Embedding audio narration in PowerPoint presentations

by Tom Bunzel -- There are any number of ways to put a PowerPoint presentation online for others to view. But the old way of saving to HTML is not satisfying on a lot of levels, because the most important part of the presentation – the presenter – is not there and providing the important information. It's just the slides.

There are other solutions for turning PowerPoint into movies or Flash files with narration, but they can get complicated and expensive.

By far the easiest and most elegant way is to create a presentation with embedded narration in PowerPoint, and upload it to authorSTREAM.com.

The key is not to select the Link narrations in: option when you set up to Record Narration under the Slide Show tab in the Ribbon or in the main menu in older versions of PowerPoint.

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After checking your microphone, you can click OK and begin to record narration for any slide or for the entire presentation by going through the slide deck. If you don't like a particular slide's narration, just record another narration file; the key is that these audio files will be embedded in the PowerPoint file.

(Bear in mind that the PowerPoint file may be large – particularly if there are also images in the slides. You can use the compress images features in PowerPoint to reduce the size, but save a backup first because this process can corrupt a file!)

With the narration embedded, you can upload the file to authorSTREAM.com, which will convert it for you and post it with the narrative track on its slide presentation hosting site. (You will need to register on authorSTREAM).

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AuthorSTREAM also has a way to send the file directly to YouTube, after first converting it to video, so you can get the benefit of another hosting site as well; there is a slight fee for this but it saves you the task of turning PowerPoint into a movie for YouTube.

Both authorSTREAM and YouTube are social hosting sites that let you easily link to the slide show, or embed a thumbnail into a web page and play the file directly in a blog or other web site.

(SlideShare is another presentation hosting site you can use, but to use narration you need to upload and synchronize a separate MP3 audio file; otherwise it will just display the slides).

It's probably a good idea to save a copy of your original PowerPoint file without the narration, just in case you later decide to change it or have someone deliver the presentation. You can also go through each slide before you upload them and drag the icon representing the audio (the little speaker) out of the visible slide area, since the sound will play automatically and the icon does not need to be clicked. Finally, you can make adjustments to playback in the Effect Options area of Custom Animation, but only do this if you know what you’re doing, because the Narration feature is what authorSTREAM looks for and if you change the timings manually they may not work properly.

The bottom line is that this is a great way to distribute your presentations (or keep them private online) so that others can see them. Use it for marketing, rehearsal, collaboration or many other tasks where presentation sharing is desired.

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