In today’s hyper-connected world of virtual split-personalities, it is obligatory for any serious individual to broadcast their charm and their expertise to wider and yet wider audiences. Teleportation technology is now quite reliable, although not for anything larger than quantum information, sadly. So until technology catches up with necessity, the cheapest and simplest way to be in many places at once is to create a self-running presentation featuring your own voice as narrator. Let’s look at a few strategies for doing this.

Recording 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.

For tips on getting the perfect voiceover, this is the article for you, and if you’re using one of the later versions of PowerPoint, these instructions use the updated interface.

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Written by

John Bevan

Managing consultant

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  1. Image of Tom Tom says:

    Hi
    While your instructions are pretty clear (perhaps for 2010 or a Mac version?), and I could adapt them to my version (I’m on 2013 PC), I keep having the same issue.

    The timings get sloppy after about the first 12 to 15 slides. There is a delay in slide change that seems to grow, eventually making the narration confusing.

    Any suggestions/comments/thoughts would be very welcome. 🙂
    Tom

  2. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Tom and thanks for the comment. The instructions were for PowerPoint PC 2010 and I’m glad you were able to apply them to 2013.

    It sounds as though you’re recording the whole voiceover as a separate audio track and then inserting it into a timed PowerPoint deck. You’re right that beyond a dozen slides or so, the transitions between slides can get laggy depending on the ‘weight’ of the images and complexity of the slides, and as you’ve noticed this can become cumulative.

    The only bulletproof way I’ve found to get around this is to use a third-party editor such as Camtasia. You’d record your entire voiceover, then play it through your headphones while you click through the presentation recording the timings. Then save out your presentation as a WMV, and import it into Camtasia along with the audio track, match them up and render it out as a movie. It won’t be an editable PowerPoint, but it will be watertight in terms of timing and also a much smaller file to boot.

    Alternatively, you could try using the first method I describe of just recording directly into PowerPoint slide by slide, but if your narrative is ‘seamless’ and you want it to flow across the slide transitions, then you might want to explore the method above.

    If I’ve misunderstood your approach or if you’ve already been down this route, please let me know and I’ll do my best to investigate for you.

  3. Image of Gordon Gordon says:

    I wonder if this is a difference in Powerpoint 2013 as well: When I go to record the timings only (e.g. if the audio is already on the slide), the audio on the slide doesn’t play at all. So I’m basically guessing at the timings, which obviously doesn’t work too well. The audio plays fine when just displaying the presentation, but as part of the Record option it doesn’t play. Was this different in 2010?

    Thanks,
    Gordon

    • Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

      Hi Gordon, yes there does seem to be an issue with PowerPoint 2013 and PowerPoint 2016 regarding playback of embedded audio when you’re trying to just record the timings. One thing to try is to install Quicktime on your machine (if you’re using Windows 10 you’ll need version 7.7.6 for Windows – later ones will not install). If that doesn’t fix things, then you’ll have to do it manually. Look at how many clicks you have for each slide, listen back to your audio and write down the timestamps for each click (e.g. 5 seconds, 8.5 seconds etc). Then in your animation pane, right click one of the animation events in the list and select Show Advanced Timeline (essential for any serious animation work). Using the graphical readout across the timeline, you can now set each click animation to ‘After Previous’ and then drag the bar for that animation event to the right place on the timeline (e.g. 5 seconds) to set up the delays. Note that any ‘With Previous’ animations that fire in conjunction with the ‘After Previous’ events should be reset – but it will be easy to see this on the advanced timeline. It’s a laborious process but it will work – the most efficient way is just to record directly into PowerPoint clicking as you go. Hope this helps – let me know if you get into anything sticky.

  4. Image of Neil Zimmerman Neil Zimmerman says:

    URGENT:

    Hi John;
    Thanks so much for your educational video – it helped a lot. However, I also want to embed custom animations (i.e. “appear”) so I can step through a slide timed to my narration. I found a wonderful animation called “colored typewriter” which worked perfectly on a click while narrating, but then I had 4 embedded, stepped “appears” (in four separate text boxes) which did not work. Instead all four text boxes appeared with the text and then it took 4 more clicks to get it to move to the next slide (so the embedded necessary clicks were still there, but the texts didn’t follow with the clicks. I hope I’ve made myself clear. Is there a way to force all the animations to work during narration recording?
    Thanks,
    Neil

    • Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

      Hi Neil and thanks for the kind words. If it’s the colour typewriter animation you like, then it sounds like you’re using PowerPoint 2007. I’m not sure of the process you used. If you record your narration directly into PowerPoint, using the Record SlideShow feature and capturing the narrations and slide timings, then this is the most efficient way to get in done in one shot. Set all your textbox animations to fire On Click, and then click through reading your script, and everything should be captured exactly as you clicked.

      If you recorded the audio separately and then embedded the audio into the slides, then it’s a bit more problematic. What you SHOULD be able to do is insert the audio files onto the slides, then run the ‘Rehearse Timings’ function (or ‘Record Slideshow’ but with the ‘Narrations’ checkbox unchecked, so you’re just recording the slide timings). Unfortunately PowerPoint seems to struggle to actually play back the audio during this process which makes it impossible to do the timings. So in this case, the only way around it is to set up all your animation events to ‘After Previous’, listen to your audio recording and make a note of the timestamps where you want the animations to fire (e.g. 5 seconds, 9.5 seconds, etc). Then go to your animation pane, right click one of the events in the list and select ‘Show Advanced Timeline’ which will show you bars representing the length and timing of the animation events – you can just drag these bars along the timeline to delay them to the precise timings you want. I hope I’ve identified your issue correctly and this is of some help. Please let me know if you need further investigation, and good luck!

  5. Image of Claudio Barrientos Claudio Barrientos says:

    Hello John,

    This is in response to the thread dated 12/4/2015/ 11:26 am.

    I was wondering if you could provide a little more detail about importing a 25 min. audio file into Camtasia.

    I have recorded that audio as a stand alone file.
    I have recorded the timings on my powerpoint and have saved the slide presentation as a WMV file.

    Now I find myself looking at the Camtasia Panels and dont know how to proceed.

    These are your instructions:

    “Then save out your presentation as a WMV, and import it into Camtasia along with the audio track, match them up and render it out as a movie. It won’t be an editable PowerPoint, but it will be watertight in terms of timing and also a much smaller file to boot.”

    THIS IS WHAT I NEED SOME HELP WITH.

    Any tips or wisdom on how to accomplish this would be awesome. The final presentation will be on youtube, so I do not need to edit them in any way.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Sincerely,
    Claudio

  6. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Claudio, no problem. So by this point you should have a ‘silent’ movie of your presentation as a movie file, and an audio file of the voiceover. This will only work if you’ve used the audio recording as the guide for your slide timings (so if you’ve done it right, you’ll know that the audio and the video match up perfectly).

    In Camtasia, you should be able to drag (import) your video file and your audio file onto the clip bin, which is usually the section on the upper left of the Camtasia window. Then from there, you can drag them onto the timeline below where they’ll appear as two long horizontal bars showing where each starts and ends (all being well, they should be pretty much the same length!). All you should need to do at this point is line them up by dragging, and play the presentation through using the preview player to make sure that the animations are firing off in sync with the voiceover. Once it’s matched up, you can just publish the final piece as a video.

    Hope that makes sense and helps a bit! Do let me know if you’re still having trouble.

  7. Image of Scott Scott says:

    Hello John,

    Thank you for this explanation. It is clear.

    I was hoping to ask you a related question. As you may know, Powerpoint 2007 allowed for different audio qualities, but 2010 and 2013 do not. OTOH, 2010 and 2013 allow for a laser pointer, but 2007 does not. Would you happen to know of a way to achieve both at the same time?

    Importing individual WAV files from audacity certainly solves the audio quality issue, but I don’t see how to do that AND use the laser. Is there a way or a workaround that you know of?

    Thank you,
    Scott

  8. Image of Karen Karen says:

    PowerPoint 2013 – I am having trouble with narrations when it’s over 17.5 seconds per slide. It’s like there is a permanent ‘stop’ at the time. I tried Rehearse timings to set it longer, but it didn’t work. It doesn’t stop ME at that time, but just when I try to play it back. I don’t even see anything anywhere that addresses this issue.

  9. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Scott, which version of PowerPoint are you actually using? If you’re using 2010 or 2013, you should be able to check the ‘Narrations, ink and laser pointer’ option when you start recording the slideshow. If you’ve imported high quality WAVs onto each slide, you should just be able to unplug (or better, mute) your microphone and record your timings and laser pointing activities while the WAVs are playing. If you can’t get the WAVs to play while doing this, your only option is to play the audio separately in a different application while doing the slide timings and laser, or just to record the narration directly into PowerPoint and make do with the slightly-inferior audio quality. Hope this helps.

  10. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Karen, that’s very strange and not something I’ve come across before. The only thing I can think of that might cause the slides to automatically transition is the Transition settings themselves. If you hit the Transitions tab on the ribbon and look along the right hand side of the banner, you should see the time that’s allowed for each slide to run before it moves on. It’s quite easy to accidentally hit ‘Apply to all slides’ when setting a custom slide duration, and this would instruct all the slides to move on after a specific time (e.g. 17.5 seconds). If this is what’s happened, it must have happened after you recorded the slides – setting ‘Apply to all slides’ on the transition tab will make PowerPoint disregard the timings that were set during the recording session.

    If this isn’t the case, do send us a sample and we’ll try and diagnose it for you.

  11. Image of Wayne Wayne says:

    Terrific advice, after going through countless MS boards and other sites this is the one that offered a solution to a couple of the most basic problems I had. One issue, and chalk this to not being the most technologically adept person you’ve heard from… once embedded, the narration plays continuously whether or not I advance the slides. Am I doing something wrong or misunderstanding what it was you were explaining how to do?

  12. Image of Romina Romina says:

    Hi John,

    Your assistance will be much appreciated! I am recording audio directly onto powerpoint slides, when I playback the slide to check audio but it cuts out after 10 or so sec when I can see the audio is longer than that. Ive checked around at the settings but cant seem to work out why it’s doing that?? I have used this function many times but on other computers. Thanks in advance!

  13. Image of Angelika Angelika says:

    I love the clear instruction. However, I came across the problem that I’m not able to stop the narration and play a video (with sound) before I want to continue with the actual narration. Since it only concerns the last third of the presentaion I might be able to go with your second option first and then change to the embeded option. Or do you have any advice on how to make videos between narrations work? I’m using PowPoint 2016 btw. Any advice it greatly appreciated (and if at all possible, as fast as possibel!). THANKS!

  14. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Angelika. If you have voiceover that has to split either side of a video, the simplest and quickest way I can think of working it would be to actually split the content over 2 slides. So the first slide will have the content and narration up to the point where the video plays, and then the video will play after the narration has finished. Then move to a second slide that has the content/narration that comes after the video.
    If it’s too difficult to split the content, your best option is to record both ‘halves’ of the voiceover as two separate audio files, using something like Audacity, and then import them into the slide. Then you’ll need to set them up in the animation list so that they play at the right time either side of the video. I think my first option would be easier to manage however. Good luck!

  15. Image of Angelika Angelika says:

    Thank you so very much for your prompt email, John….I truly appreciate it. I ended up with your second suggestion since I’ve ultrasound movies with sound that I’m comparing. So I recorded each voice over (using Audacity) and lined them up withing the slide following your instructions for the synchronization (of course, the additional audio files had to be triggered by ‘click’ after each video). Thank you very much again!!!!

  16. Image of Jim McKee Jim McKee says:

    John –

    Thank you SO much for this tutorial. It is a lifesaver and something I could not have figured out on my own.

  17. Image of Ivan Vukovic Ivan Vukovic says:

    Hi John and others,
    I have a similar problem as several people in the past (Karen, Romina).
    My audio files per slide get chopped after about 68 seconds. When I just play
    the audio it seems as if there is more recording but after 68 seconds of good
    very good quality audio the rest plays in about 2-3 seconds and it sounds
    totally garbled (the audio bar advances very quickly those last 2-3 sec).
    A little bit of background. I am using:
    Windows 7 64-bit
    Powerpoint 2013 32-bit
    Powerpoint slides without audio ~450 KB
    Powerpoint slides when I add one slide with long narration ~3.4 MB
    I was wondering if there were any new solutions since the last posts.
    I am hoping that this might be a configuration issue. Thanks.

  18. Image of Ivan Vukovic Ivan Vukovic says:

    Here is a quick update. I have uninstalled Office 2013 and installed Office 365.
    The outcome of the experiment is the same. After 68 seconds the audio stills gets clipped.

  19. Image of Heather Heather says:

    Hi John, I have recorded specific audio for specific slides for an online class by using Insert>Audio>Record and then after speaking have hit save. However, now each slide when I click on the speaker the audio doesn’t work. Any suggestions on how to fix this? I spent hours dictating and will feel like a fool if it was for naught.

    Heather

  20. Image of Dale Grote Dale Grote says:

    Hello all,

    Same problem here with PPT 2016. It used to be that you record your narration on each slide and then when you converted it to video, the slides would advance when the narration on the slide was over. I’m pretty experienced with this from previous versions of PPT. I know that when you export to video you can choose an option to override the timing of the embedded narration, but this isn’t what I’m doing. I’m choosing the option that says “Use Recorded Timings and Narrations.” But what happens is that the conversion ignores the time of the embedded narration and goes to the timing set by the Transition – Duration or Advance Slide. If you try to turn off all values in those menus, PPT inserts .1 second and the slides fly by in the video.

    I’ve worked all afternoon with the settings and nothing’s working. This looks like a screw up in the program.

    -dg

    • Image of Richard Goring Richard Goring says:

      Hi Dale, I’ve seen a couple of different issues with this since 2016 was launched. What might be happening is on the Slide Show tab on the ribbon. Go to that and make sure that the ‘Play Narrations’ and ‘Use Timings’ boxes are checked, as otherwise it will ignore them. The Use Timings box has been unchecked for some people, for some reason. See if that helps?

  21. Image of Ivan B Ivan B says:

    Hi, I have the same problem than Romina, Karen and Ivan Vukovic.

    I have identified that the problem comes from the compatibilty between my USB microphone and Powerpoint 2013 (windows 7). When I record the narration with the integrated microphone (i’m using a laptop) it works just fine, i’m not limitated by 22.50 seconds. My guess is that the USB microphone quality of compression is to high for powerpoint to integrate. Can you record with another microphone ?

  22. Image of Matt Matt says:

    If you have recorded the audio separately, play the audio from Windows Media Player (or other) and record the timings in Powerpoint without inserting the audio file yet.

    This will mean that each transition and animation will be in time with the audio which is playing using a different app. Once you insert the audio into the first slide, there maybe a start position issue where the animations seem to be behind the audio – because you couldn’t do both things at exactly the same time.

    That’s ok, you’ll just want the audio file to start slightly late – on the animation of the play audio you can delay start and it can be adjusted to sync up perfectly.

    That’s how I got around it anyway, thanks, Matt

  23. Image of Terry Terry says:

    This makes no sense at all. The part about joining the Audacity video to the powerpoint — after opening the Animations page, you lost me completely

  24. Image of Sarah Sarah says:

    Hi there, thanks for the advice – what I was wondering if there is some way to edit the audio in powerpoint? For example, I’m recording a slide and at the very end of it I make a mistake. Rather than having to re-record the whole slide is there a way for me to delete my mistake and then carry on with the correct information? Many thanks! 🙂

  25. Image of John Bevan John Bevan says:

    Hi Sarah. This can be a pretty unforgiving process and I’ve felt that same pain many times.

    The latest couple of versions of PowerPoint do have an approximation of an editing facility. After you’ve recorded your VO, if you look at the slide in Normal view you’ll see the grey speaker icon where your audio is captured (tip: you can move these off the side of the slide if you don’t want them visible in the slideshow). If you click on the speaker icon, you’ll see a new Audio Tools tab in the Ribbon at the top of the window. Click the ‘Playback’ tab and look towards the left of the ribbon to find ‘Trim Audio’. You can listen back to your recording and use the sliders to trim out stuff from the beginning or the end. It won’t let you cut audio from the middle of the recording, but it should help you edit out your mistake.

    If that doesn’t help, or you don’t have a recent version of PowerPoint, my advice would be to try breaking the slide into two or three if there is a long script for it. And my extra pro-tip here would be to make sure there are suitable animations or transitions at regular intervals (every 12 seconds at the longest) to make sure your viewer stays engaged, as we explain in our Webinars and Online Presenting masterclass. Hope that helps!

  26. Image of Derrick Shadwick Derrick Shadwick says:

    I am Doing a group project we recorded voice over on 24 sliddes and will only play the first four please help .

  27. Image of John John says:

    Hi Derrick. Do you mean that when you play the slideshow it stops playing back the audio after the first four slides? If that’s the case, go to the slides that aren’t playing (in Edit mode, not slideshow) and look for the little grey speaker icon, usually near the bottom right corner, that indicates there is an embedded recording. If you hover over that icon, it should bring up player controls, and you can then check if it’s playing correctly. If it comes up with a message saying ‘Audio unavailable’ or ‘Quicktime not installed’, then you may have to rerecord – if you’ve had multiple people doing the recordings on different PCs, it might be that there’s a compatibility issue. If it plays fine from here, you might have to go through the process of setting the slideshow timings again.
    Please feel free to post more details of your issue if this doesn’t help, and good luck!

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