How to make an audio slideshow: My step-by-step advice to students

To create audio slideshow profile stories, one needs to know, among others, what questions to ask, what photos to take and what sound effects to use.

Students in my open online course, Audio Slideshow Storytelling, are usually asked to produce a final project, which is a profile story of a notable or otherwise interesting person. It does not have to be a celebrity or an otherwise hard-to-get-hold-of person – it can be just anyone who has something interesting to tell.

To get students started, I usually discuss with them a sample slideshow story about a recycle artist, along with the detailed guidelines that I gave the producer.

This story, embedded below, was created by Samuel Okocha, a Nigerian journalist who took this course when it was first offered in summer 2013; the guidelines below are the “action plan” suggested by Dr. Mu Lin when Samuel was brainstorming this story idea.

What to tell about this artist?

What are the things an ordinary people want to know about such an artist? Among others, some questions people may have: Who is he? Why does he want to use recycle materials for his artwork? How does he do it? What do some of his artworks look like?

The question list may, and should, grow longer as you get to know more about the artist; however, the initial questions can guide you in preparing the interview questions, as well as planning on the types of photos to look for and film.

Here’s some sample interview questions:

  • Introduce yourself to us: your name, where you are from, what you do
  • Why do you use recycle materials for your artwork?
  • How do you create recycle artwork? (Or specific questions such as where to collect the materials, how to process the materials, how to put together a work, etc. Note that the questions should be asked one at a time)
  • Have there been any particular obstacles?
  • What are some of your favorite recycle artworks?
  • How do other people respond to your recycle artwork?
  • What else about recycle artwork you want to talk about?

(It’s not mandatory to repeast/paraphrase all questions, but when deemed necessary, coach the interviewee to repeat/paraphrase the question before giving answer)

What photos to take for this story?

Here’s some photo ideas:

  • Wide shots of the workshop from different positions and angles, inside and/or outside
  • Medium shots of the artist engaged in various actions: interacting with people, working, and other related activities
  • Close-up shots of sample recycle artworks
  • Close-up shots of details in the workshop such as name tag, poster, newspaper clipping, or just anything of interest
  • A possible five-shot sequence showing the artist working on a particular artwork
  • If needed, extreme wide shots showing the environment of the workshop

Be creative when on location

Be creative and attentive when you are with the artist. During the interview and the photo shooting, remember to:

  • Ask follow-up and impromptu questions. Don’t confine yourself to the question list, follow up on anything that may be of interest to the audience.
  • Look for interesting visuals, especially something interesting that is mentioned by the artist during the interview.
  • Look for ambient sound that you can use in the slideshow. For instance, does the artist use any tool that makes a sound? If so, record at least 10 seconds of that sound.

Start the story with something that hooks audience

Try to start your slideshow with some strong or interesting visuals and sounds that are typical or representative of what the artist does. Remember, talking head is always boring for any video; so, try NOT to start with a talking head, unless that talking person is a celebrity or someone the audience indeed want to see more of.

NOTE that if you open with a hook, as described above, then immediately following the hook, you need to have a shot of the speaker and sound of him/her talking. This will help establish the story in the mind of your audience.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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