Feb 24, 2009

When Should I Use Animation?

Once a presenter asked me, "When should I use animation?" It was a presentation where he was proposing a relaxation of rules set by a government agency. I replied, "use it when you make your most important point."

I do not recommend much animation in business presentations. Some people think animation is silly and do not use it at all.
Some use it so much that it becomes irritating. Point after point made with all kinds of animations. The right choice lies somewhere in the middle. Use it if your presentation needs it. Use it when you make the most important point.

How do you decide when to use animation?

Animation is a powerful tool. It brings your presentation to life. When slides after slides are static, animation comes in to
break the monotony. It draws the attention of the audience and gets your point across very effectively. You should use animation when:

1. You want to draw the audience attention to an important point

2. You want to explain a complicated process

3. You want to share information in a phased manner


1. You want to draw the audience attention to an important point

You are presenting to investors that your company's sales grew the fastest last year when compared to competition. Assume
this is one of your most important points. You show a graph with sales growth of all companies. At the end, you click and your bar graph goes shooting past the rest. Nails the point in the head of the audience vividly.

Use animation to make your most important points. Think of animation as your secret weapon. A weapon which you can only use a few times
. Use it judiciously.

2. You want to explain a complicated process

You are explaining how steel is manufactured or how photosynthesis takes place. These are processes which have multiple
steps. Use animation to show each process one after the other. After you are done, the entire process is there on one slide for all to see.

3. You want to share information in a phased manner

You want to share a lot of information but do not want to show all the points on a slide at once.
You can then use animation to order bullet points. Do not use multiple animation effects (stick to one) and use something subtle.

Some words of caution:
1. Do not use animation in every slide

The very reason animation is used is to break the monotony and attract attention. If your animation comes again and again,
its just adds to the monotony. Too much animation diverts audience attention from content to design. Use animation on very few occasions.

2. Do not use all types of effects

Use simple effects like fade, expand, compress, ascend, descend depending on suitability. Do not use all the effects in
one presentation. A presentation should ideally have one or two types of effects.

How often do you use animation in formal presentations? What is your favorite effect? Leave a comment.