Audio and Video

Learning Objectives

Identify effective uses of audio and video in presentations.

A large amount of digitized audio and video is now available to be included and embedded in your presentation. Select short clips; Young and Travis (2017) recommend only 10–20 seconds, but this rule will depend in part on the length of the presentation, the purpose of the presentation, and the clip content and relevance.[1] You should not have a presentation primarily composed of audio/video clips. Select only clips that reinforce the message or serve as an appropriate segue into your next topic.

Screenshot of youtube saying "video unavailable"

You don’t want this message. Make sure to test your video before your presentation!

When including audio or video in your speech, there are several technical considerations. It is important that the clip be properly cued to start at exactly where you want it to begin playing. It distracts from both your audience’s attention and your credibility when you are fumbling with technology during a speech. It is also important that your file format can be played on the computer you are using. Since not all computers will play all file formats, be sure to test playability and audio volume before your presentation.

Again, going back to providing a professional appearance from your first interaction with your audience, you should iron out the technical details before they enter the room. As with a demonstration, if your clip isn’t playing properly, move on rather than attempt to correct the issue. Fumbling with technology is a waste of your audience’s valuable time.


  • If possible, download video clips rather than relying on a Wi-Fi connection, which can be unreliable or require sign-in procedures. Once you’ve downloaded video clips, you can edit them to the most efficient length to get your point across. There are a number of tutorials on the web explaining how to download videos in various formats.
  • To make your presentation accessible, make sure any video clips you use have subtitles. It is possible (though time-consuming) to add subtitles to your own clips; again, instructions are fairly easy to find on the internet. If you’re talking about the words of a song, you’ll want to project the lyrics so that the audience can read as well as hear them.
  • Even if the room where you’re presenting has a projector hook-up, you can’t guarantee that the audio will work as well. If audio is crucial for your presentation (for instance, if you’re talking about a musician and want to analyze a piece of their music), you might consider bringing your own powered speaker to prevent technical delays or difficulties.

  1. Young, Kathryn Sue, and Howard Paul Travis. Oral Communication: Skills, Choices, and Consequences, Fourth Edition. Waveland Press, 2017, p. 191.