Animations don’t improve your presentation.

I can’t help but cringe every time I see a bad animation in a presentation. It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me and ninety-nine percent of the time, I see people use animations in their presentations incorrectly.

“But ooh! Look at the pretty star-wipe!” No. I refuse to look at your pretty start wipe. As a matter of fact, I’ve lost track of what you’re presentation is about and now I’m checking my email.

Don’t use animations as most of the time, they do more harm than good.

I have one simple rule about animations in my decks: don’t use them. This includes transitions in, transitions out, wipes, bouncy-things and anything in between. Here’s five reasons why you should avoid animations all together:

  1. They’re distracting to your viewers. Instead of focusing on you or a visual or a slide, they focus on movement causing a momentary lapse in attention and focus.
  2. You can’t print them. This one’s kind of obvious, but they aren’t visible when someone converts your document to PDF or prints it.
  3. It’s a waste of time. You’re wasting your time trying to find “the best animation” when you could probably be spending time on something more important in your presentation (design, content, rehearsing, etc.)
  4. Streaming issues. If you’re presenting via a Webex or they’ll look really choppy to those who are viewing it.
  5. They’re cheesy! Ever seen an amazing, life-changing, inspiring presentation that used a bunch of animations? Neither have I.

So when should you use them?

At this point you may be thinking “But when can I use the glitter-covered animation features that come built into PowerPoint?” Most of the time, the answer is still a simple “never”.

The only exception to the rule is when the animations are used to make understanding the content more simple for your audiences.

An ideal example of this is when you have a complicated graphic – say, something like the below – and you need to talk about each of its individual components in a certain order.


Note: This graphic is from an actual presentation, but the content has been changed to protect confidentiality. 

If you must include a graphic like the one above (or of similar complexity) and find it hard to explain to your audiences – my first suggestion is to revise and simplify the graphic instead of trying to animate it. Edit that thing down with a hatchet, but don’t go crazy so it loses it’s meaning.

But, if you cannot edit it down any further for whatever reason, your only option is to use what’s called a build.

A build is when a graphic or elements on a slide gradually “reveal” themselves in a certain order to the audience, allowing the presenter’s voice over to make things more simple for the viewers to understand what the graphic is conveying.

Builds can be created in one of two ways:

  • 1) Multi-slide build – Make the graphic “build” over multiple slides by duplicating the slide in question and selectively deleting or covering up parts of the graphic then “revealing” them over the course of a few slides. What’s good about this method is that it translates well when you print or create a PDF, but the down side is that it can potentially add several slides to your deck.
  • 2) Simple animation build – Use very subtle animations to make the graphic build on a single slide. Only use the animations called “appear” and “fade” in PowerPoint – nearly every other type of animation should be ignored due to their incredibly high levels of cheesiness. The animations will not be printed, however, when you do print you’ll be left with one nice, fully intact graphic on one slide (vs. many slides like in the previous example). Of note, on this version, it’s best to set the animations to play “on click” so the presenter can control when and when not to reveal the next part of the build.

Example of a multi-slide build:


Example of a simple animation build: animation gif

To reiterate my previous point, the best way to approach animations in presentations is to simply not consider them – this forces you to be more clear in how you design things and eliminates any potential distractions or other downsides of using animations.

In short: just say no to animations


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