Broadcast News

Bookmark and Share

A Day In The Life Of A Prompting Operator

News Image
Our job is to provide script prompting and operators for conferences, award ceremonies, television programmes and concerts… But nobody knows what we actually do. So I'm going down a different route for this article; I'm going to let you in on the illusive world of a prompting operator.

Let's start with a 'typical' day... already I have hit a hurdle – there are no typical days in this job. One day we'll work on a video shoot for a company director on the 32nd floor of Canary Wharf – the next, we'll be in a breathtaking hotel for an award ceremony (these can range from star-studded events like the 'RTS Awards' to the equally glamourous, yet unexpected events like the 'Sausage Awards') – the following day, we can be fantastically busy on a high-profile event like BBC Sports Personality Of The Year.

So, we rock up at the venue and start our rig which takes about 30 minutes to an hour depending on the venue (FYI, we do love a conference when we are set up just behind the stage). We may look cumbersome when we arrive with all of our cases but we are professionals and we will get the rig done efficiently and to a high standard. We take into account all the potential issues – glare of the lights on the glass, a clear shot for the camera at the back of the hall, correct height, positioning and eye line. After all, we are the 'invisible role' – we don't want audiences to realise we are being used.

Once we have the kit up and running, we input the script into our system and edit the speech so that it flows well for the reader. This may sound like an easy job but do not underestimate the wonders of the human mind; there are little tricks to help the script more readable. We care about these nuances because we want to make everyone look good.

During the show the presenter is reliant on us – there needs to be a high level of trust which is one of the hardest skills to learn. The relationship between presenter and prompter is often created in a brief introduction and a ten minute rehearsal. In this short time you have to determine how to react if the presenter adlibs; should you stay where you are and wait for them to get back on script even if this means they will repeat themselves? Or do you follow the script and jump to the next point? Each presenter works differently, and these snap decisions can have a big impact on the production.

With television, the relationships are incredibly important and you often have presenters who will only work with one specific operator for many years. This happens frequently on larger shows such as The Jeremy Kyle Show, University Challenge and Match of The Day. It's a strong bond and trust is such a crucial aspect of our work.

The pressure in this job is immense. If anything goes wrong it will be noticed by the presenter, director, producers and, more importantly, the viewers at home or in the audience. You have to constantly be on the ball. You have to pre-empt eventualities. Listen to producers talking of changes, get the scenario in your head and remember all of the links that reference that change. All this goes on whilst you are still listening to the programme output, the PA who's counting until the next link and scrolling with the presenter whilst simultaneously making those changes. The adrenaline really kicks in at these times.

Once finished (without a hitch), we have the joyous task of the de-rig. And then it's time to head off home for it to start all over again – different crew – different location.

The main skills required to do this job are; patience, alertness, multi-tasking, a decent grasp of the English language and… more patience.

Our job is unlike any other. It's always interesting, highly demanding and often unacknowledged – discretion is key after all.

It's a niche job. And we love it.

Image: Lisa Robinson in the MOTD studio.

Article by Lisa Robinson, Manager of Prompting Plus North Office in Manchester.

This article also features in the January edition of Broadcast Film & Video.
Solidmate Ltd Memory Card Hire London

Top Related Stories
Click here for the latest broadcast news stories.

So You Want To Be An Editor, And Work On Drama?
Often, I have been asked my advice on how to become a professional editor. Strangely, even though the technology used to create edited content has rad
Procam Announces Media Technology Day
Procam has announced Media Technology Day, an all-day exclusive industry event focussing on innovation in production and camera technology. The Media
Procam To Host Panasonic VariCam Open Day
A Panasonic VariCam Open Day is to be held at the Procam headquarters in London next month. The event, hosted by Procam and Take 2, will take place on
Procam To Host Media Technology Day
Procam has announced details of its Media Technology Day - an all-day exclusive industry event in partnership with Broadcast magazine. Taking place at
Timeline Delivered BBC's Christmas Day Service 2017
Timeline Television worked with BBC Religion, now part of BBC Studios Pacific Quay Productions, on the live transmission of the Christmas Day Service
SGO To Support Spanish Short Film Project 'The Shortest Day'
Next Thursday, 21st of December, on winter solstice, will take place the traditional celebration of spanish short film called "The shortest day - [ED
Argosy To Host Technology Day
Argosy has unveiled details of its Technology Day 2017 which will be held on Monday, 27 November, at The Glassblower pub in Soho, central London, from
MTF Services Join Fujinon For Open Day
MTF Services recently teamed up with Fujinon for an open day event held at Cherry Duck Studios in London to demonstrate the launch of the recent conve
Shure Announces Axient Digital Open Day
Shure recently launched its Axient Digital Wireless System at the 2017 NAB Show and has announced a London-based open day on the 18 May at RADA to sho
GTC Announces Annual Awards Day
The date and venue for this year's Guild of Television Cameramen (GTC) awards and AGM has been announced. The events will take place on Sunday, 14 May
Version2 And LED Creative Team Up For Red Nose Day
Version 2 Lighting and LED Creative recently provided support to the crew and BBC Studios Production team for Red Nose Day 2017. This year's event was
Production News : Actress Naomie Harris To Join Cast Of The Third Day
Sky Studios and HBO have confirmed that BAFTA nominated actress Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Skyfall), will join the cast of The Third Day, alongside Jud
Production News : Filming Begins On BBC 2 Factual Drama 'Mother's Day'
Filming has commenced in Belfast on BBC 2's new factual drama 'Mother's Day'. Mother's Day follows the events, aftermath and public response to the Wa
Broadcast Innovation Day Warsaw
German system integrator Broadcast Solutions GmbH, alongside local partner Tadeusz Gawenda from SKULL, have announced that they will host a Broadcast
Production News : Presenter Line-Up Announced For BBC Children In Need
Stand-up comedian and presenter Rob Beckett is set to join Graham Norton, Tess Daly, Mel Giedroyc, Ade Adepitan, Rochelle and Marvin Humes in presenti