How marvellous that the recent versions of Office automatically embed videos into PowerPoint instead of linking them. And how frustrating when you bundle up your multimedia presentation and someone else reports that the videos don’t play on their PC. This is an issue we’ve come across many times over the years, and it can be very tricky and time-consuming to troubleshoot, so we’ve developed a little tool to help.
We’ve written an updated how-to for recording voiceover in versions of PowerPoint 2016 and later, which you can check out here.
Recording voiceover into PowerPoint is a useful way to quickly insert narration over your visual content. There are a number of uses for voiceover in your presentation: you can export a timed and narrated video of your deck, or you can use the rough narration as a presentation guide, to help your presenting team know exactly how a particular slide might be presented live.
Recording voiceover directly into PowerPoint
This functionality has been around for a long time and should be familiar to many, but it’s important to be aware of some pitfalls and workarounds to make this a frustration-free exercise. Before you start, consider the type of presentation you’re going to be narrating. Recording directly into PowerPoint works best for traditional presentations that have clearly defined transitions between slides i.e. your script will define what you are going to say over each individual slide in isolation, rather than being a continuous narrative. This is important as we will see later.
Here is the step by step process:
1. Make sure your headset/microphone is properly connected to your PC via your audio jacks or USB connection, and open up your PowerPoint presentation.
2. In the SlideShow tab on the PowerPoint ribbon, click on Record SlideShow (clicking the upper portion of the button will start the recording from the first slide – clicking the lower portion will give you the option to record from the slide you’re currently looking at).
3. Normally you will want to record everything – narrations, slide and animation timings, and laser pointer (even if you’re not using this feature), so leave the two checkboxes filled. Take a deep breath because once you hit Start Recording…
4. You need to start reading from your script. As you record, just click along to advance the animations on your slides and to transition to the next slide.
5. When you make a mistake, simply hit Escape to leave the session and return to Edit mode. Bring up the slide you choked on, and use the lower portion of the ‘Record Slideshow’ button to select ‘Start recording from current slide’. Take a deep breath, hit Start Recording and try, try again.
6. If you want to re-record a slide after you’ve already recorded the slides that come after it, simply follow the process for step 5 above, then when you have reached the end of that slide, hit Escape to leave the recording session. The timings and transition time for that slide will be set, and the other slides will not be affected.
When recording in this way, it’s very important to be aware of the way in which PowerPoint handles the recording. Basically, a separate WAV audio file is captured for each individual slide and embedded – you’ll be able to see a semi-transparent audio icon on each slide (ugly aren’t they? Don’t worry about that, you can just drag them off the edge of the slide like any other shape and they won’t be visible in the slideshow). What this means for the voice artist is that you can’t record continuously across slide transitions; your voice will be cut off while the show moves from one slide to another. You need to pause for about half a second before clicking to advance to the next slide, and then pause after the transition before you start the narrative for the next slide. Keeping this in mind should save you many frustrating hours of re-recording – but if you really want your narrative to flow smoothly without any gaps, keep reading.
Importing audio and setting timings
If you are recording a more dynamic presentation and you want your narrative to flow continuously like this one (yes we made it, yes it’s a PowerPoint presentation, and yes it happens to be my voice), then you’ll need to record the voiceover separately and then add it to the presentation. For this, I cannot recommend Audacity highly enough – it’s easily the most useful piece of free software I have on my machine, and you can get it for free here.
Audacity allows you to record your whole voiceover, make edits and add effects, and then export it as a single audio file (normally as a WAV file, although an MP3 encoder is available as a free add-in). Once you’ve exported the whole narration, go back to the first slide of your PowerPoint presentation and click Insert > Audio, and browse to the new audio file to embed it in the presentation. The last job is to synchronise the voiceover with the slide animations and transitions, and here is the process for doing that:
1. Make sure the Animations pane is visible in your window, by clicking the Animations tab, and clicking the Animation Pane button.
2. Click on the animation event for your audio track in the list of animation events (by default it’s set up to play on a click, for reasons known best to someone else), and hit Delete to remove it from the list of animations.
3. Click on the speaker icon that appeared on your slide, and add a Play animation from the menu in the ribbon. Then in the animation pane, drag this event to the top of the list and double click on it to bring up the Play Audio properties. Tell it to stop playing after 99 slides (just trust me), and on the Timing tab set it to start With Previous.
4. Now OK all that, and go to the SlideShow tab, and Record Slideshow. Make sure you choose to Record the slideshow from the beginning, and then make extra-sure that you UNCHECK the box that says ‘Record narration and laser pointer’. When you start the recording, your voiceover track will start to play, and you can click to advance the animations and transitions at the correct times. PowerPoint will record the timings and the whole thing will play through continuously without any gaps.
Whichever technique you use to record your voiceover, once it’s all finished you should then make use of the media optimization function to make sure the file isn’t bloated beyond all taste and decency. Click on File and PowerPoint will let you know that one or more of the media files in your presentation can be optimized. Click on the Optimize compatibility button and let PowerPoint churn through your files to reduce the size of the overall file and make sure that PCs with different setups can play the audio. If you wanted to make extra-sure, you could then go to Save As… and select the WMV format to render out your new presentation as a movie.Leave a comment
Principal consultantView John Bevan's profile
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