done in past videos, please do not beat yourself up around what I'm talking about today. If you've used more formal language that doesn't sound like you, if you have had the really boring speed in your voice. If you have had dead eyes, please do not use this as a permission slip to beat yourself up of how bad your videos are. That is not what we're here to do. We're here to help you level up and make your videos and your connections to your audience even stronger ao we do not look back and ever say oh, I suck at this, Oh my gosh, that last video was terrible. We never berate ourselves in the rearview mirror. That rear view mirror version of you that created that video, she was a badass, she was brave, she had the guts to do that so we are not going to tear her down. We are going to say hi five girl, thank you for getting me here in this moment. And because of your bravery, I have the opportunity to say how can I get better? So when we are critical of ourselves, when we say how do we get better, we only should have our eyes forward. Stop critiquing yourself in the rearview mirror, berating yourself. And the last you were saying, here's something that I want to improve upon and here's how I'm going to do it. Eyes forward with your growth. 

32:18 So everything we talked about today, I want to make sure loud and clear. When it comes to you showing up on camera, whether or not you script, maybe or use some of the tips I gave you today around the different levels of scripting where you talk about how and where to use a teleprompter and the best way to make sure that you show up in integrity with your brand personality. I want you thinking about how do you move forward with this information? How do you become a more dynamic voice for your brand? How do you get your message out there? That's what this show is all about and I'm going to continue serving up content just like this in the future. 

32:54 So hey, if you would like this episode, if you'd like learning more about these kinds of questions of should I use a teleprompter, should I script, exploring more things around using your voice or talking about different aspects of your online business? Be sure to subscribe to the show either here on YouTube or on the podcast and please please please your comments, reviews, they mean the world to me. It helps me make sure that I'm on track giving you the content that's important for you. And I will see you in the next episode. Bye friends.


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