Express Yourself with Sound

audio-production-smAdding audio to presentations has become the norm, particularly online. On one hand, it’s a great idea because others can hear your voice and connect in a different way. It’s also helpful for those with a visual disability. The problem with adding audio is that so many make the same mistakes they do when giving a live presentation. They put way too much on the slides and then proceed to read them verbatim. This is BORING! Your presentation should have the main points you are trying to make and you should “talk” about the details. It should be short (20 minutes or less, with less being better) and visually interesting. Add high quality images that attract the viewers’ attention and interest. Note: You should also add a transcript for those with a hearing disability.

When adding audio, and I do mean audio – not the video in the corner of you looking at your notes, which is distracting and annoying – keep the following in mind:

Quality counts – Although we live in a YouTube world, where smart phone videos rule, you can still take a little time to be sure that your audio is good quality and with minimal distractions. There are lots of software programs out there than you can use. One I use and highly recommend is Audacity by Sourceforge. Audacity is a free program, originally created for musicians, but useful for anyone who wants to edit video quickly. Although non-musicians are unlikely to use most of the options, there are several that are helpful. One I use frequently is the noise removal tool. It allows you to isolate a sound (i.e. noisy pipes, etc.) and remove it from the entire track. Another is the normalize tool. It allows you to take a clip where the speaker may change their pitch frequently and make it more level, less distracting.

Headset – Using a headset does a couple of things for your presentation. It keeps out extraneous noise, which is no small feat if you live with or work with others nearby and keeps the quality consistent. You can buy a headset from any store that sells electronics. Don’t spend a lot of money. You can easily get a set for as little as $30 or you might spend up to $100. I wouldn’t go over that price unless you plan to become a serious audio tech. I would recommend you look at LogiTech or Plantronics.

Standing Mic or Computer Mic – If you plan to use a regular microphone, be sure that you are set up for sound. If you are in a typical square room, the sound will likely be flat. Sound needs to bounce and to do so, it needs curves. You can create something or hang sheets or blankets around you in a circular pattern. I use and recommend a Yeti microphone and a portable isolation booth. You can get one for under $50. If you are crafty, you could easily make one.

I highly recommend against using a computer mic. They tend to echo and the sound quality is not great. When you are sitting and reading, it is very common to rock back and forth, thus making the sound fade in and out. If a computer mic is all you’ve got, be sure to put your recording through an edit to improve the sound quality as much as you can.

Many headsets are now wireless, but with all things wireless you must be careful. We found when doing some field videos with a set of wireless microphones that the sound cut out here and there. It turned out that everyone had their smart phones in their pocket and they were checking mail on a regular basis and interfering with the audio devices! Who knew?  Be sure that you keep the microphone part of the headset above your nostrils. Everyone makes breathing sounds and they can be very distracting.

Be natural – Try to talk at your normal speed and be sure to breath! It’s easy to try and get it out as quickly as possible so you limit mistakes, but the result is an unnatural and hard to follow voice-over. Take your time and try it several times, keeping the clips short, until you sound like you are having a conversation with a friend. Sometimes, if you can find a willing partner, you can have someone sit in the room and talk to them. It is much easier than staring at a screen.

Take your time – As with any part of creating a presentation, audio takes time. Make sure you take the time you need to make it the best it can be. You will be happier and your listeners will be too.

Until next week…


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