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The DO’s and DONT’s of PowerPoint Animation


The DO’s and DONT’s of PowerPoint Animation

From a simple slide transition to complex builds, PowerPoint is capable of rendering a huge range of animations that can do almost anything. But most people have never even experimented with PowerPoint animations, let alone mastered the art.


So to get you started with this powerful (but advanced) PowerPoint feature, check out our list of the most important DO’s and DONT’s of PowerPoint animation.


What to do before adding animations

Before you even click on the Animations tab, start out by thinking about the presentation you are working on.


Start with questions like:

  • Who is the audience for this presentation?

  • What is the format? Is it online or in-person?

  • Does the content need animations?


The reason to start with some background is to help assess if you should even add animations, and if so, the best way to do it.


For example, if the audience is a board of directors, flashy animations may be seen as getting in the way of core content, or cause unnecessary challenges in a presentation that's more about the conversation than anything else. In this case, you might want to skip animations altogether.


If it's a virtual presentation, you may want to dial them back to their most basic format, as complex animations can render slowly over stream, causing your carefully plotted animations to look choppy and rough.


If your content is weighty and serious, animations might be seen as too lighthearted to be appropriate.


In each of these cases, a little upfront thinking can save a lot of time on the back end.


Now that you've decided if and how you want to use animations, let's get into some more detailed questions.


PowerPoint Animation DOs


DO start with slide transitions

As we discussed in a previous article, slide transition effects are intuitively named to do just what they say – animations between slides. They are the first thing that will animate on your slide, and the first place most people should look when starting with PowerPoint animations, so it makes sense for them to be at the top of our list.


This oft-overlooked feature instantly adds polish and sophistication to your deck, even if you don’t animate anything else. We’re particularly fond of the fade transition for the way it subtly dissolves between your slides, even fading your first slide in. While this may not seem like much, try comparing a deck with a fade transition applied to every slide versus the same deck with no slide transition at all, and you’ll see that the stiff changes in the one without fades starts to feel more like clicking through the pages of a PDF compared to the polished feel the fade deck provides.


To apply slide transitions, simply click “Transitions” from the top menu, highlight the slides you wish to apply the transition to, and choose your effect.But be careful, a lot of the slide transitions can be heavy-handed and will make your audience weary if they have to view them on too many slides in a row.


If you want to take your slide transitions to the next level, check out our blog on the Morph animation.


DO punctuate with emphasis

PowerPoint animations are great for adding emphasis to important moments. In particular, choosing one “AHA” moment and giving it some punch will leave an impact on your audience, without the fatigue that comes with too much motion.


For example, if you have a slide with a main idea or key takeaway, you can remove any animation from the preceding slide, then animate in a word, phrase, or mark to subtly reinforce that “if you remember nothing else, take note of this.” Like any other design element, assigning drama to an object with PowerPoint animations lets you create moments of contrast.


DO add meaning with animations

Maybe your slide doesn't end with a bang, like an infographic meant to communicate some kind of flow and process. Instead of wowing them at the end, using movement or emphasis throughout a slide can add a layer of communication that you get to show, rather than explain. This can even sometimes free up superfluous text or other elements from cluttering your visual design. This is also a great example of visual storytelling, where the elements on your slide help communicate your message without explicitly saying something.


PowerPoint Animation DONTs


DON'T overdo it

Between this and our other blogs about PowerPoint animation, we’ve mentioned many times that it’s best to go easy on the number of animations and slide transitions you use. Another way to say this is that the animations you add should be very intentional: they should serve specific purposes within your design, rather than something you add purely for visual flair.


If you’re adding animations (or other design elements) because you are worried your audience might get bored, you’d be better off looking at your content rather than adding more things to look at. The act of simply keeping track elements flying in and out can tire your audience as much as anything else. A small bit of animation at the right moment will feel so much more considered, and leave a stronger, more confident impression.


DON’T let animation sabotage you

Imagine this: you worked hard animating the perfect slide. The animation is tasteful but impactful, you’ve even learned how to group objects on your slide together to cut down on the total amount of elements animating in. But then you hand the slide to a teammate to finalize the content, and they (accidentally) ungroup your text boxes. Now, your boss is giving a presentation with broken animations and none of the sizzle she wanted in the PowerPoint slides.


Essentially, think about who is working on the presentation and how it will be delivered before you get too bogged down in animations. If others will be working on the slides, you need to keep that in mind as you design your slides. If it’s printed, the printer will show your slide the way it looks in regular design mode, with all the elements sandwiched together. And if it’s a remote presentation, animation can appear choppy when shared over many of the popular online meeting platforms.


Each of these cases requires a different approach to using animation. So before you go too far, make sure you take the time to ask how the deck will be presented.


DON’T be afraid to experiment

We’ve spent a lot of time telling you a little animation goes a long way, which is absolutely true. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t click around and explore all the possibilities that PowerPoint animation offers. PowerPoint has a few animation tricks that, when mastered, can enrich your story beyond simply adding visual flair. Essentially, think about ways that PowerPoint animations can enhance your story, not just the visual appeal of your slides. But most importantly, practice and see what feels right, rather than peppering your team’s deck with new effects and seeing how they react in the moment.


PowerPoint animations are an essential storytelling tool

PowerPoint animations tend to be 1) never used or 2) overused. As a result, they are seen as ineffective and too often overlooked. But the fact is that adding some simple PowerPoint animations can be a great way to elevate any presentation into something that stands out. Used with care and intention, animations can also be a great way to help tell your story. So the next time you are designing some slides, try out a few of our PowerPoint animation DOs (and remove the DONT’s), and see for yourself just how much of a difference they can make.


Update (03/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new details on best practices for PowerPoint animations


Looking for more information about presentations and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.



About the author

Danielle John is the founder of VerdanaBold. She has more than 25 years as an award-winning designer and creative lead, directing the visual expression and production of thousands of high-value new business pitches, C-level presentations and internal presentations for major global brands. When she's not busy at VerdanaBold, she can be found antique shopping and spending time with her husband and two kids.


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