4 Must-Have Nuggets On How To Use PowerPoint Animation

PowerPoint is a great software package for creating presentations. And one of the most powerful features in PowerPoint is the ability to animate text, pictures, and graphics.

However, with any technology, people can abuse it, so there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when using PowerPoint animation.

Here are 4 must-have nuggets on how to use PowerPoint animation effectively.

1) Use animation to control the flow of your presentation, not to entertain

You are the one that must control your presentation. You are trying to convey a message and you want to bring your audience step-by-step with you.

That means splitting up your presentation into different slides or mini-messages and you show them one at a time.

The great part about animation is that you can further “bite size” your message into smaller parts without having to make more slides.

Animation lets you show one or more bullets at a time, so that you can talk about them, and then move on.

By not showing future bullets on your slide, you prevent your audience from jumping ahead or trying to read your slide before you get to a certain point (believe me, they do…). It controls your audience’s attention and forces them to pay attention to your particular point on your terms.

However (and we’ll talk about this a bit later), some people overuse animation. These presenters think that you need to dazzle the audience with flying bullets or whizzing intros to keep their attention.

No way!! Animation is a tool to help you convey your message and control the flow of your presentation. It is not an entertainment device — using it in this way distracts the audience from your message.

So, if you want to use animation effectively, use it to enhance your message. If your audience wanted to be entertained, they would have bought tickets to the circus.

2) Use animation to illustrate a point that words or pictures alone can’t do

Again, the point of your presentation is to convey your message to your audience. You may do this with words, which is most common. You may also use pictures — because a picture’s worth a thousand words, right?

However, sometimes statics things like words or pictures might not be enough. Adding dynamic features can bring the message to life and be more effective in its presentation.

For example, let’s say you are trying to convey a message that sometimes you have to look harder to notice something important. So you may show a picture of a beautiful scene, say mountains or the ocean, but off to the side, there is something disturbing that you want to point out — something not noticeable unless you’re attention is brought there.

You can show the picture on the slide, and then use animation to bring up an arrow pointing to the place of interest. Or maybe the animation feature is a zoom feature, where you show the full picture, but then you trigger a zoomed-in part of the picture to appear, focusing on the area you want to highlight.

Now, you could do this by adding charts or by pointing out the area yourself when you’re presenting. However, this is where the animation features of PowerPoint work best — in conveying a part of your message that words or pictures alone cannot.

If you focus on using animation this way, you’ll definitely see great results.

3) Slower is better

Animation has a number of speeds for entrances and exits. Sometimes your point might be made better if a bullet point or picture is displayed quickly.

However, in most cases, using a speed that’s a little slower presents a sense of being in control of presenting the point. And that’s what you’re really looking for.

Of course, be careful, you don’t want it too slow — your audience will get aggravated if it takes forever for the next animation feature to come up.

So set the speed to Medium — avoid the Fast or Very Fast (unless of course these speeds are what you really want to make your point). In fact, I like Dissolve, since it slows up even more the transition of the animation.

4) Don’t overdo it

PowerPoint animation works best when it’s used to focus your audience’s attention. It works worst when it acts to distract their attention.

So when you’re adding your dancing bullets, or superimposing audio “whoosh” sounds to your PowerPoint slides, ask yourself whether this will focus or distract your audience.

If it focuses, great. If it distracts, get rid of it.

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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