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How to Use Special Effects in a PowerPoint Presentation

Learn how to use special effects in a PowerPoint presentation from media coach TJ Walker in this Howcast public speaking video.


Should you use special effects in your power point? I'll never forget I was listening to an engineer give a presentation in Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and he had this power point and all of a sudden a bird flittered across his power point screen. Everyone was like that's fantastic, that's interesting. As soon as his speech was over, how did you do that? It became the focal point. Got a lot of attention. Sounds good, right?

Guess what? When I ask people what did he talk about in that speech? No one could answer that question. The problem was his special effects overwhelmed the message of his presentation. Here's the problem. If you are a presenter and you're trying to come up with special effects, number one, when it comes to special effects people are comparing you. If your stuff is up on a big screen to Steven Spielberg and Lucas and Star Wars. If you're being compared to people like that with special effects, guess what? You're gonna lose. There's no way you're gonna razzle dazzle people with special effects on a big screen because you're competing in the mind space of a big screen with big Hollywood production.

So I don't want to compete with Lucas and Spielberg. Where I want to compete is with the boring speaker next to me and the boring speaker in front of me and after me. That's a test I can win. That's a competition I can win every time. The other big problem with special effects is they take time and you start doodling and you start messing around and you start tweaking.

The next thing you know you've spent two hours coming up with some little doohickey that just flitters by. That's two hours you could have spent rehearsing your presentation and now you don't have time to rehearse. That's two hours where you could have spent refining new stories, new examples and now you don't have the time. So in terms of time management, allocation of resources, return on investment. I'm a big believer that the special effects are a waste of time for most presenters.

Now if there's a particular reason where you need a video clip or something out of the ordinary, that's okay, but make sure there is a compelling reason for it. Don't use video just because you can. Don't use a special effect or a splash or some bright sound effect just because you can. Make sure there's a real purpose for it otherwise you're wasting your time and you're just confusing your audience.

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