We’ve all been in the audiences of far too many presentations that unleash all the bells and the whistles of slideshow animation with a frenetic, pyrotechnic display that challenges a Fourth of July celebration or a night at Disneyland.
That such excess happens is no surprise. The many options in the pull-down menus and ribbons of animation are as fascinating as are all the many joystick and button combinations on the keyboard or controller of a computer game. Microsoft PowerPoint Slide Transition has 48 effects grouped into three categories, with variable speed options for each. They cry out, “Try me!”
Uncontrolled, they can cause the loss of the game or the presentation.
The obvious solution is to exercise restraint, but that is negative advice. What to do instead? Three simple, overarching rules will bring your presentation to life (after all, that is the definition of animation) and, more important, bring clarity, if not tranquility, to your audiences.
1. Rule One: Make the default direction of your animation left to right
Text in Western languages is printed from left to right. This simple fact drives how humans perceive visual stimuli. When your audience sees images move from left to right, it will feel natural and pleasing to their eyes—and make them more receptive to you and your message.
2. Rule Two: Use direction to express the action in your message
If you want to show rising revenues, have your animation move from the bottom up; if you want to show declining costs, have your animation move from the top down. If you want to send a negative message (say, about your competition), reverse direction and move your images right to left.
3. Rule Three: Allow your audience to absorb your animation
The highly reactive optic nerves in your audience’s eyes cause them to react involuntarily to light and motion. Therefore, the instant your animation starts, all their attention suddenly shifts to the screen and away from you. Because they are so focused on the animation, they don’t hear anything you’re saying, nor do they see what you’re doing. Therefore, whenever you introduce anything new on the screen, stop speaking, turn to the screen, and allow the new slide or animation to complete its full course of action.
Think of these three rules as using animation to tell your story just as a Walt Disney movie does, but leave the fireworks to Disneyland.
This blog is an excerpt from my book Presentations in Action published by Pearson. Also, check out my newly released Presentation Trilogy—Presenting to Win, The Power Presenter, and In the Line of Fire—available on Amazon and other retailers.
Jerry Weissman is the founder and president of Suasive, Inc., formerly Power Presentations, Ltd. Jerry founded Suasive in 1988 and quickly established himself as the coach for Silicon Valley CEOs delivering critical presentations for their IPO roadshows. He taught them to tell their company stories through the eyes of their investors, and in so doing, significantly increased the valuations of their companies. He amassed an elite client list and soon widened his focus to helping public and privately held companies develop and deliver all types of business presentations.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.