Used incorrectly, PowerPoint effects can be distracting or even annoying. Here’s how to deploy PowerPoint animations that won’t ambush your presentation.
PowerPoint without animations would be like London Fashion Week without makeup. Animations are an integral part of the PowerPoint experience and, like makeup, they have the power to enhance and accentuate your key features. Go overboard, however, and you risk ruining everything. What started out as an attractive presentation can morph into a bloated beast that’s drowning under the weight of its own layers. When it comes to applying animations, the goal is to stay in the Goldilocks Zone: not too plain, not too fancy, but just right.
How to choose the right PowerPoint animations
Used judiciously, animations will put the Power in PowerPoint, imbuing your presentation with dynamism and depth. The possibilities are limitless – or certainly too numerous to count. Flip or fly? Spin or shimmer? Hop, boomerang or swoosh? Choice is a good thing, but when faced with so many options, it’s easy for choice paralysis to set in. Some people will despair and skip the effects altogether, while others will throw in the kitchen sink amidst a flurry of wipes and whirls. It’s your presentation and you’re free to usher in your key points any way you like before sending them scurrying on their way, but try to heed the following guidelines:
Be consistent. If you’ve got six bullet points on a slide, use the same animation to introduce each one. There are no prizes for ticking off every effect in the PowerPoint library.
Be subtle. For professional presentations, subtle animations will keep your slides uncluttered and your audience focused on the message rather than the medium.
Be moderate. Don’t feel obliged to animate everything; as a rule of thumb, apply an effect to one third of your slides. That will keep things interesting without becoming distracting.
Those are the basics. Now let’s delve a little deeper into the art of successfully animating a presentation.
Think like a director
A presentation is your movie – one in which you call all the shots and play all the parts. In its early stages, you’re its scriptwriter. During rehearsals, you’re its lead actor. Then, when it comes to animating the slides, it’s your turn to play director.
Great directors understand the art of eye tracking. They use camera angles and cut effects to direct the gaze of their audience, deftly using these techniques to build tension and control the narrative. There’s only so much tension you can build into an accountancy presentation of course, but you can use animations to steer the eye tracking of your audience.
If your slide starts with an image or chart, have the accompanying information gently fade in a moment later. This will emphasise the most important element in your slide rather than bombarding your audience with supplementary information that flies in from all sides. For more complex presentations, effects such as Motion Paths can give your key slides a truly cinematic feel.
Know your exits – and your entrances
The animation effects available in PowerPoint can be divided into four categories: Entrance, Exit, Emphasis and Motion Paths. To distinguish them, each category has a corresponding colour: green for Entrance, Red for exit, yellow for Emphasis and blue for Motion Paths. Entrance effects are handy when you’re switching to a new slide or are introducing a key piece of information. Exit effects can be used to prevent slides from becoming cluttered. Finished discussing a piece of information? Then order it to exit stage right so your audience can focus on what comes next. We’ve touched on Motion Paths in the section above, while Emphasis can work nicely when applied to an entire slide, such as a subtle shimmer when all of your bullet points have appeared on screen.
How long have you got?
If you’re thinking all of this takes time, you’re right; if you’re a perfectionist, it’s possible to spend hours agonising over every last animation, tweaking and re-tweaking until you’ve created a PowerPoint masterpiece. The good news is you don’t have to go through all that. For one thing, you’re not Francis Ford Coppola directing The Godfather. And for another thing, there’s no need to agonise over every last effect when PowerPoint animation templates can do the hard work for you. These pre-designed templates can be quickly implemented, instantly giving your presentation a sheen of professionalism. Even if you prefer to do everything yourself, however, take comfort in knowing that you can save your animations for future use, ensuring consistency and saving precious time.
PowerPoint animations can brighten up your presentation and help your audience to focus on the key points. For maximum benefit, apply them like makeup – subtly and in moderation. That way you’ll enhance your message instead of overpowering it.