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How to use PowerPoint 2010 Transitions for maximum effect

As we have seen in our previous article, Enhance PowerPoint Slides with Animation, PowerPoint 2010 has a range of powerful features that can be used to make presentations more professional, more exciting and dynamic. A great set of PowerPoint slides can add that something extra to your presentation which could close the sale, impress your manager or gain support for a pet project. One way to improve your presentation is to add transitions between the slides.

One important point to note before you begin. Transitions are there to help you better present the message you have for the audience. When you choose a transition, try to keep it simple and do not use more than two transitions throughout the presentation. One transition for the majority of your slides and the second one for any slides that require special emphasis, if none require special emphasis then stick to using just one transition. Let's look at how to add a transition.

Adding Transitions

Before you start adding transitions, you need to decide which transition is appropriate to your style and the message you are trying to give. Once you have done this, select the first slide to which you want to apply a transition and then click on the Transitions tab.

By default, the Transitions tab will display the most commonly used transitions. Select the transition that you wish to apply to your slide, if these do not fit your purpose, you can see a gallery of transition effects by clicking on the More button, which is the little arrow shown in purple in the above screenshot. The transitions gallery is separated into three categories; Subtle, Exciting, and Dynamic Content.

Of the three categories, Dynamic Content transitions are new transition effects in PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2011 for the Apple Mac. The difference between the Dynamic Content transitions and the Subtle and Exciting categories is that the Dynamic Content transition occurs only on the slide content not on any backgrounds. Do experiment with these options for direction and timing as some great looking presentations can be created using the new Dynamic Content transitions - however they won't work as well on slides that don't have any background titles and colours.

Tip: Remember that you can preview the transitions with Live Preview or hover your mouse over each item in the gallery.

Depending on the transition chosen, you may be able to use Effect Options to change the way in which the transition works. The effects available will vary from no effects to eight different effects depending on which transition you selected.

Transition Timing Group

On the Transition ribbon, you will see a group to the far right called the Timing group. This group contains a set of command buttons that do more than just control when and how long the transition will take.

Although the timing options are not always necessary, like the timing for animation, the settings can help the presenter stay within their allotted speaking time. The Timing group contains buttons for Sound, Duration, Apply to All,and Advance Slide. Let's look at the different options available and how they can improve the presentation.

Although not often used, sounds can be added when one slide transitions to another. The chosen sound can be a great auditory signal to a presenter to move on and start talking about the items in the next slide, especially if he/she is not looking at the presentation. Sound can be added to transitions by selecting one of the options from the Sound drop down menu.

Tip: If you do not feel any of the PowerPoint sounds listed is appropriate, you can use another sound on your hard disk, by clicking on the other sound option near the bottom of the sound list.

The Duration button allows you to specify how long the transition will take. Normally the default time is more than adequate. If you wish to change the timing try not to apply more than two seconds. For example, a duration of ten seconds for a transition would be pretty boring to watch.

The Advance Slide switches allow you to specify when and how one slide will transition to the next. On Mouse Click, which is the default option, allows the presenter to switch to the next slide by clicking their mouse. The After switch will bring up the next slide after a specified duration.

Tip: Unless presentation time is tight or you are creating an automatic slide presentation, it is best to leave the default of On Mouse Click. This allows the presenter to accept and deal with audience questions without being forced to rush to the next slide or having to return to the previous slide.

The final option in the Timing group is the Apply to All button. This button is a great time saver as it allows you to copy all the transition options made on that slide to every other slide in the deck. For a presentation with four or five slides this may not sound like a big deal, however if you have twenty or more slides, trying to set a transition on each slide can be a real chore. In addition, the Apply To All button allows you to ensure that your entire slide deck is consistent.

Tips for Using Transitions

Should you use the Apply to All button, you can still amend individual slides afterwards.

It is always worth using the Transition Preview button whenever any change is made to the transition, for example when special effects are made to the transition, transition sounds added or automatic timing is set - just to check that the transition is working in a helpful manner for both the audience and the presenter.

Transitions help give life and flow to PowerPoint, but avoid using too many different transitions in one presentation. Stick with one type of transition or at most two transitions, otherwise the presentation will look messy and unprofessional.

If you are using two different transition types, use one transition for the main slide deck and the second transition to place extra emphasis on important or key content.

Powerpoint 2010 is a powerful tool for improving the clarity, style and professionalism of your presentations. It only takes a few clicks to add energy and excitement to an otherwise dry presentation. For an overview on other ways you can improve your presentation see the articles below.

Enhance PowerPoint Slides with Animation which examines the different ways to add movement to your presentation.

How to Use PowerPoint Animations which provides an in depth look at how to set animations on each slide.