Choosing Background Music for Presentations

When crafting a digital presentation for school, work, or personal use, there are a variety of ways to incorporate music without distracting from your key points. In essence, you should select music that accentuates your slides, heightens emotions, and engages your audience. Below, we've outlined a few common-sense tips when choosing background music for presentations. 

Consider Your Audience

Before spending money on stock music or composing your own background soundtrack, you should take time to think about the target audience. Who is receiving the information? Will you be presenting in a corporate boardroom, middle school classroom, or on a TED talk stage? Answers to these questions will help inform the tone of your presentation, and allow you to choose more appropriate music. 

For example, a corporate presentation should stick to a fairly professional and serious approach, and any music should be non-intrusive and tasteful. On the other hand, a school presentation can be more lighthearted and funny, so that kids stay engaged. It helps to choose music that matches your audience, subject matter, and setting. 

What's Your Emotional Goal?

Ideally, when selecting background music for presentations, what emotions do you hope to inspire in your audience? Do you want them to feel compassionate, joyful, sad, or motivated? Perhaps you'd like to entertain them, make them laugh, and then inspire them with a deeper message. Music can be a powerful tool for highlighting these emotions. Even if your emotional goals are fairly complex, you can search a stock music service for specific moods, such as "atmospheric", "optimistic", and "calm".  

When in Doubt, Use Moderation

Think of music like a spicy seasoning. When sprinkled carefully on a delicious dish, seasoning can bring out the food's flavor. However, it's really easy to overdo it. Similarly, music can help bring out the most dramatic and inspiring moments of your presentation, but you also don't want to bombard viewers with relentless sound. By being more selective and using music sparingly, you'll end up with more powerful results. 

Choosing the Right Format and Volume

Lastly, you should find music that is compatible with your presentation software, and keep it at an appropriate volume when presenting. Most people use Powerpoint, which accepts MP3, WAV, AIFF, and a few other file formats. We recommend using high-quality MP3s for a nice balance between file size and fidelity. When deciding how loud to play the music, consider what effect you're trying to achieve. On a big stage, you may want to use a louder soundtrack to get the audience's attention, but in a smaller room, you'll probably want to keep music in the background.  

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