I have produced thousands of hours of live and live-to-tape television, and the majority of all problems have come from IFB (interruptible foldback- that ear piece allowing a mix-minus feed of audio) or the prompter (the screens that allow the speaker to read the script whilst looking out at the cameras).
Last night at the Republican National Convention, the prompter demon reared its ugly head during the magnificent speech by Gov. Sarah Palin.
RedState.com and The New Republic reports that
“Halfway through Sarah Palin’s speech tonight at the RNC, people following the speech noticed she was deviating from the prepared text.
According to sources close to the McCain campaign, the teleprompter continued scrolling during applause breaks. As a result, half way through the speech, the speech had scrolled significantly from where Governor Palin was in the speech. Unfazed, Governor Palin continued, from memory, to deliver her speech without the teleprompter cued to the appropriate point in her speech”
My favorite story of prompter failure was during Campus Crusade for Christ’s Expo 85. I was assistant directing from the Limehouse Studios in London when the prompter died and we gave host Paul Eschelman a “stretch” cue. He blinked once and then pulled out a folded paper from his inside jacket pocket and began reading fake viewer feedback — including one from his mom.
When using prompter, prepare yourself for it to die on you, or at least not keep in sync with you. Public speaking or hosting live tv is enough of a tightrope act by itself, be prepared for tech problems and you’ll have great stories to tell later.