PowerPoint Plus – Part Three: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should (The Value (or lack thereof) of Animation)

This is actually going to be a short and simple one, and while these statements don’t apply 100% of the time, they certainly do apply MOST of the time.

Animations = Bad 

Distractions, distractions, distractions.  The elementary school I attended was in the center of my small rural NC hometown.  As such, the schoolyard abutted several homes.  On most days, these homes merely served as scenery of the world outside the fenced-in schoolyard. But when I was in second grade, the backyard of one of these houses was home to a glorious a whirligig.  Coated with a shiny enamel gloss paint which glistened in the afternoon sunlight, the wondrous whirligig with its spinning gadgets and sparkles of light proved to be far more interesting and engaging than the day-to-day lessons of second grade.  So many hours of second grade were spent gazing out the window at this mystifying whirligig.  It was the ultimate distraction, and once I left second grade, I thought I’d never be so beautifully distracted again…

Vollis Simpson Whirligig Farm - Lucama, NC Vollis Simpson Whirligig Farm – Lucama, NC by the1secondfilm, on Flickr

Then (many years later) I saw my first PowerPoint presentation.  Oh! How fantastic!  The words spinning and twirling across the screen!  The bullet points gliding in from the left and right, slide titles bouncing around and leaping into place.  It was a glorious ballet of text!  I was mesmerized and smitten with this spectacular tool!!!  It was second grade all over again!

I can’t recall the point of the presentation.  I can’t even recall where or why I first saw it.  All I remember is that I was impressed.  But that was 1995.  I still had monochrome monitors and 5.25″ floppy drives on some of my workstations, and the concept of animation was relatively new and exciting.  Fast forward sixteen years to the dawn of 2012 and I’ve seen more PowerPoint presentations with more bullet points and cascading dancing spinning twirling whirling zipping skipping tripping text than I care to count.  At this point, the animations no longer engage or entice, they distract.  So, unless you’ve got some really cool animation tricks up your sleeve, keep the animations to a minimum.  Instead of using them to introduce every line of text, use them sparingly and only to emphasize key points of your presentation.

Transitions = Good

While I demonize the animation, I praise the transition.  Why?

CONSISTENT use of transitions helps your the audience to recognize that you are moving from one idea to the next.  The operative word here is consistent.  The use of haphazard transitions will confuse your audience more than it will help them, but if you settle on a subtle transition style to use consistently throughout your presentation, you’ll help your audience to better recognize the shift between ideas.

This is particularly important if your slides all look basically the same.  If you’re showing a slide with a title and 4 bullet points and then move to another slide with a title and 4 bullet points without using a transition, your audience might not even realize you’ve switched slides.  However, a subtle, consistent transition will clearly state that a shift is occurring and prepare your audience for the next idea.

…and since I promised a short and simple post this time, I’ll leave it at that.

As always, any comments, questions, concerns or (gentle) criticisms are welcome.

~Rodney

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