Experts agree that transitions and animations should support your presentation’s message or mood. Some of us are more creative than others, and I can’t help you with the creative process–that’s up to you. However, I can show you how to connect a theme to a transition. Specifically, I’ll explain how to visually create a ribbon that, thanks to the push transition, appears to pull slides across the screen.

I’ll be using PowerPoint 2013 on a Windows 7 system. I’ll include instructions for other versions when significantly different. You can download the .pptx or .ppt demonstration file or work from scratch.

The theme

Before we start creating anything, let’s talk about the theme. We’ll break the following quote across a few slides: “Any fact becomes important when it’s connected to another” (Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco). Figure A shows the placeholder slide that contains all the visual elements. In this case, it’s important for the rectangle that displays the quote text to be smaller than the slide, creating an edge on either side of the text. The edging and ribbon blend together as one slide disappears and seems to pull the next into view. Omitting the blue rectangle lessens the visual illusion.

Figure A

Create a slide that contains all the elements you need.

The basic slide

Step one is to create a placeholder slide with all the elements. Then, you can duplicate it and tweak as necessary. You could use a themed slide, but we’ll build ours from scratch. First, add the slide’s background as follows:

  1. Right-click a blank slide and choose Format Background.
  2. In the Format Background pane, choose Picture Or Text Fill. In PowerPoint 2010, choose Fill in the left pane (if necessary) and select the Picture Or Texture Fill option. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Fill Effects from the dropdown.
  3. From the Texture dropdown, choose Papyrus (Figure B).
  4. Click Close.

Figure B

We’ll use Papyrus for our slide background.

Next, insert and format the blue rectangle as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. From the Shapes dropdown, choose Rounded Rectangle.
  3. Drag and drop to insert the rectangle.
  4. With the rectangle selected, click the contextual Format tab.
  5. From the Shape Fill dropdown, choose a background color. I chose light blue.
  6. From the Shape Outline dropdown, choose a border color and weight option (Figure C).

Figure C

Use the Shape Outline dropdown to specify border color and weight.

Now we’re ready to add the ribbon, which consists of a rectangle and a rounded rectangle. The ribbon itself is a plain rectangle. Use the above instructions to position a rectangle on one side of the slide, centered between the top and bottom edges. Use a color that contrasts well, but don’t assign an outline (step 6).

Use the same process to offset a rounded rectangle near the inside edge of the ribbon (Figure D). It should barely cover the inside edge. Using the same texture as the slide’s background gives the illusion of a hole in the slide. Send the rounded rectangle backward by choosing Send To Back from the Arrange dropdown (in the Drawing group on the contextual Format tab). In PowerPoint 2003, right-click the rounded rectangle, choose Order, and then Send To Back. The combination creates the illusion of threading the ribbon through a hole in the slide. Select both rectangles and group them by choosing Group from the Arrange group. In PowerPoint 2003, select both rectangles, right-click the section, choose Grouping, and then select Group.

Figure D

Add the ribbon hole.

To add the second ribbon, copy the grouped rectangles to the Clipboard and then paste a copy onto the same slide. Drag it to the other side and flip it by choosing Rotate from the Arrange dropdown and then selecting Flip Horizontal. In PowerPoint 2003, use the move handle to flip the grouped rectangles.

Finally, position a text placeholder in the larger (blue) rectangle. Strictly speaking, this step isn’t necessary, but doing so will ensure that the text is consistently formatted and positioned across all of the related slides. To add a formatted text box that you’ll fill later, do the following:

  1. Click the Insert tab and then click Text Box in the Text group. In PowerPoint 2003, use AutoShapes on the Drawing toolbar.
  2. Drag and drop to insert the text box. Enter some generic text (Figure E).
  3. With the text selected, click the Home tab and apply the formatting. I chose a large font size and centered the text.

Figure E

Enter some generic text into the text box.

Create the slides

You now have a basic slide. Decide how many slides you need and duplicate the slide as many times as necessary. For this example, you’ll need four slides. To duplicate a slide, right-click it and choose Duplicate Slide (Figure F). In PowerPoint 2003, use Copy and Paste.

Figure F

Duplicate the slide as many times as necessary.

Enter the text you want to see on each slide. On the first slide, delete the ribbon on the left side. On the final slide, delete the ribbon on the right side, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

All the slides are in place.

At this point, you can delete the placeholder slide–or not. If you don’t, you must accommodate its position because you (probably) won’t want to include it in the show.

Add the transition

Without the transition, the ribbons don’t add much. The transition simulates the motion of one ribbon pulling the next slide into view. To apply the transition, do the following:

  1. In Normal view, select slides 3, 4, and 5 (or slides 2, 3, and 4 if you delete the placeholder slide). You don’t want to apply the transition to the first slide in the quote.
  2. Click the Transitions tab. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Slide Transition from the Slide Show menu.
  3. From the gallery, choose Push. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Push Right and skip step 4.
  4. From the Effect Options dropdown, choose From Right (Figure H).

Figure H

The last step is to specify From Right from the Effect Options list.

That was easy, wasn’t it!

If your presentation still contains the placeholder slide, right-click it and choose Hide Slide.

Play the show

Press [F5] to start the show. As you might expect, PowerPoint displays the first slide shown in Figure I. Click the slide and PowerPoint appears to pull the second slide into place, as shown in Figure J. Of course, it’s difficult to show the actual effect in a still figure. But the combination of the ribbon rectangles and the transition make it appear as though you’re pulling each slide into place using a threaded ribbon.

Figure I

Press [F5] to run the show.

Figure J

The first slide moves to the left and pulls the second slide into view.

Connecting, or not

Not every presentation warrants a transition between slides. However, when a transition supports the message, consider using one. My advice is this: If you can’t make the mental connection, don’t use the special effect.

This contrived example is simple; I chose formats and shapes that contrast well, making the process easy to see. I’m not suggesting the final product is artistically pleasing or ready for prime time. I’ve seen this technique applied in several presentations; I don’t take credit for the original creative idea.

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