Adding narration to your PowerPoint presentation can be a useful way for converting your presentation file into a video file, allowing audiences to enjoy your content without you there to present it. This can be particularly useful if you wish to share your presentation with those who were unable to attend, or if you plan to adapt your presentation for a different format, audience, or webinar. Let’s look at how to add narration, ink, video, and closed captions to your PowerPoint.

Adding Narration, Ink, and Video

Click the File tab in the top ribbon, followed by Option, which will open a dialogue box. Next, click the Customise Ribbon tab on the left, which will open a box of available ribbon tabs. Click the Recording check box, followed by OK.

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint This will ensure the Recording tab is available from your PowerPoint top ribbon.

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint Once you’re ready to record, click Record Slide Show either from the Recording tab or the Slide Show tab in your ribbon. This will open a dropdown menu with two options – either to begin recording on the current slide or from the beginning of your presentation. The Clear option will delete narrations and timing but will remain grayed out until you’ve recorded on your slides.

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint Clicking either recording option will open the recording window (as seen below), which has buttons across the top left for starting, pausing, and stopping your recording. Clicking the red circular button (or R on the keyboard) will begin kickstart a three-second countdown before recording begins.

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint Notice that the main pane will display your current slide with navigation buttons on either side so you can jump to the next or previous slide as you narrate.

If you’re subscribed to Microsoft 365, recording in PowerPoint will automatically show you how much time you spent on each slide, including any on-slide animation or triggers that occur. You’ll notice in the screenshot above that there are three small buttons underneath the camera preview, which allow you to turn off your microphone, camera, and camera preview.

If you decided to use an inking actions, such as pen, highlighter, or eraser, PowerPoint will record those actions for playback as well. If you re-record your narration (which includes, audio and ink), PowerPoint will erase your previous narration recording before you begin recording again on the same slide. You can also re-record by going to Slide Show > Record Slide Show.

In the Recording window, the bottom displaying the different ink tools and colours you can use for further on-screen emphasis, such as writing, highlighting, or erasing. Note that the eraser will remain grayed out until you’ve added ink on your slides.

You can stop the recording by either pressing the square stop button at the top left or pressing ALT + S on your keyboard. When you finish recording your narration, a small picture appears in the lower-right corner of the recorded slides. The picture is an audio icon, or, if the web camera was on during the recording, a still image from the webcam.

The recorded slide show timing is automatically saved. In Slide Sorter view and the Recording window, the timings are listed beneath each slide. Through this process, your recording (whether audio, ink, and/or video) will be embedded into each slide, which can be played back in Presentation mode.

While PowerPoint for Microsoft 365 will automatically record your slide timing when you add narration, you can also manually set the slide timings to accompany your narration.

In Normal view, click the slide that you want to set the timing for. On the Transitions tab, in the Timing group, under Advance Slide, select the After check box, and then enter the number of seconds that you want the slide to appear on the screen. Repeat the process for each slide that you want to set the timing for.

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint If you want the next slide to appear either when you click the mouse or automatically after the number of seconds that you enter — whichever comes first — select both the On Mouse Click and the After check boxes. You can use manual slide timings to the trim the end of a recorded slide segment, this means you don’t have to waste time re-recording audio or waiting for your recording to finish before advancing to the next slide.

Creating and Adding Closed Captions

You can make your presentation video more accessible by including closed captions to your narration, either by manually writing the captions or using automatically generated captions through Microsoft Stream.

If writing your own, closed captions can be stored in a text-based file with a .vtt filename extension. In this example, we’ll be writing the caption in Notepad, which comes preloaded on most PCs.  Please note, the closed-captioning feature in PowerPoint 2016 is only available for Office 2016 Click-to-Run installations; MSI-based installations don’t have the closed-captioning feature.

Once Notepad is open, save your starter closed-caption file with a name in the following format: CaptionsName.en.vtt

A common practice is to include a two-letter language code such as “en” (for English) or “es” (for Spanish). The file name extension must be “.vtt”.

  1. In the Save As dialog box in Notepad, enter a name in the File name box—including the .vtt filename extension—and enclose the entire name in quotation marks.
  2. In the Save as type box, select All Files (*.*). These actions ensure that the file is saved with the required .vtt filename extension (rather than a .txt extension). narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint
  3. In the Encoding box, select UTF-8. (This option ensures that any complex characters, such as international characters will be displayed accurately on the screen.)

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint When adding your captions to your PowerPoint, the first line must say: WEBVTT

Subsequent entries in the file are called “cues,” and they consist of:

A time marker (beginning time and end time, separated by an “arrow”, –>).

Each time marker is designated in this format: hh:mm:ss.ttt

Using two digits each for hours (hh), minutes (mm), and seconds (ss). Those three are separated by colons (:). After seconds comes a period and three digits for thousandths of a second (ttt).

The toolbar for playing videos in Edit view in PowerPoint has a timer that can help you know what beginning and ending times to specify in your caption file:

narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint Just remember to add the hours (00:) at the beginning and a third digit after the period to comply with the required time format. Once you have a completed closed caption file, save it and you’re ready to add them to your narration.

  1. In PowerPoint, in the Normal view, open the slide that has the video that you want to add captions to.
  2. Select the video on the slide.
  3. On the Playback tab, click the Insert Captions button, and then select Insert Captions. narration, Adding Narration and Closed Captions in PowerPoint
  4. In the Insert Captions dialog, browse to your caption file. Select the file and then click Insert.
  5. If you need to add another caption file, just repeat the process.
  6. Play the video and check that the captions appear correctly.