CONFERENCE PROMPTING SYSTEMS

Conferences and Presentations

There are several ways of providing prompted text for corporate conferences or awards ceremonies. These include giant CRT monitors or TFT or Plasma screens or even front or rear projection – usually placed at the back of the auditorium, or concealed in the audience. However, for general conferences the typical kit used is a specially designed conference prompting stands, either static or motorised robotic stands, which can be programmed to automatically change height, a TFT flat screen monitor and a piece of specially coated glass in an adjustable glass holder.

 

Corporate Conferences

Normally a double stand system, commonly known as a “Presidential System”, would be used. In this case two static or robotic stands are positioned either side of the lectern. Each stand is set so that when the presenter is looking at each glass screen he is facing the left, or right, section of the audience. A motorised stand system is preferable because it can be lowered when not in use or automatically adjusted with presets if there are multiple speakers involved, each with a different glass height requirement.

The prompt operator has remote control of the stands. In rehearsal the height of each glass can be set to the ideal height, either by local or remote control. The heights can then be saved by the operator on the prompting base station computer as a preset height for that particular presenter. Adequate time should be allocated in rehearsal to get this height absolutely right. A final check should be made once the auditorium has been set because until this has been done the glass stands cannot be aligned correctly.

To get the best coverage the glass heights may not be the same. The local height controls can be used by the presenter to set the height in case of a malfunction or, if essential, to change the height during the presentation. The final height of the stands should enable the prompter text image to be roughly in the centre of the reflecting glass in order to assist the presenters to move their eyeline between them. The height of the glasses may have to be compromised to get the best coverage of the audience i.e. If the audience is not symmetrical about the lectern one glass could be set higher or lower than the other.

If the lectern is set to one side of the stage it is possible to use a single glass system. The basic eyeline is set to a diagonal across the audience and the presenter can cheat the eyeline by moving left or right behind the lectern thus giving the appearance of moving their head to cover the whole audience.

Use by Politicians

Political users, and yes many politicians do use prompting, hence the “Presidential System” ! The reason that this set up is so appropriate for this kind of meeting is that invariably it is being televised. The gap between the glasses gives a clear shot from the front for a Mid Close Up shot which does not reveal the glasses on either side. The alternative shot is usually a very wide shot where the glasses and stands are insignificant and cannot be identified.

Award Ceremonies

Of course the systems described above can also be used for award ceremonies. However because the event is invariably being televised the glasses intrude into shot and also clutter up the stage. Aslso the style of presentation is different in that the presenter is speaking to camera and not addressing the whole audience. So here large floor mounted monitors can be used, usually at the main camera position just underneath the lens and so long as they are 30 to 40 feet from the presenter the eyeline is totally acceptable. Now the major problem with using large monitors is that they are not concealed from the audience and the last thing wanted is for a “read along” session with all and sundry aware of what’s about to be said! One of the best ways of dealing with this problem is to use honeycomb. This is an aluminium panel of cells which when placed in front of a screen reduces the angle at which it can be read. Different thicknesses, and the distance it is from the screen, can widen or lessen the reading angle. In this way it can be adjusted so that only the presenter has clear vision of the text.

One other problem in using large monitors is when a shot of the audience is required taken from the stage behind the presenter. Obviously the first thing anybody will see is a large screen with text on it. The best way to resolve this is to take some stock shots during warm up with the prompter screen blanked – a simple key stroke by the operator. Or, of course, in real time letting the prompt operator know when the shot is coming so they can blank the screen.

Other Applications including Q&A

There are many other ways of using prompting, even pop and opera stars regularly use devices as an aide memoir. Monitors can be positioned in the wings, in the orchestra pit or even amongst the fold back speakers, as many as may be required. A further application is Q&A sessions. Some complex Annual General Meetings where perhaps board members are not familiar with the intricacies of the business and would feel uncomfortable fielding questions from the attendees. Questions are pre-registered, fed back to a research area and the answers are displayed on an array of prompt monitors rigged in the set at the appropriate time for each director. If there are supplementary questions answers can be entered in real time.