Making Online PowerPoint Content Engaging: Writing a Narration Script

Giving your students PowerPoint slides with only text or graphics is a problem because slides, even with text and graphics on them, really do not stand alone. It’s hard to add enough context without adding tons of text to explain what’s on the slide. And, well, PowerPoint isn’t really the right media for tons of text. If you want students to do a lot of reading, you really should provide students with printed or downloadable print materials.

The purpose for using PowerPoint in a presentation is to support you and your message. In an online presentation, you are still the presenter and you should be there. Narration lets you connect with students and set the context for the presentation. In this article I’ll discuss preparing a narration script for use when narrating your slides.

Why a script?
Don’t think that you can just “wing it” when narrating your slides. I supposed there are some people who can do this, but I can tell you that even with a script, it’s hard to get it exactly right without doing a number of “takes.” For one thing, it’s really easy to trip on your words even with a script. So it’s inevitable that you’ll record narration multiple times in order to sound the way you want to sound. If you try to do it without a script, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to rerecord a multitude of times, more times than if you prepare a script.

In addition, writing a script helps you think through the sequencing of your slides and the best way to present what you are talking about. Once you start adding narration text to go along with your slides, you’ll see holes in your presentation where you need to add slides and places where you need to change the order of the presentation. So the script helps you think through the best way to present your content.

Preparing the script
Writing a narration script is about writing words for students to hear, not read. And that difference makes all the difference.

To write listening-friendly scripts, you’ll want to do some things a bit differently than when you are writing for reading. Audio should sound friendly and conversational. Use contractions and feel free to use sentence fragments, just like you would use in conversation. Use a friendly tone.

Practice reading the script aloud before you narrate the slides and fix anything that sounds stuffy or awkward. When reading your script aloud, you are bound to find words, phrases, and sections that need rewriting. Try to use less complex sentences, because complex sentences can be confusing to follow. Complex sentences can be reread when written, but having to replay an entire slide is more frustrating than rereading a sentence.

Write the script so that you aren’t tempted to ad-lib. What I mean is, if you think it might be good to put in a few comments that sound off-the-cuff, write them into the script, and don’t try to ad-lib them while narrating.

Plan audio “white space” and try not to talk too long on a given slide. If you have a block of dense text, plan where you will stop and take a breath and write it in the script as WAIT or BREATHE. If you have a lot of text on a single slide, consider how to make your wording more concise; if you need to keep all the text, consider dividing the narration among two or more slides.

Creating narration scripts in PowerPoint
PowerPoint makes it very easy to create a narration script. Simply write the narration that goes along with each slide in the Slide Notes pane that appears below each slide in Normal View, as shown below.

Once you enter the narration for each slide, output the script by selecting Publish from the Office button in the top left corner (PowerPoint 2007 and 2010) and then selecting Create Handouts in Microsoft Word> Notes next to slides.

PowerPoint will send thumbnails of your slides and the narration (notes) for each slide script to Microsoft Word and you’ll have a Word document with each slide and the corresponding narration. An example of one row of the table created during this process appears below.

In this section, I’ll be discussing the research surveys and questions related to synchronous e-learning. Although technologies such as chat and IM are considered synchronous e-learning, I’ll be mainly talking about virtual classroom technologies here

Voila! Your narration script! To use this Word narration script, I print it and use it when narrating my slides.

Patti Shank, PhD, CPT, is a widely recognized information and instructional designer and writer and author, who helps others build valuable information and instruction. She can be reached through her website:

Reprinted from Online Teaching Fundamentals: Making Online PowerPoint Content Engaging: Writing a Narration Script. Online Classroom (January 2011): 4,5.

This Post Has 5 Comments

    1. Mary Bart

      Thanks melvbb. We fixed the link.

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