A practical guide to creating learning slide shows: part 3 – the narration

Practical guidesIn the first part of this practical guide, we discussed the potential of stand-alone slide presentations as a tool for learning. In the second installment, we looked at the visual element in the presentation – the slides. This time we look at the auditory component – the narration.

Packaging up a live presentation

The way you approach the narration will depend on whether you are (1) packaging up a presentation that you have previously delivered live, or (2) creating a stand-alone slide show from scratch. In the case of the former, the presentation will most likely represent you and your perspective on the topic in hand – you will want to record the voiceover yourself and retain as much of the personality of the original presentation as possible. That means keeping it natural and informal. Assuming you didn’t read from a script when you presented live (and let’s hope that’s the case), then you won’t want to read from a script now. Try to capture the buzz of the live presentation by imagining you are presenting to a live audience. Or why not record it live? You can always edit it down afterwards to remove any superfluous elements.

Public speaker
If you're packaging up a presentation you delivered live, you'll want to retain its personality.

Designing specifically for stand-alone use

On the other hand, you may be designing a slide show that will only ever be used as a piece of learning content. It is not intended as a personal statement and it won’t be attributed to you. In this case you are almost definitely best off writing a script and you should seriously consider using a professional voiceover artist to deliver this. Why? Because professional voiceover artists are very good at reading a script so it doesn’t sound like they’re reading a script. By and large, the rest of us aren’t.

Script for speaking

When scripting, it’s hard to avoid slipping into report writing mode. Keep reminding yourself that the words you are writing will be read aloud, not read from the screen. Try saying the words out loud yourself and keep revising them until you can put them across effortlessly.

Voiceover artist
Remember your script will be read aloud, not as a report.

Use a conversational tone

Whatever you do, avoid ‘corporate drone’. Write as you would speak. That means short sentences, simple language, the active voice (“The cat ate the mouse” not “The mouse was eaten by the cat”), and a free use of contractions (“I can’t remember …” not “I cannot remember …”). You can also help the voiceover artist by making absolutely clear (perhaps in bold type) which words need special emphasis.

Don’t duplicate your voiceover as on-screen text

Your learner’s brain can cope with one verbal channel (in this case the voiceover) but not two. If words are coming at you from two places at once, you’ll just overload. If absolutely necessary, emphasise key points and headings with on-screen text, but please don’t display your script verbatim.

Coming next: distribution

About Clive Shepherd

Clive Shepherd has written 244 post in this blog.

Clive is a consultant specialising in the application of technology to learning and business communications. He was previously Director of Training and Creative Services for a multinational corporation and co-founder of a major multimedia development company. For four years he was chair of the eLearning Network.

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  1. dphavis says

    A tip I’ve used successfully before to get the tone of a script right is to record it as I would deliver it naturally (without script), then type up the recording accurately, removing errors and editing where necessary but keeping the tone and style the same, then re-record while reading from that script. It’s a little extra effort but the end result is better and it saves the headache of trying to “write as you would speak”. Not for everyone but maybe worth a try.

  2. says

    Hi Clive
    Thanks for these useful postings.
    I have tried to create my own learning slide show in Powerpoint 2007 using the narration feature to embed my voiceover in sync with the slides, and it works well. I’d like to use it as another communication channel for our L&D activity, almost a “what’s on in the next month” slidecast.

    As I think you have pointed out elsewhere, the problem is that the file size can be quite big and one option is to convert into a pdf using Adobe Reader X v 10. I tried to do this but the pdf I created did not seem to carry over the audio from the Powerpoint file – although as I can see a yellow “speaker” icon on the pdf document, I am beginning to wonder whether it has actually transferred over and there is a problem with the conversion, or whether the fault is mine in that I do not know how to “play” the pdf file. Are you aware of any technology limitations here?

  3. says

    Phil, it is unusual to employ a PDF as a vehicle to distribute slide shows which consist of anything more than a sequence of images. I know that, from version 9, PDFs are able to include multimedia elements, but I’ve no idea whether Microsoft has the facility to write to this format. By far the most usual solution is to convert the slideshow, along with narration, into Flash using tools such as Articulate or Adobe Presenter.

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