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How to Add Speaker Notes in PowerPoint (Ultimate Guide)

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There are 3 different ways you can add use the Notes Pane in PowerPoint.

#1. Speaker notes as presentation prompts

Presentation prompts is the classic way to use your speaker notes. You have your slide, and then you have your 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.

Example of speaker notes as presentation prompts in the Presenter View

#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, they are there to help you understand where everything came from in case you need to update the presentation in the future.

Example of speaker notes being used as reference documentation in the notes pane of PowerPoint

#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, when you then print your notes (see details here) your slide thumbnail and all your text are printed at the same time.

speaker notes being used as the final client delieverable in the Notes master view

In this post, you will learn all of the different ways you can add and edit speaker notes in PowerPoint, as well as get some pro tips for using them.

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 them in your presentation.

Speaker notes as presentation prompts

Although you can add as much information as you want, if you are using them as prompts, it's recommend that you keep them short.

That’s because just as everyone hates it if you stand up on stage and read your slides to them, the same is true if you read your speaker notes to them (word for word).

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.

Comparison between long and short speaker notes

Examples of short presentation prompts could be things like:

  1. Tell Emma’s story
  2. Internal survey: 87% of presenters agree
  3. 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.

Speaker notes as research documentation or client deliverables

If you are using your speaker notes to document your presentation or as the final client delieverable, 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 so that your documentation or client deliverables are consistent.

On top of that, I highly recommend properly setting up your Notes and Handout Masters with your company colors and logos. That way your handouts will look more professional

Example of formatting your handouts with your company logo and branding versus leaving them blank

To format your handout master:

  1. Navigate to the View Tab
  2. Select the Notes Master command
  3. Format your Notes Master

You can add content to your Notes Master just like you would add content to your PowerPoint slides.

Just be aware that if your notes run onto multiple pages, the slide thumbnail image will only display on the first page of your handouts.

This is something to take into account when formatting your Notes Master to prepare for printing your slides as handouts. For more details, see our blog post here.

How To Add Speaker Notes

There are two different ways (or places) you can add speaking prompts for your presentation in PowerPoint.

Picture of the four different ways to open the Notes Pane 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.

  1. Navigate to the View tab and click the Notes command

  2. Click the Notes command at the bottom of your PowerPoint work space

  3. Click and drag the Notes Pane up from the bottom of your PowerPoint work space

  4. Hit the Ctrl + Shift + H Notes Pane shortcut

Once the notes pane is open you can directly type your speaker notes into it.

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.

#2: The Notes Page View

To open the notes page view in PowerPoint, from the View tab select the Notes Page command

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:

  1. Navigate to the View Tab
  2. Select the Notes Page
  3. Begin typing your notes

Formatting 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.

It’s important to note though while both panes allow you to format your notes, you will not see all of your formatting in both views.

In both pictures below, the speaker notes are ALL formatted with a red font color, but that formatting does not show up in both views.

Comparison between what kind of text formatting appears in the Notes Pane view versus the Notes Page view

Only simply formatting displays in the Notes Pane at the bottom of your screen and in the Presenter View of your presentation (Alt + Shift + F5).

Simply formatting includes things like bold, italics, underlines, bullet points, etc.

On the flip side, all of your formatting will properly display in the Notes Page view and in the print preview of your presentation.

From the View tab in the PowerPoint ribbon, select the Notes Page

That means that if you want to format your notes and see all of the formatting, you should format your notes in the Notes Page view of your presentation.

  1. Navigate to the View Tab

  2. Select the Notes Page command

Remove All Speaker Notes from PowerPoint

If you want to remove all of your speaker notes before you share your presentation, you can remove them all using the Inspect Document feature.

You can remove all the speaker notes in PowerPoint using the INspect Document tool and selecting remove all Presentation Notes

To remove all of the Presentation Notes from your PowerPoint presentation, simply:

  1. Navigate to the File menu
  2. Select Info
  3. Select Check for Issues
  4. Select Inspect document (select yes if a dialog pops open)
  5. Make sure Presentation Notes is selected
  6. Click Inspect
  7. 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.

That means that if you want to keep a copy of your presentation with all your notes, you’ll first want to save a copy of your presentation.

Also note that all of your speaker notes will be removed if you convert your presentation to the PDF file format. For more details on this, see our blog post here for details.

How to print PowerPoint with Notes

To print your speaker notes, select the Notes Page layout in the printer dialog box and click Print.

To print your speaker notes as handouts, simply:

  1. Select File then Print (or hit Ctrl + P)
  2. Change from Full Page Slides to Notes Pages
  3. 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).

For more help and options for printing your notes in PowerPoint, see our guide here.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when printing your notes like this.

When printing your Notes Page, the number at the bottom of the page is the Slide Number the speaker notes are on, not the page number that printed

#1. Slide Number vs. Page Number

The number you see in the lower right-hand corner in the print preview represents the slide number in your presentation, not the total page number (which is slightly different).

The difference is, if you have lots of notes, you might have multiple pages of notes for a single slide.

For each extra page of notes, the number at the bottom of the screen will represent the slide number for those notes (for example slide number two), even though you might be on page number 5 or 6.

Example showing that the slide number of the speaker notes is displayed when printing, not the actual page number of the notes

#2. Slide Thumbnails

If you have a lot of speaker notes that run onto multiple pages, the second, third, fourth page etc. of printing handouts will not have the slide thumbnail image at the top (as pictured above).

This is something you will want to take into account when formatting your Notes Master.

To navigate to your Notes Master, select the Notes Master command from the View tab in PowerPoint

To navigate to your Notes Master, simply:

  1. Navigate to the View Tab

  2. Click the Notes Master command.

Example adding a company logo and company branding to the Notes Master

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)

To present (or view) your speaker notes when giving your presentation, you’ll want to use the Presenter View.

To set up the presenter view to run automatically, from the Slide Show tab select Use Presenter View

To set up the presenter view, simply.

  1. Navigate to the Slide Show Tab
  2. Make sure you select Use Presenter View

After selecting Presenter View, as long as you hook up to an external monitor, your slides will show up on the overhead projector and your speaker notes will display on your computer screen.

You can also launch the Presenter View at anytime using your keyboard shortcut Alt + Shift + F5. To learn all about the different ways you can start a slideshow in PowerPoint, click 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 as well as give you the full Microsoft Word editing environment to customize your handouts.

You can export your notes to Microsoft Word through using the Create Handout command

To convert your speaker notes to Microsoft Word simply:

  1. Navigate to the File tab

  2. Select the Export command

  3. Select Create Handouts once

  4. Select Create Handouts a second time

  5. Select either Notes next to slide or Notes below slide

  6. 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.

Special note that the Paste Link option in the Send to Microsoft Word dialog box doesn't work

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.

To my knowledge there is no way to properly link your notes between PowerPoint and Word such that they automatically update between the two files.

That means that after you export your notes to Microsoft Word, the two files should be treated as two distinct standalone documents (if you update the notes in one file they will not be updated in the other).

To learn how to move from Microsoft Word to PowerPoint, and some of the common pitfalls that can take place, click here.

What’s next?

Updated on May 22, 2019

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