3 reasons PowerPoint animations may suck in your webinar (and what to do about it)

Sometimes PowerPoint animations and webinars aren’t happy couples.

Note that not every one of the points below is true for every web conferencing/webcasting platform. Heck, there are still platforms that don’t support PowerPoint animations, while others do beautifully. BUT…even those who do sometimes experience challenges.

Here are (some) reasons why animation in PowerPoint may not be your best approach…and how to accomplish getting and keeping attention alternatively.

Why PowerPoint animations may not work well

They may appear jumpy

There are two primary reasons. One, there’s this great unknown between you and your webinar/webcast attendees is the internet. Everything may look great on your end, and through no fault of yours or your conferencing/casting service provider the animation experience is sub-par on the receiving end.

Two, your attendee could be on an old computer or have too little RAM or too many applications open or all of the above. Again, not in your control.

Your webinar solution may change the meaning of click

We get that when we’re advancing a presentation that a click is “the next thing,” whether that’s the next slide or the next part of what you’re building on the slide.

The challenge with some platforms is what happens when you want to go back. Does this go back a whole slide or just to the previous iteration of what was building on a slide. More importantly, is this consistent with what PowerPoint does (the latest version goes back to the previous click)?

Animations may take you more time than they’re worth

For many (or most) people, however, they add a lot of time to the design process.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some times when an animation is the right tool for the communication (e.g., communicating relationship or directionality). And you’ve heard me argue that I think people are “consuming” webinar/webcasts more like television than in-person presentations (and therefore it’s worth keeping things changing visually more frequently than you would in a face-to-face presentation).

The challenge is that even if you spend a lot of time in PowerPoint, it can take considerable time to figure out what comes in, what goes out, what moves where – all the things you can do with animations.

Here’s what to do

Determine what must be accomplished with animations

To be fair, some communications are best expressed with animation. Directionality. Relationship. There are no doubt more (please comment!).

Eliminate exploding-things-from-Mars

True enough, movement and action get attention. The problem is that a half a billion other PowerPoint users have access to the same tools, and sooner or later (sooner!) your animation will look like that ’80s synth-pop band sounds…dated and predictable.

Use multiple slides to accomplish the same effect

It’s not the number of slides that determine the duration of your prevention…it’s the amount of content you cover. Instead of spending three minutes on one slide, try three slides where you spend one minute each. In other words, divorce the “slide” from the idea of “equals a duration of time.”

Of course, this means people choke when they realize how many slides your presentation has, which leads to…

Use a handout to summarize key your key points 

The number of slides you use does not determine how long your presentation is (you could talk to three slides for an hour, right?). It’s the amount of detail you go into (content) plus the amount of time you spend interacting that equals duration.

What’s the number one FAQ in a webinar?  “Can I have a copy of your slides?”

Do your audience (and yourself) a favor…make great, visually appealing slides that complement your verbal delivery, and create a handout that summarizes the key points you make.

What’s your experience been? Animations…love ’em or hate ’em?

2 thoughts on “3 reasons PowerPoint animations may suck in your webinar (and what to do about it)

  1. Penelope Singer

    While you can’t completely control the “They may appear jumpy” aspect of online presenting, there is a way to significantly reduce the likelihood. Quite simply: reduce the file size of your presentation.

    One of the biggest culprits in presentation file size is the images you include. By all means, don’t leave out images — they’re critical to an interesting presentation. Instead, watch the size of the images you’re placing.

    Here are a couple of hints that your images are larger than they need to be: 1) you have to make the image smaller to fit your slide, 2) your image is placed in the presentation at smaller than 100%, or 3) you’ve cropped out part of the image.

    The most reliable way to find out for 1) and 2) is to look at the percentage your file is placed at. In PowerPoint, select your placed image and go to the Picture Tools tab. At the far right in the “Size” section, click on the itty-bitty grey box that’s directly underneath the “Width” measurement. Another box will pop open and it’s there, under “Scale,” that you’ll find the percentage. If it’s smaller than 100%, your image is adding more file size than it needs to. The smaller that percentage, the more effect it is having.

    If you know how to resize an image using Photoshop or another image editing program like GIMP, that’s your best bet for maintaining image quality. However PowerPoint does have a Compress Images setting (also in the Picture Tools tab) you can use. It’s important that you choose an option that is at least 150 dpi (higher if you’re handing out for printing) and check the “Delete cropped areas” option.

    When I’m done fixing the images I like to use the “Save As…” option to save the revised version with another name. This lets me retain the original just in case I have changes (because quality is reduced each time you compress the images), and also so I can see how much smaller I’ve made the file. That last part is pretty satisfying.

    1. TheVP

      Hey Penelope, thanks for adding to the discussion. Well put.

      Hey ya’ll…if the problem is on YOUR end of the web conference, you should be listening to her.


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