I would like to challenge an oft-heard tenet of "good slide design." This is the dictum that says "Animation is bad. Get rid of it on your presentation slides."
I know where the concept comes from... Overuse and misuse of PowerPoint effects can drive an audience stark raving mad. If you have ever sat through a presentation where every bullet point flies in and does a cute little bounce before settling in position, you know the frustration. And when every graphic enters the page by spinning around and around in an effect that takes five seconds to complete, you just want to give the designer a short course in subtlety, delivered with a cattle prod as your primary teaching aid.
But as with guns, box cutters, and movie production deals, it is unfair to condemn the entire concept because of the carnage and terror that some people cause with the basic instruments. There are appropriate and useful applications of PowerPoint animation.
Animation should be used for emphasis and to re-attract audience focus on a particular point. This means that it should be the exception in a slide deck, not the rule. If people are expecting animation on every slide, it ceases to have any power. But a simple wipe can help highlight the introduction of an arrow pointing to a key phrase. Or a simple overlay build can highlight a phrase that sums up or counterpoints the preceding text.
This is especially true in a remote presentation via a webinar or webcast. Your audience has many distractions while listening to you with an unchanging slide just sitting there on the screen. They quickly take in the image and then seek visual stimulation elsewhere... In their email messages or that never-ending game of solitaire. Throwing in a bit of animation can recapture their attention. They also become "conditioned" to staying focused on the slides, as they can't be sure their initial mental snapshot represents the total content for a slide. Something else might still be coming.
That is one of the reasons I get frustrated with web conferencing products that convert PowerPoint slides to static images. It removes a tool for holding audience attention. And we need all the tools we can muster.
Sure, you can often simulate an overlay build by creating multiple slides and flipping from one to the next. But this is an imperfect alternative. You can't introduce a directional aspect to the action (eg: the arrow is revealed from tail to head, automatically drawing the viewer's eye to the desired focal point). You can't use things that lend an air of subtlety and continuity to the information display, such as a fade in or fade out. And in many conferencing products, the display of a new slide is an obvious action. It feels to the viewer like two separate slides, not a continuation of information on a single slide.
Supporting PowerPoint animation is hard. Microsoft keeps adding effects in each new release of their product and forces new releases of the conferencing product to keep up. It uses extra bandwidth to transmit the additional information to the audience's screens. But I feel more comfortable when I know that I have the option.
The comments section is now open for what I'm sure will be an "animated" discussion.