How to Add Video to Your PowerPoint Talk

Have you watched colleagues give a conference talk or seminar containing video clips and wondered how they did it? Or perhaps you’ve tried embedding a video in your PowerPoint presentation, but it did not play well or at all? In a new tutorial, I walk the viewer through the steps to preparing and inserting a video into PowerPoint so that it plays properly. I used PowerPoint Version 2016 and a Mac for the tutorial, but the tools and options covered are also available for PCs.

If you have an earlier version of PowerPoint, some of the options I talked about may not be available. Also, if the host computer (used to project the slideshow) is running an old version (prior to 2013) of PowerPoint, you may have problems playing your embedded videos. The reason is that older versions of Windows and Mac use linking rather than embedding, and the path to the videos may not work. I’ve gotten around this problem (going from a Mac to a PC running older versions) by putting the PowerPoint file in a folder with all the video files (it’s good practice anyway to put all images and videos used in your presentation into a single folder). I transfer the entire folder to the host computer, and most of the time the videos play fine. If that doesn’t work, it may be a problem with the video format/codec not compatible with the host computer. The only fix is to convert all your videos to the format/codec compatible with that computer.

But the best way to avoid playback problems is to use your own computer during your talk.

How to Conduct an Interview While Filming a Video

As I’ve talked about before, conducting an interview is one of the biggest challenges the scientist videographer may ever face—especially at noisy venues such as a scientific conference. In a previous post, I described how I had conducted and filmed a series of interviews at a scientific meeting and pointed out what I had learned from the experience.

Now, I’ve created a short video that covers ten tips for conducting interviews while filming a video:

Use Video to Promote the Mission of Your Science Society

This week, the Society of Wetland Scientists (SWS) rolled out their new media initiative and YouTube Channel. Their website explains how video can be used by SWS members to share their work and why video can be beneficial to the SWS mission:

Exposure: Video can raise awareness of wetland issues, new research, and society activities.

Communication: Video augments other forms of communication, such as technical articles, but is a more accessible and modern way to share information that appeals to a broad audience.

Education: Video can enhance the public’s understanding of the importance of wetlands, can inspire current and future wetland scientists, and help in recruiting students to the study of wetland science.

The SWS New Media Team is currently soliciting videos from members and non-members with an interest in wetlands. If you are a wetland researcher or student studying wetlands…or just a wetland enthusiast, consider submitting a video (see the video preparation and submission instructions). If you’ve never made a video before, the following tutorial provides some basic guidelines for making a video with a smartphone.

How to Create a Videographic

I recently came across a Tweet from Climate Central that was illustrated with a striking videographic, which is a combination of graph and video. In this case, the graph showed where Earth’s accumulated energy (heat) ends up (land, sea, air), and it was superimposed on a video of ice floes floating on the ocean.

The idea behind such videographics is to create an attractive and memorable information product that catches people’s eye. The moving image draws your attention as you scroll through Tweets or surf through a website. My attention was definitely captured, and I took a closer look at the graph and the data it presented.

In addition to making your Tweets more visible and informative, videographics can be used on a webpage, as supplemental online material for a journal article, or for a scientific presentation. On a webpage, it can create an eye-catching visual that highlights a recent publication. More journals now accept videos and interactive graphics to accompany articles; a videographic can enhance an online article or be offered as a downloadable supplementary file. Judicious use of a videographic in a conference presentation or seminar can emphasize a key finding and make the point more memorable.

So, how do you create a videographic? It’s relatively easy if you know how to use Photoshop and a movie-editing program. Here are the steps:

1. Prepare your graph in any graphing program and save it as an image (jpg, png).

2. Open the image in Photoshop.

3. Use the “magic wand” tool to highlight the graph’s background and delete it.

4. Now save the graph with its transparent background as a .png file, which will preserve the transparency.

5. Import the new graph into iMovie (or other movie-editing program).

6. Import a video clip that illustrates what the graph depicts (clouds streaming across the sky, waves lapping on the shore, people walking).

7. In the timeline, add a ten-second segment (or whatever duration you choose) of the video. Add the graph to the timeline as a picture-in-picture image and resize/re-position as needed.

8. Export the video file and post it on your website or in a Tweet.

I made a tutorial showing exactly how to prepare your graph and then superimpose it on a video clip (see embedded video below or go to this link).

How to Improve Your On-Camera Delivery in Science Videos

Picture this scenario:

A middle-aged scientist in a white lab coat is speaking on film about his research on cancer. He’s sitting in a well-equiped laboratory and looks very authoritative. The camera gradually pans from a broad view of the room to focus in on the scientist. He begins by saying, “I’m really passionate about my work and want to share my findings with you in this video.” The only problem is that this cancer researcher does not look or sound passionate! Far from it. Instead, he sounds like a robot. He speaks in a monotone, does not smile or show any other facial expression, uses no hand gestures, sits stiffly and does not make eye contact with the viewer (his eyes are looking down or off camera). Things don’t get any better as he continues to explain the details of his research. 

Now, I can sympathize with this guy because this is how my early attempts at making videos about my research looked and sounded. I’ve improved since then, but still find it really difficult not to come across on camera like Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy in the original Star Trek series). Spock had difficulty showing emotion due to his Vulcan ancestry.

So what’s our excuse?

I think there are three basic reasons why some scientists come across on camera as being stiff and robotic: personality, training, and fear of the camera. People who are naturally gregarious or funny come across well on camera, but someone who is introverted may seem stiff or robotic. It’s possible to go against your natural demeanor, but you will likely find it difficult. I’m a naturally reserved, quiet person and feel terribly awkward when I try to be more extroverted. Also, I have to fight the years of training and experience talking to an audience of scientists, during which I cultivated a demeanor of calm confidence and authority. My talks at conferences and in seminars have been successful because those audiences expected a serious, academic delivery. But what works for an audience of scientists can be a detriment on camera. My serious, authoritative demeanor could be misinterpreted as arrogance or just a nerdy attitude. In addition, the camera not only adds ten pounds to your apparent body weight, it drains your energy. Consequently, it’s necessary to be more personable and to raise your energy level when being filmed above that normally used with a live audience. If you are like me and have a more reserved demeanor, you will have to work much harder than your colleague who is naturally gregarious and likeable.

Also, many people—even experienced speakers—freeze up when the camera is turned on them. They get that “rabbit in the headlights” look on their faces, and their bodies seem to turn to stone. Whenever a camera was turned on, I found it difficult to gather my thoughts and speak coherently. This reaction is a bit like stage fright and can make you look like someone with “Stuck in Their Heads” syndrome. Extreme self-consciousness is the culprit here.

After watching many, many videos made by science professionals (or videos in which a scientist appears), I realized that there were quite a few people out there with the “Stuck in Their Heads” problem. I’ve wanted to make a video tutorial about how to improve on-camera delivery, but put it off because I did not think I was the best person to tackle this topic. I thought it was better to hear tips about on-camera delivery from someone who does it well. However, it finally occurred to me that people might want to hear how a scientist with this problem has faced the problem and eventually improved.

In the video below, I briefly explain what I think are the main problems someone faces when trying to speak on camera and a few ideas of how to overcome them (direct link to video).

As you saw, there are several ways to improve your on-camera delivery if you are having problems. I focused on the most common issues and how to overcome them. My take-home message to you is not to give up if your delivery is poor at first. Keep practicing and you will improve. Even though I’m not as engaging or likable or convincing as, say, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and never will be, I have improved. More importantly, I feel less self conscious and thus more comfortable speaking on camera.

One bonus to learning to speak with more energy and confidence on camera is that it can help you in other stressful, speaking situations such as a job interview seminar or a TED talk. If you have an upcoming presentation, film yourself practicing your talk and try to apply some of the tips I cover in the video. I think you’ll find it’s well worth the effort.