The Cure for Bad PowerPoint, Remedy #4

Recently, we've been discussing ways to improve PowerPoint presentations, so the audience doesn't consider them "toxic." This newsletter addresses question number four from our Toxic PowerPoint Self Test. (Here is a link to the whole test if you want to see it again.)

  1. Are your animations cool, but not meaningful?
    If you learn a new animation "trick" in PowerPoint, then add it to your presentation just because you know how, that animation is probably there for you and not the audience!


Let's address two questions we're commonly asked about animation. First, when to use it. There are a nearly endless amount of choices for animating objects on a slide in PowerPoint. Which often translates into a nearly endless amount of ways we can irritate our audience! Our goal with animation is not to be obnoxious or to show off. Our goal with animation should be to use it to help guide the audience to follow along as we explain a process or model, or to support us as we tell a story or illustrate a point.

So the answer to when is, "when motion will help guide the audience to follow along."

Is there ever a time we can bend this rule? We advise if you want to create an attention-getting opener with your PowerPoint, it's ok to animate objects and words without the purpose of guiding the audience. For instance, if you want to create a montage of pictures and add music and words as an opener before your presentation begins, or perhaps close with a high energy collection of slides that incorporate music and great visuals, this is the time to use all the bells and whistles. That's when it is appropriate to really get creative with animations. But avoid that approach on slides you use in the main portion of your presentation.

Ok, the second question we're commonly asked is, what animation effects to use. I believe we all instinctively know the ones that irritate us, right? Except on rare occasions, I find the "Swivel" and "Bounce" effects pretty hard to watch. PowerPoint has its effects divided into categories that are accurately descriptive: Basic, Subtle, Moderate and Exciting. I tend to avoid the "Exciting" effects as I find them more distracting than exciting. Many of the effects in the other categories fulfill our needs much better. Wipe, Fade, Ascend and Descend are ones I use quite often. They imply movement or change on the slide without being obnoxious.

So the answer to what is to choose effects that are tasteful, and show movement but not with excess.

The bottom line? Use animations when it helps the audience follow your points better and choose animations that are tasteful and not distracting, and whose motion has a purpose. This will allow you to create and use slides that your audience will appreciate as visual aids to your talk.

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