Multimedia and PowerPoint: Top 10 Tips for Success with Video Clips, Music and Audio Clips

You’ve heard the buzz… multimedia is a must for great PowerPoint presentations these days.
Well, the truth is that multimedia — when used judiciously — can indeed elevate an adequate presentation to standout status. When done right, multimedia (e.g., video clips, music, audio clips and images) can successfully:

  • Capture and hold an audience’s attention
  • Enhance or explain a point the presenter is trying to make
  • Control the focus of the discussion
  • Entertain in a way that makes the presentation more memorable

Multimedia should not be done simply for the “Wow!” factor; too much of it, or media done poorly, can actually become a negative. Here are 10 tips to help ensure your success with PowerPoint and video clips, music and audio clips (a future article will share tips for working with images).

Tip #1

When getting started, create a new folder on your desktop and put both your PowerPoint presentation and your media files in it. This is especially important if you think you will later want to copy your final presentation to another computer, burn it to a CD or share it online. Unlike pictures, video and audio clips are not embedded into your presentation; they are linked. So, to make it easy to transfer your final presentation, the media files should be in the same directory (or folder) as the presentation file, and you must copy the entire folder, not just the presentation, for the clips to play properly.

Tip #2

Avoid media file names with more than 128 characters. The simplest way to do this is to follow Tip #1 above. If you don’t and your media files exist inside a folder that is inside another folder, and so on, your “file name” can very quickly exceed 128 characters because the name is a combination of the name you give it and the path to get to that file. Once you reach that limit, all types of problems can emerge! There is no need to go into those problems here; just avoid the long file names and you’ll be fine.


C:Documents and SettingsKristin SchwitzerDesktopLovers vs. LikersAsleigh


F:Interclipper DVD ProjectsBrand Lovers vs. Likers studyDecember 2006New JerseyBrand LoversGroup 1 Clips Nikki 25- 35 years old shopping_ she’s in charge.wmv

Tip #3

Use short clips. Keep clips under 30 seconds — the shorter the better. If you have a nugget of a clip that is longer than that, break it down into two clips. Avoid long clips at all costs.

Tip #4

Make every second count — edit your clips before importing them. Get rid of the upfront fillers, and cut right to the meat of the point. For instance, if I were to ask you to name your favorite Friday night restaurant, a typical response might be, “Well… I… um… do you mean with my spouse, or with friends? Let’s see. I’d have to say my favorite place to go on Friday nights is Ruth Chris’ Steak House.” Instead of clipping the :30–:40 second sound bite, cut right to the :10 sound bite of “I’d have to say my favorite place to go on Friday nights is Ruth’s Chris Steak House.” Windows XP includes easy-to-use software for multimedia editing (Windows Movie Maker). Other multimedia editing programs, such as Audacity, work on both PCs and Macs.

Tip #5

Don’t overdue it. Use clips very selectively to maximize the impact. Too many can dilute your story or, worse yet, put your audience to sleep! Especially when just getting started with video and/or audio clips, be conservative on your decision to include them or not.

How can you tell if a potential clip is worth including? Most importantly, consider if the clip enhances or explains a key point you are trying to make. If not, it is probably not worth sharing. Even if it is, not all clip candidates should make it into the final presentation. Things to consider to help whittle down your best candidates even further: conciseness of the clip, brightness of the video, volume of the audio and, importantly, whether you see the person speaking or not.

Although editing can often take a clip of mediocre quality and turn it into a fine candidate for inclusion, nothing can be done after the fact if the speaker cannot be seen in the video. Video captured from a stationary camera at focus group facilities is the most common type of video used in qualitative research. Without a live operator and the ability to zoom in on the person speaking, stationary video often captures great sound bites, but not the best video clips. If that’s all you have and you found a potential clip where the speaker cannot be seen, consider using a still picture from another clip that does show the speaker (or a close-up picture of that person, if you have it) and inserting an audio clip for the sound bite. The point the respondent is trying to make may be more memorable if the audience is allowed to focus on what that respondent is saying, instead of having to process yet another “group video shot” and trying to figure out who is actually making the point.

Tip #6

Remember, you — not the clips — are the lead. Clients pay for your thinking. They want to hear your insights much more than they want to hear John talking about the package attributes that appeal to him (or whatever is shared in any one clip). Let your clips bring your story to life, but be cognizant that you are the one who needs to weave the story and keep the focus during your presentation.

Tip #7

Be smart about the file format you use. The most common video-file extensions are AVI, WMV, MOV and MPEG or MPG. The MPEG/MPG formats are good for cross-platform presentations (i.e., you’re working on a PC and sharing with Mac-based clients). The MOV format works only with Macintosh PowerPoint and requires that the computer already has QuickTime loaded for viewing. If you own a Macintosh and want to make your presentation PC-friendly for your clients, change the format of the video clip by opening the file in QuickTime and exporting it as an AVI or MPG file. WMV files work only on PCs, but they work great with PowerPoint. Also, WMV file sizes can be significantly smaller than AVI files; they require less processor overhead (which means smoother playback on older PCs); and they give high-quality playback.

The most common audio-file formats are WAV, WMA, mp3 and AIFF. Try to avoid WAV files, unless for a very short clip, as WAV files tend to be very large.

Tip #8

Keep control of your presentation by not using auto play. Every time you insert a video or audio clip, you will be asked if you want to have it run automatically or with mouse control. Unless your presentation will be played without you present, you definitely want to select the “When Clicked” option. We have all been in a presentation when the audience gets deep into group discussion and just then the presentation automatically advances, despite no one paying attention.

With the mouse-control option, you can wait until there is a natural (or appropriate) break in the conversation before the clip is played.


Tip #9

Always test your A/V in the exact conditions in which the presentation will be delivered. In advance or as soon as you get into your presentation room, connect to the projector, and load your presentation. Here’s a quick trick: Remember the slide number on which you have included a video or audio clip. In PowerPoint’s Slide Show mode, simply type in the number of that slide and hit “Enter” to “jump to” the slide with the media content. Make adjustments as needed to the volume level, and if necessary, ask for on-site technical help before your audience has assembled.

Tip #10

Have a backup plan in case the media content does not play as planned. Be ready with a “cheat sheet” for the clips that you have included to jump to those clips outside of PowerPoint if necessary. The quickest way to go between PowerPoint (without leaving the Slide Show mode) and your media clips, which you should have open in the background, is to use the short-cut command of Alt + Tab (hold down both keys at the same time). When you are finished playing a clip, simply press Alt + Tab again to return to your presentation.


Polishing the Presentation

So, now that you have created a standout presentation, the file size has likely become quite large — too large, in fact, to send via most email servers. You now have three choices to share your final presentation with others:

  • Media-based transfers (CDs, DVDs, jumpdrives, etc.)
  • FTP sites
  • Third-party file-sharing sites such as YouSendIt.com, Diino.com, fileTRUST.com, LeapFILE.com and sharefile.com

Remembering these tips will help you make a smoother transition to using video clips, music and audio clips in your presentations. Look for a future article to learn 10 tips for working with PowerPoint and images.



Beacon Research • Severna Park, MD • kristin@beacon-research.com


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