The traditional approach to creating and delivering PowerPoint presentations involved adding text, graphics and images to a slide deck. Then click play and talk.

But many audiences today – in an age of video and seemingly short attention spans – expect more than that. They want information but also want to be entertained.

A simple way of creating visually engaging presentations in PowerPoint is to add in some animations and transitions.

What Are Animations and Transitions?

If you are unfamiliar with these PowerPoint terms, let’s start with a simple definition.

Animations are special effects that can be applied to a single element, or multiple elements, on a slide. Text, pictures, shapes and objects (including 3D models) can all be given the animation treatment.

Transitions are visual effects which add extra action and motion when you move from one slide to the next in your PowerPoint presentation.

Why Should the Savvy Assistant Use Animations and Transitions?

Bosses and clients expect today’s professional Assistant to know Microsoft 365 and its tools better than anyone. And that includes PowerPoint.

Presentations remain an important part of business, impact communications and sales life. The savvy VA, PA or EA expects to be asked to help put together and polish presentations – and will be ready to spring into action.

Adding animations and transitions can enhance the visual power and impact of a presentation. Visuals help to engage the audience, hold their attention and guide them through the ideas and messages of the presentation.

Good use of animations can help to get your point across fast – and memorably. Effective use of transitions helps to create a smooth and clear presentation, control the flow and pace, and deliver more of an experience for the audience.

5 Ways to Make the Best Use of Animations and Transitions in PowerPoint

As with any other elements, your Animations and Transitions should follow good design principles and best practices for slide design. [link to Spoke 1] Here are 5 guide points to consider with every presentation.

1. Be Consistent – If you’re using a type of animation on one slide, repeat that type for another slide in the deck unless you have good reason to change the style of action. Not every slide requires a transition. Include transitions for a clear purpose.

2. Be Sensible – For professional presentations, keep motion minimal or low key. Avoid the temptation to animate everything or go wild with the visual tools. It will distract from the message.

3. Be Quick – Any motion effects should be quick, just a few seconds or less (say between half a second and three seconds max). You want to create zip and pace, not leave yawn-filled gaps between slides or linger too long on information on one slide.

4. Be Smooth – The human eye picks up movement very easily. Avoid unnecessary distraction by ensuring effects options and motions have a smooth start and a smooth finish.

5. Be Adaptive – You may find some features, function or navigation on PowerPoint differs on Windows and Mac. And Microsoft likes to update its applications to improve and expand how they work. The savvy Assistant will ensure they know how to use PowerPoint for their preferred desktop, laptop or device – and stay up to date with changes.

Types of Animations in PowerPoint

You’ll find animation effects for entrance, exit, emphasis and motion paths. You create, change, sort and delete effects within the Animation Pane.

Basic entrance effects and exit effects include Blinds, Chequerboard, Dissolve, Fly, Peek, Wedge, Wheel and Wipe. You can also fade, swipe, spin and much more.

Have fun experimenting with different effects inside PowerPoint’s Animations menu so you can see how they look. Just the names – such as Swivel, Zoom, Collapse, Float Out, Stretchy, Boomerang, Pinwheel and Whip – make you want to explore what they do.

Emphasis Effects allow you to change the background colour ‘fill’, darken text, grow and shrink text, and shimmer or spin text. This makes text or images stand out as you reference them in your presentation.

You can also add animated GIFs to slides. GIFs can be used to express jokes, emotions or ideas but should only be used rarely and with care – unless the presentation is deliberately humorous in style.

Visual and Motion Flexibility of Animations at Your Fingertips

Animations can be started when you click a slide, at the same time as the previous animation in the sequence or immediately after the previous animation. You can lengthen or shorten the duration of an effect. You can build in a delay before an animation takes effect.

You can move animations earlier or later in the sequence. You can also animate a group of objects.

The Path Animation feature of PowerPoint allows the savvy Assistant to move the position of text or an object to a specific location after it appears on the slide. Imagine an aeroplane icon ‘flying’ from one city across the ocean to another city and back, or a rocket ‘launching’ from the earth to the moon.

Elementary Animation movements can be directed in lines, arcs, turns, shapes and loops. More complex actions include Bounce, Special Curve, Spiral and Waves. You can change colours and direction of movement, and create and adjust edit points to customise the animation path with precision.

Using the Animation Painter

The Animation Painter tool allows you to copy the animation effects applied to one object (including the settings applied to that animated object), to another object or multiple objects – with just one click.

For example, you might want to drop the bars of a 5-column bar chart into a slide one by one for impact. You apply the animation to the first column. Then ‘paint’ that action with the Animation Painter tool and apply it to columns 2, 3, 4 and 5. Each column will fall into place, one after the other until all five are on view.

Transforming PowerPoint Slide Sequences with Transitions

Many of the effects available in the Animations menu are also available for Transitions. You can use Transitions for one slide, several slides, all slides or no slides. If you are responsible for your presentation, you are the judge.

Use Transitions to signal that a different type of content or format is next up. Use effects like Push, Cover and Uncover to emphasise that you are moving from one idea to a new one. Using Fade or Wipe can help to convey emotional content.

You can even use a verbal transition to remind the audience of an earlier point or question. For example: “Earlier in my presentation I said I would answer the question ‘But is it right?’… let me answer that for you now” (supported with a visual transition to the next slide).

For all Transitions, there are Effect Options. Slides can be introduced or make an exit from left to right or right to left; or from the top, the bottom or any corner.

Using Sound Effects with Transitions in PowerPoint

The list of in-built sound effects available in PowerPoint includes an Arrow, old Cash Register, Chime, Drum Roll, Explosion, Wind and Whoosh. You can also bring in customised sounds from your own files or sources.

However, for professional presentations, it is hard to see where such sound effects actually add something to the message or experience. They can sound cheesy and irrelevant. Think very carefully before you use sound effects. Remember, always design your slides and Transitions with purpose.

Mesmerise Your Audience with Morph

Morph is a more advanced feature of PowerPoint. With this tool, you can make objects move and transform elements across your slides: change colours, move words and characters, or use masking (for example, to create an animated number counter on a slide).

Create an anagram effect. Zoom in on, zoom out of or pan objects. Scroll text and crop images. Create a 3D rotation. It’s all possible with Morph.

And, if that’s not enough for your creative spirit, there are also ways of introducing interactive elements to enhance your PowerPoint presentation.

Transitions, like Animations, allow you to bring an average presentation to life.

The One Best Bit of Advice on Using Animations and Transitions in PowerPoint

As you’ve been reading, PowerPoint presentations can be given a bold dash of colour, vibrancy and movement with Animations and Transitions.

But with all these choices and fancy visual tricks, there is a danger of going overboard – and wrecking a perfectly good presentation. My best piece of advice is to use Animations and Transitions wisely and with care.

Don’t feel the need to animate everything.

Not every slide or sequence requires a special effect. Too much movement or noise simply distracts the audience from the message. You want people to remember the key points and ideas, not marvel at the technical tricks being used to get those messages across.

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