Narrated Presentations: Best Practices

September 21, 2011 | m62 visualcommunications
Narrated Presentations: Best Practices

This post originally appeared on the blog of our great partner m62 visualcommunications. Here is it's initial form.

Pre-recorded and on-demand presentations are becoming increasingly popular, as more and more organizations realize the time and cost savings of sharing their presentations online. But this method involves something that can make some presenters feel uncomfortable – recording narration for the presentation. While this may seem a little daunting, taking a methodical approach can really help. So what tips should you follow when narrating a presentation?

Technology Tips

First you need to decide how you’re going to record your narration: by microphone, or by telephone. There are pros and cons to both methods, depending on the situation. If you’re looking for something that will be used for a while and needs to be top notch, (e.g. a promo movie) use a microphone. For personal presentations, recording by phone is a quick and easy way to get your message out there.

If you are recording via microphone, make sure you get a decent one and ideally use a headset with a microphone attached, rather than a handheld. Using a headset will allow you to keep the positioning of the microphone consistent relative to your mouth, and also minimise echo and background noise, keeping your voice levels steady. A foam pop-shield on the microphone or voice-tube will also help to minimise popping and hissing sounds. m62 can recommend the Sony DR-350 headset, a fair price for a very comfortable, durable and consistent all-round performer.

Also, one little-known tip that can have a big impact on the quality of your recording is simply to unplug your laptop charger before you begin. The interference from the power lead can cause a background humming sound, so run on battery while the microphone is on. Some sound cards can also suffer from miniature feedback loops in the circuitry caused by having the microphone and headphone leads both plugged in simultaneously. If you can hear a slight buzz to the edge of your voice when you play back, try unplugging the headphone lead from your audio out socket and re-record, plugging the headphones back in to listen back to yourself.

If you’re recording via telephone through a web app such as Brainshark, make sure you use a landline, and don’t use speakerphone settings. This well help ensure the clearest sound in your narration.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you do several test runs, adjusting your microphone level and the positioning of your microphone. If your voice sounds very distorted and ‘scratchy’, try lowering your mic level. If you have lots of unpleasant popping, booming and hissing sounds (especially look out for words beginning with ‘p’, ‘s’ or ‘t’), try adjusting your headset so that the microphone is not as close to your mouth. Play around until you get the settings and volume level right, and listen out for any booming.

General Tips

It can be helpful to prepare a script for your narration, but try not to sound like you’re reading from it as you record. Narration that sounds natural is more engaging, and will help keep your audience’s attention.

Make sure you’ve practiced your timings and animation clicks before you start recording, so that you’re not left with any uncomfortable pauses as you wait for a motion path to finish.

Stand up! Standing up during a recording will naturally help you project your voice and sound more authoritative.  Try it – it honestly does make a difference.

Listen to the way news presenters, weather reporters and even radio DJs talk. No matter what their subject, they almost always sound interesting because of the alternating tones in their voice. Practice putting a little ‘music’ into your voice, as though you’re reading a story. With some practice, this can make your narration much more engaging.

And of course, the slides you use are very important with online presentations – even more so than in live presentations, when the presenter can help engage audiences with the content. So make sure you follow the principles of visualisation, and use engaging slides that will keep your audience’s attention remotely.

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