Appearing on media, whether it’s radio, TV or being interviewed by a newspaper journalist can be exciting as well as challenging. You want to get your message across and sound authoritative.

One of the most common questions we get at our media training centre is whether using an autocue is right and when can it be a benefit.

What is an Autocue?

Autocue uses a digital screen that tells you what to say as you talk to the camera, on tape or to an audience. It’s a script that you read verbatim. As you can see, while that’s useful in some circumstances, it can be a distinct disadvantage in others.

When you see a prime minister or president giving an official speech, you’ll often spot some glass stands in front of them. This is the autocue system that streams the words that are going to be conveyed. Most common autocues, for example, the type that newsreaders use, are mounted on the cameras.

Benefits of an Autocue

The big benefit of an autocue is that you can determine what you want to say beforehand, write the speech and make sure every point is covered. Particularly if you are a new or nervous speaker, it can certainly make a difference in how you get your message across.

It can go wrong, however. Autocues tend to move at a set speed and if you get behind because it’s moving too quickly, your speech could rapidly turn comical. Of course, not having an autocue can also lead to problems. Boris Johnson’s recent speech to the CBI descended into a disaster because his notes were written on papers that were in the wrong order.

Disadvantages of an Autocue

The big disadvantage of an autocue is that it can make you seem stilted and unnatural – in other words, it can make you sound like you’re reading off a script. Practised autocue readers like politicians and newsreaders can make it sound natural, but it can certainly be difficult for beginners.

Of course, autocues have their place. They are useful in certain media situations and not others and it’s important to know the difference.

When to Use One

The places where you may want to use an autocue are if you are giving a major speech or are hosting an online webinar or meeting. In these situations, every word you use needs to count which is why so much effort is put into developing the content in the first place.

Another example might be if there has been a crisis and you need to issue an apology to your customers. It can help you get the right explanation and words across. It’s vital, however, that you are competent at using autocue because it can make things worse if you sound stilted and appear to be reading from a pre-prepared script.

It’s something you need to avoid if you are simply bad at reading stuff out loud from a script – CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a prime example of someone who is never quite mastered reading from an autocue.

Autocue is not the right choice when you are being interviewed directly. Not only are the logistics impossible, if you seem to be reading from something prepared it can appear disastrous and disingenuous. It’s better to have memorised your key talking points and respond more directly to each question so that you deliver in a natural and spontaneous way.

Media Training Company

For great advice and training on how to present yourself to the media, talk to the experienced team at Hawkeye Media who can create a custom training plan, so you feel confident dealing with the media even without an autocue!