How to Use Speaker Notes in PowerPoint

Speaker notes keep a presenter on track during a presentation

Scientist giving lecture about spring technology in conference room
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Speaker notes are notes added to PowerPoint presentation slides as a reference for the presenter. Notes in a PowerPoint slide are hidden during the presentation and only visible to the one presenting the slides.

You might add PowerPoint notes to your slides as a prompt to keep your presentation running smoothly and to prevent you from skipping over an important topic. While making your presentation, you can jot down important key points that you want to cover but that aren't necessary for the audience to see.

If you want, you can also print your PowerPoint notes, accompanied by a thumbnail version of the appropriate slide, to keep as a handy reference when making an oral presentation.

How to Add Notes in PowerPoint

The steps to add notes to a PowerPoint presentation are identical whether you're using PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003, or PowerPoint for Mac. You can add notes to PowerPoint Online, too, but the steps are a tad different.

  1. Open the View menu and select Normal.

    PowerPoint Online users can skip this step.

  2. Select the thumbnail of the slide you want to add a note to from the left panel.

  3. Click the Click to add notes area under the slide, and type your comments.

    PowerPoint Online users can toggle the notes pane on and off through View > Notes.

    If you can't find the section to add notes to a slide — which may be the case if you're using PowerPoint 2016 or 2013 — make sure Notes is selected in the View menu, or in the taskbar at the bottom of PowerPoint.

  4. If the slide notes are hidden in PowerPoint for Mac, drag the bar below the slide upward to reveal the notes section.

How to See Your Notes During a Presentation

So long as your computer is connected to another monitor or projector, you can enable Presenter View in PowerPoint 2016, 2013, 2010, and 2007.

  1. Open the Slide Show menu.

  2. Select the box next to Use Presenter View.

  3. Select From Beginning.

  4. If available, you can instead click any of the other options like From Current Slide, Custom Slide Show, Present Online, or Broadcast Slide Show. Each of these views will let you see your slideshow notes during the presentation.

In PowerPoint 2003, the Presenter View option is hidden away in another setting.

  1. Go to Slide Show > Set Up Show.

  2. Select the box next to Show Presenter View.

  3. Click OK.

  4. Go to Slide Show > View Show.

PowerPoint for Mac works a little differently than the Windows version. To see your notes during a presentation, go to Slide Show in the menu and click Presenter View.

PowerPoint Online is unable to open a presentation in Presenter View because it can't connect to an additional monitor.

Tips & More Information on PowerPoint Notes

Presenter View only works if your computer is connected to another display. This is because the purpose of this special view is to show something different on your screen than on the one your viewers are watching.

While in Presenter View, you'll see the current slide, the upcoming slide, and your notes. Presenter View includes a timer and a clock so you see if your presentation is running too short or too long.

A pen tool allows you to draw directly on the slide during your presentation for emphasis, or you can use the laser pointer or highlighter. Anything you draw at this point is not saved to the presentation file, but when you end the slideshow, you'll be given the option to save the annotations or discard them.

If Presenter View displays on the wrong screen and your audience is viewing what should be seen only on your screen (like your notes and the slide show controls), you can swap the views from Display Settings.

To exit Presenter View, which will end the presentation as well, click End Slide Show at the top of the screen. If you don't see that option, right-click the slideshow and click End Show; some versions of PowerPoint don't work exactly like the others.