A common tool for speeches, presentations, and e-learning is PowerPoint. A lot of people fill each slide with more text than images and sometimes even read the text verbatim when they are presenting, which kind of defeats the purpose of the text. There are several tools to make your presentation more engaging and interesting and one of those tools is recording voiceovers. Since I have recently acquired this skill, I thought I would share some of the techniques I have learned for creating successful voiceovers and the appropriate ways to use this feature. Of course, not all presentations would work best with a voiceover, but if you want to hand it out on a DVD or loop the presentation at an event rather than giving it repeatedly, voiceovers will come in handy.

The first thing you want to do is write out what you will say in the voiceover in the notes section below the PowerPoint slides. You don’t want to have to memorize anything and if there are people who can’t hear the voiceover, you can show the text on the transcript tab. Write the voiceover text like you would write a one-person monologue or script. Once you have written a transcript for each slide, you can then read it out loud as you are recording it.

Keep in mind that a voiceover has to flow more smoothly than a written document. Colons, dashes, and semicolons create awkward and unnecessary pauses that don’t work well for voiceovers. Try to fill these with “and”, “or”, “but”or “therefore” to keep the pace even. You also want the voiceover to explain, not copy what’s on the slide. Presentations with voiceover can image focused because it eliminates the need for text on the slide. Make sure the voiceover script stays relevant to each slide element, but doesn’t ramble on too long or conflict with the visuals.

When recording the voiceover, be sure to start speaking as soon as you click “Start Recording” so there is no pause with dead air. You’ll want to use an external microphone or headset to get the necessary volume and quality of sound. You need to make sure the computer recognizes the device before you record. If not, you may need to restart your computer or install the device. Be careful not to sigh, cough, sneeze, or breathe loudly while recording the voiceover because of course, the microphone will pick that up. Record in a quiet room and do not make excessive background noise such as clicking your pen, rumpling paper, or tapping your fingers or foot. If possible, stand up when you are recording—it will prevent you from fidgeting and helps your voice to project better.

Speak loudly, clearly, and more slowly than you normally would, enunciating as best you can. Keep the tone in your voice varied and upbeat and be sure to emphasize the appropriate words. Be careful not to start out loud and clear and gradually get softer as people have a tendency to do. If you stumble on a word or misread something, press stop and begin again. Once you make a mistake, you do need to record from the beginning; you cannot delete a portion of the recording and go from there. However, the voiceovers are done on a slide by slide basis, so you will only have to start over from the beginning of the slide. When you are finished with the slide, click the “Stop Recording” button immediately. Play the recording back (making sure the speaker volume is loud enough) and listen for anything that sounds less than ideal: extra sounds, a mispronounced word, uneven volume, or anything else that sounds unnatural. Don’t get frustrated if you have to rerecord more than once; this is a skill that takes practice and it is different from speaking to someone directly.

Be sure to click “Save and Close” as well as “Save” in the PowerPoint itself. You can go into the audio editor and edit the sound by increasing the volume or slightly changing the pitch of a particular section. If you have animations in your slides, you will want to click on “Next Animation” exactly when you want them to appear in the voiceover (while you’re recording) and also go back and sync the animations when you’re done recording. There is also the option to import audio files such as music or pre-recorded voiceovers.

Recording voiceovers is a handy tool that some people may not be aware of. Once you know how to use it, it can be beneficial to your work and will help improve your public speaking skills. Next time you need to give a presentation, give it a try and see how it will work for you.

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