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When (and when not) to use PowerPoint animations

When (and when not) to use PowerPoint animations

So you’ve been reading our blog and learning some powerful tips on how to add animations to PowerPoint slides. You’ve even been practicing, and are getting the hang of choosing the right animations, and making sure they play smoothly.

But the last question you come to is, “when should I add animations to my PowerPoint?”

The answer, as with all things in PowerPoint design, “it depends.” So in this blog, we’re going to run through a couple common situations when you might think of adding PowerPoint animations, and our recommendations for each. Let’s dive in!

What kind of deck is this, and what kind of audience?

Marketing or sales presentations

Is this a marketing presentation? Are you trying to sell a product or an idea? Is your audience a potential customer? This is literally where the ad industry term sizzle originates. So as long as you are free of any technical concerns (more below on this), you can definitely include some PowerPoint animations.

Final answer: YES

Financial or Board presentations

If you are presenting to a more “buttoned up” audience, they may not see the value in animation the way other audiences do. If your audience is only interested in numbers, then that’s what you should give them. Instead of forcing animations, devote that time to improving your content.

Final answer: NO

Human stories and emotional content

These may be slightly less common overall, but many presentations rely on human interest stories, emotional resonance, and other forms of empathy. In these cases, PowerPoint animations can either add to your story, or cheapen your message, so proceed with caution.

Final answer: DEPENDS

How is your PowerPoint being presented?

Keynote stage or Large room

Keynotes might be the only time we pump up the animation for sheer sizzle. They are often used to build enthusiasm or hype, so drama and theatrics are right at home here. That said, all of our usual advice about designing for your audience and not overdoing slides still applies.

Final answer: YES

Small room

For settings like most small to medium conference rooms, animation works well when kept simple. Use it to emphasize key points, clarify infographics, or for tasteful designs, but remember that bolder animations that would be at home in a keynote will feel like too much in this case.

Final answer: SOMETIMES

Virtual PowerPoint presentations

In our experience, using animations in remote presentations isn’t a great idea. Lag is a common issue with screen sharing, as well as pixelization, both of which will ruin the effect of your animation.


Printed or Leave-behind

If you are printing a presentation to send to someone, or leaving a copy behind after a meeting, you’ll either want to avoid animations or create a separate version without them. Obviously they won’t transfer to paper, which can cause other design problems as well.


How important is timing?

What’s the presenter's style?

Whether you are presenting or designing a deck for someone, it’s key to consider delivery style.

For people who like to control every click, YES

For people who like to improvise, NO

Is there a hard stop on the presentation?

Sometimes you just need to get to the point. If you have a time limit, or are presenting to a busy audience, you should skip the animation and focus on your content.

Final answer: NO

Will Animation help tell the story?

Animations play a key role in conveying your message

Infographics and moments of emphasis can benefit from information moving and flowing in certain directions, or coming in at certain times.

Final answer: YES

Can your animation help set the mood?

Sometimes there is a lot of time spent on the opening slide of a presentation. In these cases, adding a looping movie or GIF to the beginning of presentation is a passive way to get a ton of extra sizzle in your deck before you’ve even spoken a word. It can set the tone for the meeting and get your audience tuned in to you.

Final answer: YES

Will you reuse these slides later?

Are you the only person using these animations?

Are you the only person using these animations?

It's common for slides (and whole presentations) to be shared, reused, or pulled apart for use in other presentations later. If your slides include animations and will be used outside the original slide deck, you might want to hold off on adding animations, since you don't know who will pick them up next or how they will be used.

If it's a custom, one-time-use presentation, then you are good to go.

Final answer:  SOMETIMES

As you can see, there are lots of times when PowerPoint animations are the perfect addition, and plenty when you should avoid it altogether. Basically, when you are learning to add animations, just remember the guiding principle of all PowerPoint design: “it depends.” Think clearly about your audience and your skills, and you will find smart, useful opportunities to improve your presentations with PowerPoint animations!

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

Looking for more information about presentation visuals 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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