When you add narration to a presentation, especially with slide times, you create a self-running presentation. It is almost a video effect. This presentation is ideal to send to potential clients on CD, post to your website or presentation sharing site, or display at a trade show or in your company lobby.

I generally prefer to record my voice with Audacity, a free sound recorder and editor. If you download it, be sure to also read the instructions and download the LAME MP3 encoder, which allows you to save files in MP3 format. The advantage is that it is easier to edit the files, in case you often stumble across your own language, as I do!

However, I recently wanted to post a narrated presentation on authorSTREAM.com. This slide-sharing site has some cool benefits:

* You can load presentations with embedded sound

* Play many animations.

* You can convert presentations of less than 5 minutes to video for free, for posting on video sharing sites (such as YouTube) or on your own site.

But the sound must be embedded, which means using the narration feature (or doing a trick with MP3 to make PowerPoint think they are WAV files, because PowerPoint can only embed WAV files).

** Get the best sound quality

So I tried the storytelling feature and found the quality to be terrible! There was a lot of background noise. When I tried to use the same equipment in Audacity, the sound was fine. It was then that I discovered the first secret: the quality of the CDs.

To start the narration, go to the Slide Show tab and click Record Narration (in 2002/2003, choose Slide Show> Record Narration). Click the Set Mic Level button to configure and test your audio settings.

Then be sure to click the Change Quality button! You need to do this every time; you cannot change the default value.

Change the quality when you narrate

Then, in the Sound Selection dialog box, choose CD Quality from the Name drop-down list and click OK twice to start narrating.

Use CD quality for your narration

You then automatically go to the Slide Show view. Narrate your presentation by clicking to move from slide to slide. At the end, you will be asked if you want to save the slide times. Do this to set the times for each slide to match the narration.

** Edit the narration successfully

If you make a mistake, you can narrate a slide again. Go to the slide, reopen the Record Narration dialog, and start over. Record the narration for that slide, and then press Esc. Be careful not to go to the next slide.

However, if your new narration is longer than the original, you may run into a recognized problem: truncated narratives! This can be very frustrating. It apparently happens because PowerPoint saves narration times separately from slide times. Even if you increase the slide time, PowerPoint will truncate the narration.

I’ll tell you what Microsoft says to do and then I’ll tell you what worked for me.

Microsoft’s instructions are:

1. Make sure all animations are set to advance on mouse click and not automatically.

2. If the last element to animate on the slide is an autoshape text frame that contains text, create a new shape and place it outside the slide area. Set the way Custom Animation settings to Appear. Make sure the shape is the last item to animate and is set to mouse click animated.

3. Make sure the slide transitions are set to advance with a mouse click and not automatically.

4. Rerecord the narration and click No when asked if you want to save the slide timings.

5. Preview the presentation in Slide Show view manually and verify narrations.

6. Then add the automatic slide and animation times.

No matter what I did, my new narration was interrupted. I made it shorter than the original and it still cut the same amount. Finally, I realized that the problem was not the duration. PowerPoint was clipping a certain amount regardless of the length. So, I recorded a period of silence at the end of a narration. Then when PowerPoint cut it off, it was fine!

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