In this ultimate guide, you'll learn everything there is to know about how to add speaker notes in PowerPoint.
But first off, there are three different ways you can use your speaker notes in PowerPoint.
1. Speaker notes as presentation prompts
Presentation prompts is the classic way to add notes to PowerPoint. You have your slide, and then you have your notes as prompts to walk you through your points.
Once you have your prompts set up, you'll then want to use the Presenter View so you can see them in the lower right-hand corner of your screen as you can see below.
You can also see your notes when you narrate your PowerPoint presentation using the Record Slide Show command.
For step-by-step details on narrating a PowerPoint presentation, read our guide here.
2. Speaker notes as reference documentation
Collecting reference materials about your presentation is another way you can use your notes pane in PowerPoint.
In this case, you are simply documenting where your information came from. Which website, which report, which meeting notes, etc.
So unlike prompts, these reference materials are never meant to be projected during your presentation.
Instead, your speaker notes are there to remind you where your information came from, or to use as citations for your sources. To learn everything you need to know about citing sources in PowerPoint, read our citing guide here.
3. Speaker notes as the final deliverable
Similar to documenting your presentation, in this case you are using your notes pane like a Word document to create your final deliverable.
The advantage of doing this is that when you print your speaker notes (see details here), they will display as text beneath your slide.
How long should your speaker notes be?
How long your presentation notes should be, depends on which of the three ways you plan on using in your presentation.
1. Speaker notes as presentation prompts
Although you can add as much information as you want to your notes, if you are using them as presentation prompts, I recommend that you keep them short.
You've heard how most people hate it if you stand up on stage and read your slides aloud to them? Well the same is true if you stand on stage and read your speaker notes to them.
In addition, hiding behind your computer like this creates an awkward relationship between you and your audience. Your audience will feel as if you are not actually addressing them.
So if you are using your notes as speaking guides for your presentation, then use them sparingly.
Instead of writing long sentences or paragraphs, try adding short prompts or highlights to jog your memory. You can see a comparison of this in the pictures below.
Examples of short presentation prompts could be things like:
- Tell Emma’s story
- Internal survey: 87% of presenters agree
- Ask audience: How many hours per week do they work
And the reason prompts work so well is they allow you to quickly glance at your speaker notes to see what you are supposed to say next.
Prompts like this make your delivery sound more natural as you are not tempted to read anything word for word from your notes.
There is one exception to this rule. That is, if you have a quote, phrase or definition that needs to be said word-for-word.
2. Speaker notes as research documentation or client deliverables
If you are using your speaker notes to document your presentation or as the final client deliverable, you can add as much context as makes sense for you.
When using them this way, it is best to use a consistent and standardized format. That way your your final documentation or client deliverables look consistent.
On top of that, I highly recommend properly setting up your Notes Master and Handout Masters with your company colors and logos. That way your handouts will look more professional
How To Add Speaker Notes to PowerPoint
There are two different ways (or places) you can add speaking prompts for your presentation in PowerPoint.
1. The Notes Pane in the normal view
There are 4 different ways you can open the Notes Pane to add your notes in PowerPoint.
- Navigate to the View tab and click the Notes command
- Click the Notes command at the bottom of your PowerPoint work space
- With your mouse, click and drag the Notes Pane up from the bottom of the PowerPoint work space
- Hit the Ctrl + Shift + H Notes Pane shortcut
Once your Notes Pane is open, you can directly type your presentation prompts and notes in.
For a quick tutorial on how to use the Notes Pane shortcut (plus some strategies for using it), see the short video below.
To learn a bunch of other PowerPoint shortcuts to save you time when building and editing slides, read our shortcut guide here.
2. The Notes Page View
A second way you can add speaker notes to PowerPoint is in the Notes Page view, which gives you more space to work with.
To add speaker notes to the Notes Page in PowerPoint, simply:
- Navigate to the View Tab
- Select the Notes Page
- Begin typing your notes
Formatting Your Speaker Notes
You can format your notes either in the Notes Pane at the bottom of your screen or in the Notes Page view discussed above.
Just beware that while both panes allow you to format your notes, you will not see the formatting in both views.
For example, look at the picture below. Although a red font color was used to format the notes, you can only see the formatting in the Notes Page view.
For the Notes Pane view and Presenter View, only simply formatting will display. Things like bold, italics, underlines, bullet points, etc.
On the flip side, all of your formatting will display in the Notes Page view and in the print preview of your presentation.
As such, the best place to format your notes is the Notes Page view of your presentation.
- Navigate to the View Tab
- Select the Notes Page command
Remove All Speaker Notes from PowerPoint
You can remove all of your speaker notes before you share your presentation with someone using the Inspect Document feature.
To remove all of the Presentation Notes from your PowerPoint presentation, simply:
- Navigate to the File menu
- Click the Info
- Open the Check for Issues drop down
- Select Inspect document (select yes if a dialog pops open)
- Make sure the Presentation Notes option is selected
- Click Inspect
- For Presentation notes, select Remove all
After you select Remove All, all your speaker notes will be removed from your presentation. Just keep in mind that once you remove them, you cannot undo this selection.
So if you want to keep a copy of your notes, you should first save a copy of your presentation.
The same is true if you convert your presentation to the PDF file format. All of your speaker notes will be removed from your presentation. For more details on this, see our blog post here.
How to print PowerPoint with Notes
To print your speaker notes as handouts, simply:
- Select File then Print (or hit Ctrl + P)
- Change from Full Page Slides to Notes Pages
- Click Print
If you want to print your speaker notes next to your slide, you’ll need to first export your slides to Microsoft Word (discussed below). To learn more about printing your notes in PowerPoint, see our guide here.
To learn how to print your presentation with multiples per page as handouts, read our guide here.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when printing your speaker.
1. Slide Number vs. Page Number
The number you see in the lower right-hand corner in the print preview are your slide numbers, not your actual page numbers.
For example, if you have five pages of notes for slide number two, the number for all five pages will be the number two.
2. Slide Thumbnails
Your slide thumbnail will only display on the first page of notes. So if you have four pages of notes for a single slide, your thumbnail will only display on the first page (as pictured above).
This is something you will want to take into account when formatting your Notes Master.
To navigate to your Notes Master, simply:
Navigate to the View Tab
Click the Notes Master command.
In the Notes Master (pictured above) you can format your notes to include your company logo, corporate colors, contact information, etc.
How to Present Your Speaker Notes (Presenter View)
After adding notes to PowerPoint, to present (or view) your notes during your presentation, you’ll want to use the Presenter View.
To set up the Presenter View, simply.
- Navigate to the Slide Show Tab
- Make sure you select Use Presenter View
After selecting Presenter View, your slides will display on your overhead projector and your notes will display on your computer screen.
You can also launch the Presenter View at anytime using the Alt + Shift + F5 shortcut. To learn all about the different ways you can start a slideshow in PowerPoint, click here.
You can also see your speaker notes when narrating your PowerPoint presentation. To learn all about adding narrations to PowerPoint, read our guide here.
Exporting Speaker Notes to Word
Another option for printing and editing your notes is to first push them to Microsoft Word.
This gives you the additional option to have your speaker notes on the right of your slides. On top of that, once in Word, you can format and edit your speaker notes in the the full Microsoft Word editing environment.
To convert your speaker notes to Microsoft Word simply:
- Navigate to the File tab
- Click the Export command
- Select Create Handouts once
- Select Create Handouts a second time
- Pick either Notes next to slide or Notes below slide
- Click OK
Clicking okay, all of your slides and notes will be pushed to a new Microsoft Word document where you can edit them.
Special note when exporting to Microsoft Word.
When exporting your notes to Word, you have the option to Paste Link. In my experience this linking feature is unreliable and rarely works the way you’d expect it to.
That means that after you export your notes to Microsoft Word, the two files should be treated as two standalone documents. Meaning that if you update the notes in one file, they will not be updated in the other.
To learn how to convert Microsoft Word to PowerPoint, and some of the common pitfalls that can take place, click here.
So those are all the different ways that you can add speaker notes to PowerPoint.
On top of that, you learned that there are a variety of different ways you can use your speaker notes in PowerPoint.
If you decide to use your notes as handouts, I again highly recommend formatting your Handout and Notes Master.
To learn more about our PowerPoint training courses and other tutorials, visit us here.