Does PowerPoint Animation Distract the Audience?

Does animation in PowerPoint help to get the message across, or does it distract the audience?  Some of the latest academic research has produced some interesting findings.

The question is whether animations help get messages across in PowerPoint. Many presenters seem to believe that is the case. But whether it helped, was neutral or actually distracted audiences had not really been put to the test.

Recently, though, some work has been done on this question. And the findings make interesting reading.

Stephen Mahar of UNCW (the University of North Carolina Wilmington) and colleagues published a paper in the International Journal of Innovation and Learning looking at this very topic.

The team recorded two PowerPoint presentations – which were identical except for one thing. One presentation used animation to present information, the other didn’t. The team then split a number of students into two groups, each of which sat through one version of the presentation.

When the team tested the students’ recall and understanding, it found that those who had experienced the presentation without animation got far higher scores. They were also able to recall details of the non-moving graphics more fully.

More work remains to be done on this subject. But these initial findings certainly suggest that animated graphics in presentations can be a distraction. If so, it would make sense; animations require more concentration on the part of the audience, which makes recall more difficult.

Yes, those moving graphics can be fun, for both students and presenters. But too many of them may actually get in the way of the message. As with so many things in life, less can be more.

To find out more, read a synopsis of the research at

By David Vickery


Published On: 28th Jul 2009

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  1. I found this to be very helpful. I am preparing a presentation for some VIP’s, and wanted to be sure I got the message across as easily as possible.

    Because of my audience, I think I will use less animation.

    Thank you for this tip.

    Leslie B. 29 Jul at 12:32 am
  2. This is something I have worked a lot before.

    When I started working on digital presentations, I tended to use a lot of animation and transitions between slides, but that usually ties the presenter and makes the presentation slow down at times.

    I don’t use any animated icons or media now, and just fast disolves or just appear between slides.

    Roberto 6 Jan at 5:10 pm