Because he seemed so spontaneous and articulate during the presidential campaign, many people have been surprised at how addicted Barack Obama has become to his teleprompter. Even during the smallest announcement or supposedly casual moment – indeed, even during his appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” – he used his prompter. It malfunctioned a few times during the campaign which resulted in some less than powerful speeches. After those incidents, many of us thought he’d wean himself off the device. But I’m afraid that didn’t happen.
Prompters make it especially difficult for photographers and TV crews trying to capture images of the president during major events. And even White House veterans have been surprised to see the equipment set up against the mahogany doors and beautiful crystal chandeliers in the East Room or the marble columns of the Grand Foyer. “It’s just something presidents haven’t done,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidential historian who’s been in the White House since 1975. “It’s jarring to the eye. In a way, it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter.”
I find it interesting that for all the jokes about the bumbling of President Bush, he was far more off the cuff and spontaneous than president Obama has been. In my work with television personalities, I do my best to get them off the prompter. I don’t mind notes or transitional material, but it takes a real pro to convince the audience you’re not reading – and worse – when you’re supposed to be talking from the heart, it’s tough convincing people of your sincerity when you’re reading prepared remarks off a teleprompter.
It’s about as honest as events where people read the opening prayer off an index card.