Are animations in presentations helpful or harmful?
If you’re creating a presentation and wondering if you should use animations to make it more interesting, think twice. Presentations that contain animations to make them look cooler only annoy the audience.
So, when are animations in presentations actually helpful?
In 2002, professors Donald Dansereau and Jason Blankenship ran an experiment on four student groups.
- Group A was shown text-only slides.
- Group B was shown the same slides but with animated text.
- Group C was shown slides with flow diagrams.
- Group D was shown the same slides but with animated flow diagrams.
The groups were then tested to find out how much they remembered from the slides. Which one do you think scored the lowest?
The answer: group B. Group B – the one that was shown animated text – was also the one that remembered the least from the presentation.
And which group do you think scored the highest?
The answer: group D. The students who were shown animated diagrams remembered the most information from the presentation.
But what’s the reason behind these results?
Well, surely the fact that our brains find it easier to memorize information in visual form. Diagrams are a visual representation of information. In addition to that, they were animated – introduced in a sequence, one after the other – so the students were able to process the information chunk by chunk. They were consuming the content of the slide bit by bit, which enabled them to stack new pieces of information on top of the previous ones.
Meanwhile, the students who were shown animated text probably got distracted by the visual effects and struggled to memorize information. This explains why this group scored worse than those who were shown text-only slides without animation. Without a doubt, in this case, animations were distracting and not at all helpful.
One can draw a similar conclusion from a study made by professors Stephen Mahar, Ulku Yaylacicegi, and Thomas Janicki in 2009. These researchers showed two presentations to two student groups – one with animations and another without.
The test, conducted afterward to investigate how much information the students memorized from the presentations, showed the following results:
- The students who were shown the animated presentation averaged 71%.
- The students who were shown the non-animated presentation averaged 82%.
So, we can draw the following conclusions from these two studies:
The don’ts of animations in presentations:
- If you only include animations to make your presentation look cooler, the recipient won’t memorize as much information.
- You shouldn’t include dynamic animations if you’re showing your presentation online via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or another video conferencing tool. Why? Because you don’t know if the animated slides will be readable on your recipients’ sides. A poor internet connection can make the animated effects lag, causing our entire presentation to look unprofessional.
The dos of animations in presentations:
Animations can be a helpful tool for breaking down complex information into bite-sized chunks. With the help of animations, each portion of information can be introduced onto the slide with a click of the mouse. This will enable the recipients to focus only on the specific chunk of information you’re talking about at the given moment.
To summarise, animations can be an excellent tool to use in presentations as long as they fulfill their purpose rather than just being a decorative element.
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