Last Thursday, we hosted Gus Prestera for Advanced PowerPoint for Trainers: Infographics in Motions. With over 400 attendees, we got a lot of great questions, and didn’t get a chance to answer them all! Luckily, Gus was gracious enough to answer your questions after the webinar ended.
During the session, Gus covered how to build and animate infographics in PowerPoint, including:
- How to add and format shapes
- How to add and format SmartArt
- Using a “palette” slide for your fonts, colors, and shapes
- Animating shapes
- Using hyperlinks to create a menu slide
Most of your questions had to do with PowerPoint, although a few attendees wanted to know more about the theory behind infographics. Be sure to check out the further resources we included with the webinar recording to take a deeper dive into these topics.
Here are Gus’s answers to your questions.
(Questions have been modified to make sense out of context.)
Q: Do the other motion paths, such as the bounce effect, work the same way as the line?
A: Yes, more or less. Each of the pre-programmed motion paths has its own unique quirks, but all of them have a start and end point that you can move around to suit your needs. The bounce effect that you mentioned is not actually a motion path but an entrance effect. Entrance effects are less customizable. For example, you don’t have a starting point, only an end point. You can indicate what direction the effect comes from, and those options are a little different for each entrance effect.
Q: Can you get more than 1 active hyperlink on a slide?
A: Yes, you can add as many hyperlinks to a slide as you want. The only limitation is that you can only embed one hyperlink per on-screen element (e.g., a shape, text box, or group).
Q: When you set up a menu slide, if you click anywhere other than the hyperlinked shape, will it advance the slide?
A: Yes! If you don’t click your active link area, it will by default just advance the slide the way PPT normally does.
Q: Can linking be used with a remote clicker?
A: Yes, you can use your clicker to advance the animation.
Q: Do hyperlinks only work in presenter mode?
A: Yes, or as a PDF
Q: Once you create an infographic in PowerPoint, can you save it as a new template?
A: As far as I know, you cannot save a new infographic to PowerPoint as a SmartArt template, but you can add it to your palette slide for easy copy and paste. My palette is simply an extra slide that I temporarily keep in my deck to use as a staging area for any re-usable elements. I usually start with my colors, then add fonts and shapes, maybe purchased photos and graphics that I plan to use, and then perhaps infographics I’ve created (ones I plan to re-use in different ways and configurations). In some cases, I wind up with multiple slides in the back holding all manner of assets. Then, when I’m done, I delete those extra slides. The nice thing with PPT is that when you copy a shape from your palette slide (or any slide) to a content slide (or any other slide), PPT copies over any properties you’ve assigned to that shape, including hyperlinks and any entrance, emphasis or exit effects.
(We have added Gus’s palette slide as a downloadable resource from the webinar recording, if you want to start your own!)
Q: You mentioned using Google Image search. What do you use Google image search for?
A: Inspiration mostly. You may be starting with some sort of idea that you’re trying to convey…a process, a best practice, a distinction, a timeline, etc. If I get stuck or am just looking for ideas, I’ll google that, then select Images, so any image associated with that idea comes up. I might do a search based on the specific topic, such as “stages of clinical trials” or I might do a broader search based on the type of infographic, such as “process map” or “trekking through the jungle” and see what comes up. I’m often surprised by the variety of images that people have come up with and looking through their examples gives me inspiration for what I could do with my infographic. It’s rare that I find exactly IT, but I see elements that I want to emulate, my brain starts percolating ideas, and out comes something new and different. There are other ways to get inspiration…that’s mine.
Q: What are the common exit animations that you use?
- The one I use the most is the Fade In entrance and Fade Out exit effects, because then the audience can see that the item is appearing and disappearing, noting that it’s happening, but the effect is not as distracting as many of the others, so folks don’t obsess on it. The Appear/Disappear effect is a little jarring and easy for folks to miss, so I only use that when I want to add/remove something without it being noticed by the audience. The Fade is definitely my workhorse effect.
- The second most common one I use is the Wipe on and off effect. It’s similar to the fade except that the fading starts on one end of the shape and moves to the other. This is nice for guiding the eye to what’s important now or what’s going to be importance next after this is gone.
- The third most common for me is the Fly Out. I’ll use that on the edges of the screen to have callout boxes and things like that poke in, then leave from that same side to clear the screen of extra items I don’t need. It creates the illusion that there are elements off to the side that we are pulling onto the screen as needed. With systems training, for example, I can use it to maximize the amount of space being taken up by the screen captures and have callout boxes slide in from the sides then slide off, keeping the focus on the screen capture. It’s very handy. But I don’t use it show things flying around the screen…that’s usually going to be tacky and/or distracting from the main message.
The rest I use sparingly and consider them on a case-by-case basis.
- For round shapes, I sometimes use the Wheel entrance and exit effects or the Grow & Turn entrance effect. It’s a nice way to fan the deck, if you will, drawing attention to the shape without it seeming unnatural, again, as long as it’s a round shape or configuration. Still, it’s not an every day one that I use a lot.
- Most of the other effects I use sparingly, only as a specific need comes up. For example, the Float In/Out effect is rather unique and may only get used once or twice a year for something that we want to have rise like a specter…for example a list of pitfalls might be something gloomy that you might reveal and remove with a float in/out effect.
- I usually avoid any of the bars, checkerboard, bounce, and other glitzy effects as they can be distracting. Again, if the occasion arose where it made sense, I would consider them, but we would generally avoid them.
Q: Do you recommend a set of design principles to guide shape, color, layout, size, etc.?
A: Though I defer quite a bit to the graphic designers on my team, I do advocate a few key principles, namely: (1) focus on the outcome…I avoid having frilly things that do not directly contribute to the learner getting what they need from the infographic…I don’t like to waste any cognitive load on extra elements or movements that do not support the objective, (2) minimize the amount of text and keep it legible by using an easy to read font type (e.g., Calibri), a good font size (depends on delivery format…with elearning, can get down to 14-point font, but with ILT, I try to keep any text well above 16-point font, and clear color contrasts (light colors on colors dark fills, dark colors on very light fills), (3) use shapes and configurations that convey meaning in and of themselves and are familiar to the audience (e.g., venn diagram, concentric circles, cyclical processes, chevrons, pathways, stars all convey meaning regardless of content), and (4) use animation to exert control over the audience’s attention, focus, and cognitive load…as opposed to using it for entertainment value…the occasional fun animation is okay, but most adult audiences find animations cheesy and will quickly tune out if we over-do it.
Overall, when I’m working with my GDs, I emphasize the idea that there’s a cognitive load cost to anything we do on-screen, so we never want to privilege aesthetics over helping the audience gain clarity and insight, and make the information easier to remember. I push them to be thoughtful about the audience’s ability to process all of the information, organize it in their heads, and recall it later. This means we sometimes obsess on things like color contrasts, textures, and font sizing.
As far as the colors themselves, they are usually governed by branding and styles guides that our clients give us. We take their standards and develop our own palette of colors and textures that conform to their standards. Then we make sure to stick with those as we build out content.
As far as shapes, different GDs have different stylistic preferences. I generally try to be guided by the overall look & feel. For example, if the look & feel that we’ve established uses a lot of curvy shapes, then I try to go with lots of curved edges on my infographics. A rectangle will be a rectangle with rounded corners. If a look & feel establishes a look that uses a lot of sharp edges, then I try to stay true to that. There will be exceptions, of course, but the exceptions are exceptions for a specific reason/effect.
Q: How much movement/how many effects is too much? Where’s the balance between engagement and a professional feel?
A: There is of course no hard and fast rule here….it’s more art than science, but there is some science to support it. The more we design and get feedback from our audiences and/or observe them, the better we get at finding the right balance.
As we are designing, we are constantly asking ourselves if there is too much or too little movement and whether or not we are maintaining a professional feel. Our clients are mostly Fortune 500 corporations, so they check us if we are going over the top. That rarely happens, though. They like that we push at the boundaries to make our content more engaging and memorable while keeping it professional.
The more common issue we have is that instructional designers have too much audio in an elearning storyboard or video script or too many instructor talking points (with ILT) that are unsupported by on-screen visuals, whether static or dynamic. That’s the most common problem we note when reviewing courses, and I drive my IDs and GDs crazy with that feedback, because I know it really makes a difference to learners. I am an impatient learner, like most of the working professionals we support, but at the same time, I get motion sickness from seeing too much movement on-screen. I close my eyes during TV commercials, just to give you a sense of how bad it is for me. So, to me, it’s less about having lots of movement but rather having the right visual imagery to support the content we are trying to convey and using just enough movement to help us optimize the learning experience.
The reason “audio without visual support” is an issue for me is that we are trying to manage the audiences cognitive load effectively, not just show them splashy images that keep them paying attention. To help audiences manage their cognitive load, we use on-screen images and text to reinforce and illustrate what the narrator/instructor are saying. If the narrator/instructor talks for a long time without that on-screen support, we know that we start to lose audiences. They start checking email, talking with neighbors, etc. Cognitive research tells us that we can only hold someone’s attention for about 20 seconds before they start to tune us out (not intentionally). So we need to give their brains a reason to stay focused. Infographics and motion help us extend that attention span, through attention arousal effects. Of course, those aren’t our only tools. Relevance, audience participation, lively discussions, cases/scenarios, emotional connection, practice, games, and hands-on activities are other instructional tools we use. But, when you’re in a lecture/presentation mode and you’re just trying to get some ideas out to your audience, infographics in motion can be good friends.
Q: Other than your audience being present for the presentation, how do you share animated infographics?
A: Aside from live workshops, conference presentations, and webinars, I use animated infographics in pre-recorded videos (such as the ones on YouTube linked in the webinar recording) and in stand-alone elearning modules. Using Articulate Presenter (or other PowerPoint conversion tools), we can create a PPT presentation with all of the animated infographics we want and then publish it with audio that is synced to those entrance/emphasis/exit effects in the deck.
For other elearning modules created in more robust applications, like Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora, and DominKnow Claro, we don’t publish directly from PowerPoint, but we do use PowerPoint as a storyboarding tool, so that the IDs can mock up and demonstrate to the elearning developers and graphic designers what their intended animated infographic looks like, how it works, and how it syncs with the audio narration. Our clients are also able to view the PPT storyboard to get a sense of how the animated sequences are going to work, so they can give us better feedback on them. We commonly use PPT to mock up web sites, applications, and reports because it such an easy-to-use visual tool.
Thanks to Gus for sharing your expertise, and thank you to everyone who watched the webinar!