Appropriate Animations

gif of ppt animation
Process diagrams and other charts through animation

Built-in PowerPoint animations can add interest and clarity to your presentations when used sparingly. Too much animation—or adding animation that doesn’t carry a specific purpose—can be distracting or reduce your credibility.

The PowerPoint helps function and numerous YouTube videos cover the basics of adding animations, so if you need to brush up on the fundamentals, look there. Here, we will focus on why and how to implement animations in your synchronous or asynchronous presentations.

Why Animate?

Animation can help your audience understand complicated topics more easily. Be sure your animation adds clarity, rather than confusion! First, be sure to understand your subject well. Then, consider how you can best communicate it to your audience using animation tools. In our example presentation, we included a complex process flow diagram that, viewed on its own, would be confusing.

But, we can use animation to break down the steps in the flow chart and add clarity to what might otherwise be a confusing diagram. Consider how your audience will encounter your animation; tips such as including a start point, and adding time delays before the next step is displayed (leaving time to describe each part of the process) will strengthen your presentation.

Build Your Presentation With Animation In Mind

Adding animations to a slide after it is complete can be tricky if there are a lot of parts. Build each component step by step in the sequence that you want it to appear. Group elements together that should appear or disappear at the same time. If you are recording your voice over the slide later for asynchronous presentation, be sure to set the very first animation or background to display “with previous” instead of “on click.”

setting a presentation to auto-start

Show sequence in a logical order

Break down the process map into bite-sized chunks. It may help to create a slide with the whole process first, then build your animation slide on a new slide piece by piece in the order you would like to have it display. Don’t forget to group your items so you can add animations in proper order.

Step 1: Set up your background

Frame your slide first, so you know how much room you will have to work with. Create a background and any critical text, but remember your diagram should be the highlight of the slide. Keep other text short and to the point.

background slide

Step 2: Add the event that starts the process

Next add your triggering event—the part of the diagram the viewer should see first so they know where to start. In a complex diagram or a process map, this is a critical highlight for keeping your visuals clear. You can have this event appear as “with previous” and a delay of 0 (zero) so it appears immediately with your background, or you can set a delay to explain the process first.

triggering step slide

Step 3: Add the pieces of the process

You can then begin to add pieces of the process that you will explain as they appear. Be sure to group the new elements and do not include previous step elements or you cannot easily separate the animations. Set your timing to either display on click (if you are giving the presentation live) or “after previous” with a delay.

cat process slide

Whenever possible, animations should be added when the group is added. This will help you build the diagram in a logical manner, and will ensure every piece displays properly. Start times and delays are critical to allow time to explain the group and the process or chart order, and will help the viewer keep track of your flow. Duration is how long the item takes to appear or disappear, but keep in mind fade in or fade out steps are generally a distraction within charts and diagrams. You want to keep the viewer focused on what you are saying, so limit action only to what is needed.

animation pane

That’s the basics! There are other aspects of animation that can add to a presentation, depending on what you are sharing and your audience. Just always be careful of distractions! Two good rules of thumb in deciding if you should animate content are whether the animation adds clarity, or if it helps reduce the number of words shown on the slide at one time.

Lesson One: Intro to embedded media
Lesson Two: Appropriate animations
Lesson Three: Screen capture
Lesson Four: Recording a presentation
Lesson Five: Putting it all together
Further Resources