I use Powerpoint regularly to give presentations. I’d like to include sound clips in my presentations but I’ve been to several talks where the speaker couldn’t play the sound files for whatever reason.
PowerPoint does sometimes fail to play sound (and video) during a presentation. Typically the presentation works perfectly well on your computer, but fails on another computer.
There are two potential reasons.
Firstly, large sound files (and all video files) are NOT embedded in the presentation. PowerPoint holds a link to the external media file which it tries to use as needed. If you fail to copy the media file when you copy the presentation the play back will fail. The solution to this is: BEFORE you insert the sound/video into your presentation, place it in the same folder as the PowerPoint file. When you need to transfer the presentation to another computer, transfer the whole folder.
Secondly, PowerPoint relies on the appropriate codecs (multimedia drivers) being installed on the computer in a way that PowerPoint can make use of. If they are missing (or perhaps are a different version) then again the playback can fail. There is no simple solution to this – the status/version of the PowerPoint application at the venue for your presentation is rarely under your control.
Ideally you would use your own laptop for a presentation and avoid these problems. This is not always possible, and anyway you should always plan for your laptop failing or going missing.
My preferred strategy is to always have the multimedia files available (which you will if you copy the folder as described above) and be prepared to play them directly in a media player rather than through PowerPoint.
It would be very unusual to find a computer that did not have a media player installed (for example Windows Media Player, or QuickTime player on a Mac) and providing you stick with a standard audio format such as .mp3, then you can use that for playback.
I typically load the multimedia into the player and pause it, ready to go at the click of a button. I then start PowerPoint. At the appropriate point in my presentation I use the ALT+TAB key combination to switch to the media player and hit the play button. At the end, ALT+TAB back to the presentation.
This is not ideal, but it is reliable. It does slightly disrupt the flow of the presentation. Also, if you have many multi-media clips in the presentation, you have to open them individually in the player when required – you cannot usually have more than one clip queued up ready to play.
As with other aspects of you presentation (such as colour), it greatly helps if you can either get to the venue ahead of time and check out your presentation on the actual equipment to be used. Or, contact the AV technician in advance, perhaps sending a copy of the presentation for testing.