What is a Visual PA System and how do you create one?

According to Wikipedia, a Public Address System or PA system is an electronic sound amplification and distribution system with a microphone, amplifier and loudspeakers, used to allow a person to speak to a large public, for example for announcements of movements at large and noisy air and rail terminals or at a sports stadium.

All true but old-fashioned! Nowadays the addition of screens is a mandatory extra to public address systems. Adding a screen to your system, creates a Visual PA System rather than the auditory only systems we are used to.

Let me tell you why a Visual PA System is better than audio-only systems:

  • When the Visual PA system sounds, people don’t know where to look. People want to see where the message is coming from.
  • Visual repetition of your message. A must for deaf persons.
  • A perfect marriage of sound and visual, all combined in modern technology, installed together at the same time.
  • You can repeat long running reminders and messages on your screen without interruption your event.
  • You can offer directional signage that shows arrows for which way you want them to go.

Software for Visual PA system and Digital Signage

You can use our DataPoint and iPoint products to run your information screens and your Visual PA system in one. With DataPoint as PowerPoint add-on, you can link your presentation to a text file, Excel file, or various types of databases. When you want to run a vocal message on your PA system, then you just enter that text or message in your chose data storage.

Let’s work out a sample presentation for your visual PA system with a simple dynamic text file connection.

Imagine that we need to display a way-finding digital signage presentation in our building. We will use that computer and television screen for the audio of our PA system. We start with a nice way-finding presentation that is completely designed in PowerPoint and linked with DataPoint to a way-finding database. That database contains the planning of the events and exhibitions in our building, and updates the screen content with the database content in real-time.


Our digital signage information screen could look like this:

digital signage way finding information screen
Click the DataPoint option of your PowerPoint ribbon, and click the List button of the Connections group.
DataPoint option in PowerPoint ribbon
Select the Text files node and click the Add connection button.
add connection to dynamic text file
Browse and select a text file from a network share. See this article on how to set up a network share for your data files. Set the refresh rate lower, e.g. to 1 second. Every second, DataPoint will check your shared text file for new content for your PA system.
text file properties and refresh rate
See a preview of the text file content at the connections overview.
preview of text file content
Now add a new text box. You can choose to add the text box to your slide or just place it outside the visible part of your slide. With that latter option, your PA system will announce the text but the text itself will not be visible on your slide show. Visible or not visible on your slide, choose whatever you prefer.
add new text box for PA system
With that new text box selected, click DataPoint from the ribbon and then the Text box button.
text box options from datapoint menu
The default values are fine since we only have one data connection and one column available in this sample presentation. You see a preview of the content of the text box here too.
text file linking
Click to open the Misc tab. Check the option Use text to speech and check the option Say value. If wanted, you can choose a different voice. Click OK when ready.
PA system text to speech options
The content of the text file is now placed into the text box on our slide.
text file content linked to PA system
Run the slide show on the television screen. There are 3 options to start your slide show:

  1. Start the slide show manually as you are used to do in PowerPoint. You can use the shortcut F5.
  2. Use our free ShowPoint to launch the slide show from a network share.
  3. For serious and professional users: use our iPoint solution where you can schedule and remotely start playlists and presentations.
Dynamic PA System in PowerPoint slide show
Open and edit your text file from the network share. Enter a new text for your visual PA system and save it. DataPoint will display your text on the television screen, by using its dynamic text to speech technology. So without interruption of the normal messages on your display, you can use DataPoint to run audio messages like a PA system.

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