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Animation–Help or Entertainment?

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PowerPoint Animation—Help or Entertainment?

Usually when artists are learning their craft, they use an excessive amount of strokes in their painting or drawing. Poets’ juvenilia are littered with grandiose metaphors and forced rhyme. New PowerPoint users typically over-animate in the excitement that they can now do things that only Disney could only do before. And there’s the rub—trainers and business presenters cannot afford to come across as Walt Disney "wannabes" in their presentations. Animation is a tool in training and sales to get your point across or to convey significance. Of course, "What is the effective use of animation?" and "How much is enough?" are the burning questions.

What are the most typical PowerPoint animations? There are the built-in PowerPoint animations that move objects and text, but there are also other useful animations such as animated .gifs, Flash animations, and .avi movies.

Let’s assume that you don’t want to animate objects or text just for animations’ sake. Great attitude! The majority of new PowerPoint users go "a bit" overboard with "special effects" (animation), and their learning points or sales pitch gets lost in the "whiz bang." Yes, some people are still impressed even by the standard PowerPoint animations, but many business people (particularly North Americans) have seen most of them and are bored with them. So either way, "you lose if you overuse"—they don’t remember a thing you’ve said whether they’re impressed or bored.

So WHERE and HOW can you use animation in a qualitative way in your presentation?

OBJECTS—GEOMETRIC, CLIPART, PHOTOS, ETC.

For animated objects, the rule "use sparingly, use specifically" cannot be stressed enough. Listed below are some appropriate uses of animation.

The Opening Slide. Here, your opening slide can be somewhat of an attention-getter and an introduction to your subject. This is actually the one place you can show off your "whiz bang" safely.

For example, you might use the built-in PowerPoint animations to create an electronic marquee effect with your title constantly flowing across the slide. Perhaps, you might create a pipework frame that circles around the slide and reveals your title at the end of the pipe (done with several different-shaped objects using animations that follow sequentially). Still yet, you might use an .avi movie that introduces your subject. The idea is to catch your participants’ attention and move into your subject matter from the clever opening.

Illustrations. Using an .avi movie is appropriate when you want to illustrate a specific concept or idea. This is particularly valuable when teaching soft skills, as an .avi can illustrate the skill in action or show what happens when the skill is lacking.

Simulations. In certain training situations, PowerPoint can be used to simulate simple processes or illustrate the flow of a process. This use would especially require you to think like an animator—that is, each step of a process that you want to illustrate would require one element to come onto the slide after another and build a recognisable picture or graph. For sophisticated training simulations, courseware development tools such as Authorware or Toolbook would be used. Flash animation can also be very useful for simple simulations.

Emphases. Animation can also be used to accentuate relationships between data on a slide, particularly one containing charts or graphs. You can make the graph build one column at a time to emphasise important differences in the information being presented.

Courseware-Like Games or Tests. Even though there are several specific game-creation software packages for trainers to use, you can create your own games using PowerPoint animations. You can also use PowerPoint to create true-false and multiple-choice tests.

TEXT

Text animation doesn’t seem to give people as much trouble as the ability to make rainbow-coloured pigs fly and squeal across the slide. There are a couple of very good uses for text animation.

Bullet Points. Probably the most widely used animation in PowerPoint, this animation allows the presenter to reveal one-by-one the teaching points of a slide. Of course, this can become monotonous if EVERY slide is a list of bullet points! Hint: don’t use the letter-by-letter with laser sound for a bulleted list. Usually one line of "laser letters" is about all anyone can take.

Captions. When using photos or graphs or charts, you may want to animate specific text boxes where you highlight or indicate teaching points or relationships between items.

Animating objects and text can be very helpful when used properly, so don’t avoid animation because there have been so many misuses. Instead, be conservative ("use sparingly") and be intentional ("use specifically") when using it.

It might be good use of animation to show an angry man with black stars flying out of his mouth off to the side of the slide while yelling sounds play. But, if the animation doesn’t illustrate or emphasise a teaching or selling point, leave it out. Animation for animation’s sake can actually hurt your training or sales efforts. Your participants or clients will go to the theatre if they desire to be entertained by "really cool" visual effects.

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