How to keep your audience engaged by adding animation to your slides

If you want to keep your audience engaged and interested in your information, you should start by animating any bullet points on your slides and keeping your bullet points to a minimum (ideally no more than three very short bullet points on any one slide).

I’ve recently been working with five presenters who spoke at the Welcome Into the Awesome Conference on Friday, June 25, 2021 or Saturday, June 26, 2021. At the dry run I held with each of them, I saw that several of them had all their bullets on a slide when the slide came in. I suggested to them that they animate their bullets.

There are three reasons why you want to have minimal text and very few bullet points and why you want to slide in your bullets one by one rather than have all the text appear on your screen as soon as you get to each slide:

Too much text (including too many bullets at once) will overload limited working memory:

John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory talks about the limits on working memory. Working memory is where everything goes whether it comes in, whether through your eyes, your ears, your nose, etc. Working memory is a limited resource and if you fill it up with the how you present, there won’t be room for your important information. If information doesn’t make it into working memory, it will never end up in long term memory. If you have too much text or too many bullets on screen that may well overwhelm your audience’s limited working memory.

The more text you have on your screen, the less people will learn and remember:

In Richard E. Mayer’s 12 Principles of MultiMedia Learning sets out several principles that enhance learning. His work is based on John Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory. His MultiMedia Principle says “people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone” and his Redundancy Principle says “people learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration, and on-screen text.” His work clearly shows that keeping text to a minimum and including images on your slides is ideal. One way to minimize text on screen to have your bullet points slide in one-by-one. If your bullets are the same as what you are saying, the brains of your audience members will be trying to figure out what’s the same, whether there is a difference, and, if there is a difference, why there is a difference. If your brain is doing that, it is not taking in your important information.

If all your bullets are on screen, your audience will read ahead and stop listening to you:

Your audience will almost certainly read faster than you will discuss the bullet points on your slide. If that is happening, they will be reading and thinking about a later point than you are discussing. Once that happens, your audience is unlikely to be listening to you.

It’s great to know that you shouldn’t use too many bullets and that you should animate the bullet points you do use.

How do you have your points slide in one by one?

1. Select your bullet points on a slide

2. Click on “Animations” along the menu bar

3. Decide which of the many animation options you want to use for all your slides in a particular presentation – I usually use Fly in or Wipe (try out a few and find one you like)

4. Make sure text comes from direction you want it to – if not, go to Effect Options and chose the direction you prefer)

5. Test how the animation is working by going to Slide Show – From Current Slide

6. If it is not coming in the way you want it (perhaps the system selected all the bullet points to come in at once), go back to Animations on the menu gar, go to Animation Pane

a. Here you will see each of your bullet points
b. If you click on a bullet point, a drop-down arrow will appear
c. Click on drop-down arrow, then choose “start on click”
d. Repeat so all bullet points “start on click”

7. Test again to make sure the animation is working exactly as you want it to by going to Slide Show – From Current Slide

Following these steps will give you basic animation that slides in bullets one by one.

Watch this video if you’d like to see me doing these steps in PowerPoint.


Think this animation stuff is too much work? Want to have more complex animations on your slides?

Helping clients to create slides that will enhance their presentation not distract from them as a presenter is something I do with my clients. If you need help with your slides, whether just creating basic slides or more complex animations that will make your key points really jump off the screen, contact me.

In addition to helping clients with their slides, I also offer a Professional Slides Solution Package. I offer this done-for-you package with my colleague, Dianne Volek. Dianne has a great graphic eye and is a PowerPoint wizard. All you need to do is provide your speaking notes or draft slides, and we provide you with an awesome slide deck that will enhance your presentation and boost your confidence.
Contact me if you would like help. Send an email to and put “slides” in the subject line.