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Sounds in Presentations

The trend for incorporating sound bites into presentations is definitely on the rise. The reason for this uptrend is simple:

  • It is an easy three-click process to insert sound into a PowerPoint presentation and just a small amount of animation formatting so that the sound starts on queue
  • There are many resources for free and fee-based royalty-free sound bites
  • It is possible to record directly into PowerPoint presentations using a microphone.
  • It is not difficult to process and insert recordings you've made into PowerPoint.
  • All of these capabilities and resources are at a sufficient point in development that the average PowerPoint user can now use them quickly, efficiently, and effectively.

Should you use sound?

Now that the capabilities and resources are available, should you use sound? If so, what types of sounds enhance a presentation, and what types degrade and distract from the presentation's message? A basic rule of thumb: if the sound supports and adds to the understanding of the message, then okay. For example, the CN048 bubble series uses the sound bite of a bubble popping to help communicate that the bubble has popped and has not just disappeared. This is a good choice. Another example of a concept that would benefit from adding sound is series CN067 faucet/pipe leakage: as your revenues leak away, your company weakens, etc. Animate the sound of water dropping to coincide with the animated drops of water coming out of the faucet; and the concept is vividly presented: fast leaks, slow leaks, drips, etc.

What types of sound detract from the message? Usually any type of reaction sound to what the presenter has just said detracts from the presentation. The audience may feel like they are being manipulated into thinking about the messages in a certain way: no applause, cheers, ta-das, etc., should be used.

Sound bites can also help deliver your message. For example, a sound bite of a voice speaking the on-screen quote(s) promotes a higher degree of understanding and retention. It's a better choice than the presenter reading it to the audience. Spoken testimonials are another good way to use sound.

What about using music in the pre- and postpresentation loops? Music is an excellent way to help set tone. How about count-down timers? When the music stops, it's an audible queue that something is about to take place.

Think strategically about adding sound. The principles are the same as when deciding to add animation. If it supports and enhances the message, then add it. If its only purpose is to add pizzazz, then it's probably not a good idea.

Making sure you can use sound

Built-in speakers in laptops and computer are not very loud, even when set to maximum volume. So even for small groups, the sound may need to be amplified a bit. Therefore, there may be technological issues that need to be researched and resolved in order to use sound in your presentations.

Rather than trying to speak knowledgeably about something that is not a PowerFrameworks competency, we direct you to Indezine, a website owned and operated by Geetesh Bajaj, Microsoft MVP. Geetesh has written some great articles to help presenters create and use presentations with sounds.

Other Useful Information

Browse the internet for sound libraries: there are many – both free and fee-based royalty-free resources. Tip: if you are unsure of the website/resource, pay for a sound bite before downloading something from a free site that looks questionable.

Geetesh also owns and operates ppted.com, which supplies many of our series example templates.