Pitfalls of PowerPoint – #4 and #5

In Uncategorized on February 3, 2011 at 9:42 PM

Pitfalls of PowerPoint

(And How to “Purge” Them From Your Presentations)

By Dr. Jon Hooper, Guest Author for iSpeakEASY


“Animation…used intelligently can add tremendous impact.”

Ellen Finkelstein


Pitfall #4: Using Obnoxious Special Effects

Think back to when you received a new toy as a kid. If it had buttons, knobs, or switches, you pushed, turned, or flipped them over and over until Mom or Dad said, “If I hear that siren one more time, I’ll take the toy away!”

Now think about the first time you powered up PowerPoint. You quickly discovered it had many buttons, whistles, and whirls that created special effects. You found it fun to use many of these effects in your shows. Your audiences seemed amused by the special effects at first, but after the 5th or 6th slide where each letter of each word appeared on the screen individually accompanied by a machine gun, typewriter, or whooshing sound, you thought you heard someone say, “Do that one more time and I’m going to find a real machine gun and use it on you!”

PowerPoint’s sound effects, animations, and other special effects can easily be overdone. The message of your talk is what you want your audience to remember, not how well (or poorly) you animated the show.

To purge the pitfall:

Use special effects sparingly and with a specific purpose in mind (such as when you need to draw attention to a specific object on a slide). Be consistent in how you apply special effects. For example, animate lines of text on a slide in the same fashion. Don’t have the first line fade in, the second line appear word by word, and the third line bounce in.


Pitfall #5: Under Using “Reveal” Animations

When you purchased your first digital camera, you probably opened up the instructions and were overwhelmed by the amount of information. When you starting reviewing the manual a step at a time, however, its instructions began to make sense (well, ok, at least some of them did!).

The same principle holds true for presenting information in a PowerPoint bullet chart or graph. Present all of the information at once and you overwhelm your audience. “Reveal” the information bit by bit and you enhance your audience’s ability to comprehend the key points.

To purge the pitfall:

Reveal lines of text on bullet charts and individual bars on graphs one at a time, rather than all at once (see Figures 1 and 2 below). You accomplish this by applying one of PowerPoint’s Custom Animation “entrance” effects (such as “fade”) to each line or bar. This lets your audience slowly digest your key points. It also keeps audience members from reading ahead or looking at bars on a chart that you have not yet explained.

Figure 1. Reveal lines of text on bullet charts one line at a time.



Figure 2. Reveal bars on charts one bar at a time.

Final Thoughts

PowerPoint’s special effects can be awesome or annoying. Do not be afraid to use them, but when you do, use them sparingly and with a specific purpose in mind.


This column is a series designed to help enhance your PowerPoint presentations. Each edition pinpoints pitfalls that are commonly faced when planning, preparing, and presenting PowerPoint shows.

Dr. Jon Hooper has over 30 years of experience helping natural and cultural resource professionals their communication efforts. He is a professor of environmental interpretation at California State University, Chico and is the owner of Verbal Victories Communication Consulting. Contact Jon at

© 2011 iSpeakEASY. All rights reserved – This speaking tip is one in a series provided by iSpeakEASY. We help people profit from their words. Call for information on individual coaching or group workshops

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