When you add narration to a presentation, especially with slide timings, you create a self-running presentation. It’s almost a video-like effect. Such a presentation is great for sending to potential customers on a CD, posting on your website or a presentation-sharing site, or displaying at a trade show or in your company’s lobby.
Usually, I prefer to record my voice using Audacity, a free sound recorder and editor. You can get it at http://audacity.sourceforge.net. If you download it, be sure to also read the instructions for, and download, the LAME MP3 encoder, which lets you save files in MP3 format. The advantage is that it’s easier to edit the files, in case you tend to trip over your own tongue, as I do!
However, recently I wanted to post a presentation with narration at authorSTREAM.com. This slide sharing site has some nice benefits:
- You can upload presentations with embedded sound
- It plays many animations
- You can convert presentations of under 5 minutes to video for free, to post at video-sharing sites (like YouTube) or on your own site.
But the sound must be embedded, which means using the narration feature (or doing a trick with MP3’s to make PowerPoint think they’re WAV files—because PowerPoint can only embed WAV files).
Get the best quality sound
So I tried the narration feature and discovered that the quality was awful! There was a huge amount of noise in the background. When I tried used the same equipment in Audacity, the sound was just fine. That’s when I discovered the first secret: CD quality.
To start narration, you go to the Slide Show tab and click Record Narration (in 2002/2003 choose Slide Show> Record Narration). Click the Set Microphone Level button to set and test your audio setup.
Then be sure to click the Change Quality button! You need to do this every single time; you can’t change the default.
Then, in the Sound Selection dialog box, choose CD Quality from the Name drop-down list, and click OK twice to start narrating.
You then go into Slide Show view automatically. Narrate the presentation, clicking to move from slide to slide. At the end, you’ll be asked if you want to save the slide timings. Do so to set the timings for each slide to match the narration.
Note: Unfortunately, this setting isn’t always available. Apparently, it varies with the version of Windows that you are using.
Edit narration successfully
If you make a mistake, you can re-narrate a slide. Go to the slide, re-open the Record Narration dialog box and start again. Record the narration for that slide and then press Esc. Be careful not to go to the next slide.
However, if your new narration is longer than the original, you may run into a recognized problem—truncated narrations! This can be very frustrating. It apparently happens because PowerPoint saves narratioan timings separatly from slide timings. Even if you increase the timing for the slide, PowerPoint will truncate the narration!
I’m going to tell you what Microsoft says to do and then tell you what worked for me.
Microsoft’s instructions are:
- Make sure that all animations are set to advance on mouse click and not automatically.
- If the last item to be animated on the slide is a text frame of an AutoShape that contains text, create one new shape and place it outside of the slide’s area. Set the shape’s Custom Animation setting to Appear. Make sure that the shape is the last item to animate and that it is set to animated on a mouse click.
- Make sure that any slide transitions are set to advance on a mouse click and not automatically.
- Re-record the narration and click No when asked if youwant to save the slide timings.
- Preview the presentation in Slide Show view manually and check the narrations.
- Then add the automatic slide and animation timings.
No matter what I did, my new narration was cut off. I made it shorter than the original and still the same amount was cut off. Finally, I realized that that the problem wasn’t the length. PowerPoint was cutting off a certain amount no matter what the length. So, I recorded a silent period at the end of a narration. Then, when PowerPoint cut it off, I was fine!