You’re Doing It Wrong! How to Use Animations for PowerPoint as a Tool for Emphasis, Not Distraction

Posted on February 10, 2013 in Editing Slides, Slide Content, Slide Design, Technical PowerPoint Help, The Key to Make a Successful Presentation, Tips & Tricks by Toke Kruse

  • SumoMe

If you think using animations for PowerPoint is a great way to keep your audience awake and entertained during a presentation…you’re dead wrong.

Here’s why:

1. You’re not a court jester, attempting to distract the audience from their miserable lives. You are there to convey meaningful information in a memorable way.

2. Chances are, you’re using the hodgepodge of PowerPoint animations that come built into the program—the same ones that everyone else has been using. Your audience has already seen the same PowerPoint animation techniques a thousand times. (Also, with all due respect to the creators of PowerPoint, I’ve also heard comments that some of these look amateurish, which is probably not the image you’re trying to present!)

Your only hope is to use animation in a completely new way—that is to say, effectively.

There are two key aspects to effective use of animations in PowerPoint. Learn these two concepts and you’ll blow your audience out of the water. (Hint: You may want to start with a refresher on the basic principles of PowerPoint animation.)

Some Built-In Animation Options are Okay—But Use Them Sparingly

It’s important to note that the built-in PowerPoint animations aren’t inherently bad. Like any tool, they can be used for good (to make information clear and memorable) or for evil (to torture audiences with boredom).

There are three standard options that you might find useful from time to time. The key is to avoid overdoing it. When the screen becomes animated, it will get your audience’s attention—the first time. It’s the 17th time and the 160th time that are killers, so make that first time count. Here are the options that can be effective when used sparingly:

  • Appear, which makes an object (such as a bullet point) suddenly appear onscreen.
  • Fade, which causes an object to quickly fade from view.
  • Dissolve, which is a bit more dramatic with a feeling of disintegrating, rather than just disappearing.

These three options are simple, keeping visual drama to a minimum and allowing you to manipulate your audience’s attention without being annoying.

Never fall into a default of using any animations, even these simple ones, as a matter of course. There needs to be a concrete reason for every occurrence of an animation in your PowerPoint presentation.

For a comically exaggerated example of overusing PowerPoint animations, check out this YouTube video called “How Not to Use PowerPoint.”

When Animations are Meaningful, They’ll Pay Attention

You don’t have to do a song and dance to keep your audience’s attention. Just make sure that everything you put onscreen is relevant—“news they can use,” so to speak.

Want to make your presentation memorable? Invest in professionally designed PowerPoint templates with engaging animations that convey a specific idea. Instead of a bar graph that compares profit numbers from the past three years, use an animation that makes the information tangible, such as three piles of coins or a thermometer rising upward.

One memorable animation that gets the point across is worth a thousand bullet points. Need inspiration? Check out our Animations section for dozens of examples.


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