Animate for Sanity

Young woman smiling with her hand on her forehead, relieved that she just used some animation in her presentation; thereby winning the war between the sexes.

Keep Their Attention by Controlling the Focus and Flow

Presenters often overlook animation as a tool they can use to help bring clarity to their message. The common reasons animation gets bypassed are that many animations we see in presentations are garish and/or unnecessary and also because it is thought to be time consuming. Neither of these has to be the case. I usually try to get my clients to use some form of animation in their presentations for a few reasons. I will briefly detail three of them here.

First, it brings in a bit of excitement. If you are afraid of being accused of killing your audience with boredom, adding a little bling won’t hurt. I’m not talking about anything tacky or over-the-top. I’m simply suggesting that some movement, done in a subtle way, can add a little spark to what otherwise might get pretty dull.

Second, it is a great way to clarify and bring sanity to diagrams, charts or any slide that shows a process, timeline, or other complex subject. You can focus your audience’s attention on one thing at a time and slowly build up, move around and label different objects or concepts as you speak about them.

Last, and most importantly, it allows presenters to control the flow of ideas on normal, bulleted slides. Without animation most people throw a bunch of bullets up on their slides all at once. This is a terrible practice because it insures that audience members WILL read ahead and ignore the speaker. Even worse, it can cause split attention as they rapidly switch their focus between the speaker and the slides. When this happens, they are barely retaining anything. When you use builds, you get to control how the information comes to the audience. Think of each slide as a mini-presentation. You don’t display all the slides in your deck at once do you? So, don’t display all the content on your slides at once either. Controlling the flow will help you keep your audience’s attention.

So How Should You Do It?

The crucial words you need to know for this are: subtle and quick. Think twice before using any of the bouncing, swirling and flipping animations. Instead use things like fade, peek and wipe (in PowerPoint). And do them quickly. No one wants to wait very long for these things to play out. I usually use timings of .3 to .7 seconds for individual builds or movements. Transitions can usually use the same timings. However, you should always test them in presentation mode to make sure they are not too abrupt or slow.


I hope that gets you thinking about the benefits of using animation in your decks. If done correctly animation can add a new level of clarity to your presentations.

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