The addition of music to PowerPoint slides can add drama and atmosphere to your presentation. One such way is to act as a 'heads-up' to the audience that the presentation is about to start. I did just that in preparation for writing this article, and here is the process.

I set myself the task of creating an introductory slide show that would set the tone of the presentation. My imaginary brief was a presentation aimed at preventing small businesses from going bankrupt by recognising the warning signs that they may be in trouble. The song I chose was Going Under by Evanescence, but more of that later: first, the slides.

Slide 1
This was a rudimentary combination of drawing object and text. I pulled out a large ellipse and coloured it pale yellow. I laid a text box on top of this containing the words GOING UNDER in 60 pt red letters. Obviously I set the text box to 'No Line' and 'No Fill'.

Slide 2
I used a stock photo of a graph showing a dramatic fall in sales figures for this slide.

Slide 3
This was a copy of the first slide, but with an added effect. I set the slide up to dissolve in the word 'NOT' in a big black stencil font above the existing text so that the slide reads 'NOT GOING UNDER'.

So these are my slides, now to add some music.

With the first slide selected (this is important as the active slide will be the starting point of my music) I clicked on 'Insert/Movies' and 'Sounds', then 'Sound from File'. In the dialog box I clicked the down arrow in the 'Files of Type' box and selected Mp3 from the list, as this is the type of file I was using. The next stage was to find the file, which I had placed on the desktop for convenience. Clicking the down arrow on the 'Look In:' box, I selected 'Desktop' and then double clicked on the file containing my chosen track.

This brought up a dialog box on my first slide asking "How do you want the sound to start in the slideshow?" I clicked on 'Automatically'. A loudspeaker icon appeared on the first slide, and I dragged this to the bottom right corner to be out of the way. The song was now included in the slide show, but only for the opening slide. To get it to play over multiple slides required a different approach.

In slide 1, I right clicked on the loudspeaker icon and selected 'Custom Animation' from the list. This opened a new pane with the name of my track on display. I clicked the down arrow next to the track title and selected 'Effect Options' from the list, and then the 'Effect' tab. In the 'Start playing section', I checked the 'From beginning' radio button and in the 'Stop playing' section I checked the' After' button and set the number of slides to 3.

While I was here, I skipped onto the 'Timing' tab and set the timing to one second in the 'Delay' section. This allowed a short pause before the track started to play. I clicked OK and the music would now play for three slides. My next task was to insert my dissolve-in extra word, and for this I switched to Slide 3.

I pulled out a text box and typed in the word 'NOT', which I set to black 80 point stencil font, again selecting 'No Line' and 'No Fill'. With the text box selected, I clicked the 'Add Effect' box on the right of the screen and chose 'Entrance', then 'Dissolve In' from the list. In the ;Modify: Dissolve In' section I selected 'On Click' and 'Slow' for the speed I wanted my text to reveal itself. I positioned the new word above the existing text and that was the task completed, so with a press of F5 I set the slide show away to check it out.

The music came in after one second and I moved onto the second slide just as Amy sang 'I'm going under'. Switching to a graph showing plummeting sales figures just as she sang those words was quite dramatic, and this is one way of using sounds to enhance slides that you might like to consider.

At the start of the second chorus, I moved on to the third slide, and about one second into the guitar solo I made the message more positive by clicking my mouse to activate the dissolve-in of the word 'NOT'. I had chosen a slow setting because I discovered that the word dissolved in over the length of the guitar solo. This kind of experimentation can help you decide the best time to initiate effects.

At the end of the track I would start the presentation proper with the entire audience paying attention and, hopefully, buoyed up by a fine song.

The use of music is just one way that you can enhance your PowerPoint presentations. There are many other effects at your disposal, such as graphics and animation that can be used to get your message across. The widespread use of PowerPoint today has created demand for those proficient in its use. Learning how to use PowerPoint, perhaps through a training course, would allow you to turn the basic technique laid out above into something far more intricate.