Software

How do I... Add music and narration to a PowerPoint presentation?

The best presentations engage the audience using a number of creative tools. Sound effects, such as music and voice recordings can mean the difference between a good presentation and an outstanding presentation. PowerPoint supports media clips, which include sound and video files. Susan Sales Harkins explains how to use sound to enhance your presentations.

The best presentations engage the audience using a number of creative tools. Sound effects, such as music and voice recordings can mean the difference between a good presentation and an outstanding presentation. You can energize your audience with a quick tempo, play your company's latest jingle, or add narration to an on-demand presentation. At the very least, you can play music at the beginning and ending of a presentation as the audience enters and leaves the room. The only limits are good taste and your imagination.

Note: This blog post originally published in March 2008. It's also available in PDF form as a TechRepublic download.

About sound files

Microsoft PowerPoint supports media clips, which include sound and video files. The computer playing your presentation will need a sound card and speakers. That doesn't mean just the system you use to create the presentation, but any system on which you might play the presentation. Today, most systems come with everything you need, but older systems might need an upgrade. (It's highly unlikely that you'll encounter such an old system, but don't rely on that -- check it out first!)

Table A lists the media files PowerPoint supports, although this article deals only with sound files.

Table A: Media support

File

Explanation

Attributes

MIDI Musical Instrument Digital Interface Sound
WAV Microsoft Windows audio format Sound
MPEG Motion Picture Exerts Group Standard video format with a constant frame per second rate
AVI Microsoft Windows video format Video format with a constant frame rate per second
GIF Graphical Interface Format 256 color picture that supports animation.

Like most special effects, sound can catch the attention of your audience and convey a message or emotion in a way words or pictures can't. On the other hand, used poorly, sound can be distracting or even annoying. As always, your purpose will determine how much, if any, sound your presentation needs.

The basics -- inserting sound

Including sound is as simple as selecting a file:

Use existing clips by double-clicking one of the Title, Text and Media Clip layouts from the Slide Layout task pane. Double-click the media clip icon shown in Figure A to launch the Media Clip dialog box.

Figure A

Choose a media slide from the Slide Layout task pane
When you double-click a WAV or MIDI file, PowerPoint displays the prompt shown in Figure B. The options Automatically and When Clicked are self-explanatory.

Figure B

PowerPoint will play the sound file when the slide is current, or you can click the icon to play it

Work with unique sound files by choosing Movies and Sound from the Insert menu and then selecting Sound From File or Sound From Clip Organizer. You can also record sound or play a track from a CD. After selecting a file, PowerPoint prompts you to specify how to execute the file (see Figure B).

If PowerPoint doesn't support a clip's format, choose Object from the Insert menu and choose the appropriate object type. Alternately, you can convert the file to a supported type. Use a search engine to search for "video file conversion." However, don't be surprised if the converted file is less than satisfactory. It's difficult to maintain quality when converting media files.

In PowerPoint 2007, you'll find the Sound option in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.

PowerPoint displays a sound clip as a small icon, which shows during Slide Show view. When the presentation plays the clip automatically, you might want to hide the icon. There's really no good reason to display it.

To hide the icon, right-click the icon and choose Edit Sound Object from the resulting submenu. In the Sound Options dialog box, shown in Figure C, check the Hide Sound Icon During Slide Show option, and click OK. Double-click the icon in PowerPoint 2007 to find these options.

Figure C

Edit the file's attributes

If you choose the click option, it's worth mentioning that clicking the icon a second time doesn't disable the sound -- the file plays from beginning to end once you click it. In PowerPoint 2007, clicking the icon restarts the file.

To learn just how long a file lasts, right-click the icon and choose Edit Sound Object. The file's playing time is in the Information section at the bottom (see Figure C). If you want the file to play continuously, while the slide is current, check the Loop Until Stopped option. Moving to the next or previous slide will cancel the loop.

Narrating a presentation

To record a unique sound or message, you'll need a microphone. Unfortunately, some microphones that come with today's systems aren't very sophisticated. If you record someone talking, it may sound distorted when played. Suddenly, you may have a lisp or an accent! Specialized software can clear up some problems, but they're expensive and that's just one more piece of software you'll have to learn. It might be more efficient to invest in a better microphone.

PowerPoint makes it easy to narrate a presentation, which is a plus in a Web-based, automated, or on-demand presentation. You might also use this feature to include a statement from an individual, such as a celebrity or your company's CEO.

Don't jump right into recording. First, write a script and rehearse it. Once you're comfortable with your speaking part, you can record your narration:

  1. Choose Record Narration from the Slide Show menu to open the Record Narration dialog box. In PowerPoint 2007, this option is in the Set Up group on the Slide Show tab.
  2. Click Set Microphone Level to check your microphone. Read the sentence that appears in the Microphone Check dialog and let the Microphone Wizard adjust your microphone automatically. Click OK.
  3. If you need to adjust the quality to CD, radio, or telephone, click Change Quality to open the Sound Selection dialog box. Just remember that quality increases the file's size. If file size is a concern, you may have to compromise quality just a bit.
  4. By default, PowerPoint stores the narration with the presentation. To store the sound file in a separate WAV file (in the same folder) check Link Narrations In. Click Browse to change the location of the separate WAV file, but use caution when doing so -- only store the two separately when you have a good reason for doing so. If a sound file is over 50MB, you must link it.
  5. Click OK and start recording. As PowerPoint displays your presentation, you narrate just as you want the message played. Continue to narrate each slide until you're done.
  6. At the end of the presentation, PowerPoint will prompt you to save the timings with each slide. This can be helpful if you didn't get each slide just right and you need more practice.

Step five mentions linked files. If you're using the same system to both create and show the presentation, linked files are fine, but not necessary. Linked files are a good choice if the sound files are large or if you plan to change the source file. By default, PowerPoint automatically links sound files that are larger than 100KB.

To change this setting, choose Options from the Tools menu, and then click the General tab and update the Link Sounds With File Size Great Than option. PowerPoint 2007 users will find this option by clicking the Office button, clicking the PowerPoint options button (at the bottom right) and then choosing Advanced. The option is in the Save section.

Use the Package for CD (PowerPoint 2003) or Pack And Go Wizard (PowerPoint 2002) to make sure you save linked files with the presentation. Names can be problematic: A linked file's path name must be 128 characters or less.

More options

Narration is only one type of recoding you might consider. If you can record it, you can include it in your presentation. To record a single message or unique sound, choose Movies and Sound from the Insert menu and choose Record Sound. In PowerPoint 2007, this option is in the Sound option's dropdown list, in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.

In the resulting Record Sound dialog box shown in Figure D, enter a description and name. Click Record when you're ready to begin. Click Stop when you're done. Use Play to listen to the new recording. Click OK to save the sound with the presentation. Or, click Cancel to exit and try again. If you save a sound, it appears as an icon, which you can use anywhere in the presentation you like. Mix this capability with action settings for a unique effect. Just don't over do it!

Figure D

You can record sounds inside PowerPoint

Playing a CD

Playing music is a great way to begin or end a presentation. However, the music doesn't have to be a top 10 tune. It only needs to be appropriate. For example, you might play Mendelssohn's Wedding March if your presentation is about catering receptions. Or, pleasing dinner music might be the way to go. It's really up to you; just keep your audience in mind. To include a song from a CD, do the following:

  1. Insert the CD.
  2. From the Insert menu, choose Movies and Sound. Then, select Play CD Auto Track to open the Insert CD Audio dialog box. In PowerPoint 2007, choose Play CD Audio Track from the Sound option's dropdown list. You'll find this option in the Media Clips group on the Insert tab.
    • The Start At Time and End At Time fields let you capture just part of a track instead of using the entire track.
    • Use the Sound Volume button to control the audio's volume.
    • Check the Hide While Not playing option in the Display Options section if you don't want the audio's icon to show when the music isn't playing.
  3. Click OK when you're done. PowerPoint lets you play the track by clicking or displaying the slide.

Like other sound files, Power Point displays a CD icon on the current slide. Just be careful that you don't violate any copyright laws when including someone else's music in your presentation.

A word on animation

You can use custom animation to control sound files to add a unique and creative dimension to your presentation. To get started, select a sound icon and display the Custom Animation task pane. PowerPoint offers a ton of options, and does a good job of disabling inappropriate choices for the selected clip.

Creating custom animation can be complicated and the truth is most presentations won't need that much energy. However, the feature's there and you might as well learn a bit about it. There's an entire tab dedicated to animation in PowerPoint 2007. Click the Custom Animations option in the Animations group to create custom effects.

Design for effect

Multimedia files can liven up any presentation and sound is definitely part of that mix. You can play an appropriate tune or your company's jingle. With one click, you can play your company's latest radio ad for the head honchos. Whether you're pitching a new product or sharing photos of your new baby, use sound to set the mood.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

31 comments
Cat7000
Cat7000

I have a large Power Point presentation (484 Slides) and I want 14 different song to play at different times, I have put in the music and it plays all the way through the presentation but when I try to save as a movie or just save it does not save all the changes from song to song.  Am I missing a step?  I put in all the photos, then the transitions, then I added the music.

bestbloke
bestbloke

Good article. Sometimes recording a voice to a presentation is time consuming and might not be a neutral accent as well. I've used few tools which converts the speaker notes into voice-over for presentations. The most useful and simple to use tool was Slidespeech (http://www.slidespeech.com/)

rmccaffertyy
rmccaffertyy

I add music and video to PowerPoint presentations regularly. Sometimes, I add the proper type of file (especially video, but also audio sometimes) and it just doesn't work. Same computer, same copy of PowerPoint as every other time I do this. The first time, I thought I would go insane trying to make it work. Then, I looked up what other types of files were supposed to work. I would convert the files to another type on the list and then it magically would work! I have no reason why. No one format seems necessarily better or worse. I have just learned again that PowerPoint is a very basic program and it gets confused sometimes. If you have the right format, seemed to insert if properly, and is just doesn't work, try just converting it to another listed format. One other tip about video. When the video is over, PowerPoint still tends to leave a black box where the video was showing on the slide (or the entire slide if the video used the entire slide). When it is only part of a slide and you need more things to appear after the video, you can use animation to make the video fade out after it has played. Ooh, one more. I often find that the audio file start and end points are a bit jarring with the abrupt beginning and ending. If you are using audio for the entire presentation moving from one audio to another, in order to get a seque, begin the new audio just before the other ends. You will have to play a bit with where you choose to put these two "animations" and maybe with the timing of them. but it works pretty well.

macmoise
macmoise

I have a PP presentation with 35 slides. I want music to play throughout the whole presentation. When I tried to add two different types of music. They both keep playing at the same time. I want the first music to start playing by itself and the second music to start automatically after the first one ends.

Chipv
Chipv

Try Sliderocket.com. It is a web version of Powerpoint that store your presentations on the cloud, and works cross platform between windows,apple,linux,etc.

selehn
selehn

I've used Producer for PPT 2003 with very good results, it gives you a lot of control, especially with the music files. It's a free download from Microsoft.

larry_staples
larry_staples

We use PowerPoint for a weekly meeting and play music while people come in. Currently we have 3 or 4 songs playing on the first slide. The problem is when we go to the next slide the music stops abruptly. I would like to have an audio transition that fades out the sound track slowly as we go to the next slide. Editing the sound file does not work in this case because we do not know how long the music needs to play. Does anyone know of an audio transition that will do this?

JCitizen
JCitizen

the same ability to save narration per page? I'm wondering because I want my dad to narrate a presentation to his World War II archive before he dies. And doing it right then and there while viewing each frame would be very fruitfull.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Although i tend to get into rather complex PP shows, I like to story board even the simplest slides. I find that story boarding (drawing it out frame by frame like a cartoon or movie) is an excellent refernce point, allow you to plan transitions and timing, set copy growth etc. I often use full DVD quality VOB's, required in my line of work, auditioning in high-end dedicated sound rooms, but find that even the simplest presentations look better and get great response if properly planned out. One thing to avoid like teh plague is too much of a dog and pony show, nothing turns off prospective clients like a flashy show with little relevant content and keep it SALES FOCUSED. See so many that offer information and don't close a deal or move the product being shown.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Before you type one word or record one note have the overall impact of your project in mind.These would be the intangibles that are made apparent in your production.If you are an author state the over all impact.What do you want people to think after reading your article?A video production might have the qualities of fast paced,exciting,attention grabber.

Old Guy
Old Guy

You had mentioned using the presentation on different computers. As has already been stated you need to make sure the music/video files stay with the presentation. A very simple way is to use the Pack and Go feature found in the File on the tool bar. It will pack all your files into a folder to copy onto a CD, DVD, or jump drive.

keith.goodburn
keith.goodburn

If you want to keep th emusic playing when you click for the next slide, right click on the Sound Icon and select Custom Animation. Select the arrow for your music and select Timing from the Drop Down list. Go to Effect and here you will see the control for when the music should stop. You can choose on click, after current slide or after some number of slides.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

If your voice is recorded in digital add a little compression to make the voice smooth and to bring out the nuances.In an audio editor program the read can be crop edited so the takes can be individually placed in the mix where ever they belong.When mixing the voice to the music listen at a low volume to hear the true volume difference between the music and the voice.Music is mixed loud so it sounds good when played loud.There just might be a difference between the sounds in your Creative computer card and your Roland dedicated sound font playing keyboard.I'd use the Roland.

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

You can put your music down,then do your video work,then time the music to fade at the end of the production.You could copy the faded ending music file after deleting the original one.Or--you could complete the video then construct the audio to fit.There are many cleared MIDI files available that,with the proper software,can be rendered as an audio mp3 file. If the audio concludes with a deliberate end it sounds more professional.Adjusting the tempo could work here.In commercial work the audio is done first with some post production effects added.The video switcher engineer times or matches the clips to the music changes.It's a computer/home entertainment center and boy is it difficult to do.If the narration is timed then the video is added after.Adding the narration after is difficult

volunteer
volunteer

I am able to add either music or narration to a Power Point presentation and either works fine alone. But, how can I add both into a presentation so that they play simultaneously?

ssharkins
ssharkins

Let me know what version you're using and I'll look into this.

JCitizen
JCitizen

and I am in the middle of moving right now; so maybe someone else will weigh in. Sorry!

ssharkins
ssharkins

You can make a separate recording for each slide. I hope someone who's done this will step in and offer some advice.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Sure got me thinking about what, how, and why you think. I missed this one in March of 2008. Better late, I guess. Couldn't nobody question or contradict what you did in this thread.

rjwood1
rjwood1

Unless there is some reason for stereo narration, set audio quality to 11025 Hz, 8 bit Mono. This is normally good enough and keeps the file size down. If you plan on putting your presentation online, use software like Impatica for PowerPoint to further compress your presentation file size. Ipatica will also convert the .ppt file to Java. Normally a good headset mic will give you the sound quality that you want. Use this type of mic, rather than a desktop mic.

knucklhead
knucklhead

You are, of course, correct. However, the more important the project the more you need to test the presentation on the machine that will be used. Even identical hardware can have timing issues because of the different programs that can be running in the background eating up resources.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I read your responses the other day -- I was hoping we'd see a bit of discussion about this. Thanks for the additional information; it's good to know.

JCitizen
JCitizen

It has been a long time(2003)since I have done a PPT file so I'm more than a little rusty. That was Office 2000 and I own 2003, which seems more advanced than the old millenium version.

lmarcus
lmarcus

WAV files can actually be embedded into the PPS file. That way, if you're distributing the presentation, only the PPS file needs to be distributed and the music will go along with it. Beware because WAV files are generally large. MP3 files are small but they cannot be embedded. So if you're distributing the PPS file, you'll need to copy the MP3 files to the same folder where you place the PPS file. If you're timing slides to the music, try this on several computers. I've had everything time perfectly on one system but then be off on others (I'm not sure whether it was the slides that advanced faster or the music that played slower. The slides were set to advance automatically after a selected number of seconds.) To embed a WAV file in Powerpoint, click Tools|Options|General and in "Link sounds with file size great than" select a file size larger than that of your WAV file. Anything smaller than what you type in will then get embedded. Anything larger will get linked (ie, will work the same as MP3 files in that the WAV files will need to be distributed separately and placed in the same folder as the PPS file).

basura
basura

Pack n Go will keep the files together but doesn't compensate for machine speeds. I use PPT for creating the presentation, seting timing of slides and music and then save the slides as JPEGs (it means making some extras for animations). The next step is to import the JPEGs, music and create transitions using Pinnacle's Studio - the rendered movie has everything locked together. For approx $100 you even get the video capturing hardware.

knucklhead
knucklhead

You have been lucky, not to have run into the timing issue between platforms. It turns out that the issue has been around from the beginning of powerpoint. Originally, the problem was more severe because of the wide range of platforms out there. I have prepared numerous presentations with GIF animations and audio files that are in synch only to get to the presentation room and find the machine I must use to present on is slower or faster. It can even be as simple as whether it is playing from the CD or has been downloaded to the Harddrive. It can be very frustrating to be 30 minutes before show time and to find out slide timing needs to be shifted.

ssharkins
ssharkins

A run through on the actual equipment is a great idea. I don't think I've run into that, but I'm sure it happens.

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