10 steps to a PowerPoint countdown

Here's a cool attention-grabber: a countdown to kick off your presentation or lead into a big announcement. Follow these easy steps or download our ready-to-use slides.

A quick countdown -- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 -- can add a bit of excitement to the beginning of your presentation or to an announcement at any point in the presentation. Fortunately, it's an easy effect to create. In 10 steps, you can add five slides that seem to act as one as they count down from 5 to 1. I've kept the graphic elements simple, so as not to distract from the technique. Entrance and exit effects and a simple transition work together to build this countdown. There are other ways to achieve the same result, but this method is the simplest. My instructions will apply to PowerPoint 2010, but I'll supply alternative steps for PowerPoint 2007/2003 where applicable.

Note: This article and our sample countdown slides are available as a download.

1: Create the slide

Insert a new blank slide and set the background color, which should be a strong contrasting or complementary color to the number elements and the enclosing circle. I used a black background and a white circle and numbers in this example. Right-click the slide, choose Format Background (Background in PowerPoint 2003), click Fill in the left pane (skip this step in PowerPoint 2003), and choose Black from the Color drop-down, as shown in Figure A. Click Close (Apply in PowerPoint 2003) to return to the slide.

Figure A

This black background will contrast nicely to the white numbers we'll add.

2: Add a circle AutoShape

Next, add a circle AutoShape by clicking the Insert tab and clicking the Shapes drop-down in the Illustrations group. Choose Oval in the Basic Shapes section. (In PowerPoint 2003, click Oval on the Drawing toolbar.) As you draw the circle, hold down the [Shift] key to draw a true circle. Make the circle almost as big as the slide and center it. Then, right-click the circle and choose Format Shape (AutoShape in PowerPoint 2003). In the Fill section, choose No Fill. In the Line section, select Solid Line and choose White from the Color drop-down. In the Line Style section, set the Width property to 5 points. Then, click Close to return to the slide.

3: Add 5

A text box will house the numbers in the countdown. Click the Insert tab and click Text Box in the Text group. (In PowerPoint 2003, choose Text Box from the Insert menu.) Draw the text box inside the circle. Enter a 5 and use the Font group on the Home tab to format the number as Arial, 300 point, and White. (In PowerPoint 2003, the font options are on the Formatting toolbar.) If you use a different font, you may need to adjust the font size. Center the text box in the circle.

4: Set the number's entrance effect

Now you're ready to add the entrance effect. Select the text box and click the Animations tab. Click Add Animation in the Advanced Animation group and choose Fade from the Entrance section. (In PowerPoint 2007, click Custom Animation in the Animations group. Then, in the Custom Animation pane, click Add Effect, choose Entrance, and select Fade. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Custom Animation from the Slide Show menu, click Add Effect, and choose Entrance and Fade.)

In the Timing group, change the Start property to With Previous. (In PowerPoint 2007/2003, click the Start drop-down and choose With Previous.) PowerPoint will display an animation tag with the number 0 next to the text box.

5: Set the number's timing

The next step is to specify how long the number should be displayed. In the Timing group, set the Duration to 01.00. (In PowerPoint 2007/2003, choose Fast from the Speed drop-down.) At this point, your slide should resemble the one in Figure B.

Figure B

PowerPoint displays an animation tag next to the text box.

6: Set the number's exit effect and timing

To set the number's exit effect, select the text box and click the Animations tab. Click Add Animation and choose Fade from the Exit section. (In PowerPoint 2007, click Add Effect in the Custom Animation pane, then choose Exit and Fade. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Custom Animation from the Slide Show menu, click Add Effect, and choose Exit and Fade.)

In the Timing group, change the Start setting from On Click to After Previous and change the Duration setting to 01.00 second. (In PowerPoint 2007/2003, choose After Previous from the Start drop-down and Fast from the Speed drop-down.)

7: Add a transition

To add the transition, click the Transition tab. In the Advance Slide section of the Timing group, uncheck On Mouse Click and select After. Don't change the setting though -- leave it at 00:00:00. (In PowerPoint 2007, you'll find the Advance Slide section at the right end of the Transition To This Slide tab. Select the On Mouse Click and Automatically After check boxes. In PowerPoint 2003, choose Slide Transition from the Slide Show menu. The default speed is Fast; you don't need to change this, but you can.)

8: Make copies of your slide

Click the Slides pane if necessary (it's the default) and select slide 1. Right-click the slide and choose Copy. Then, right-click the blank area and choose Keep Source Formatting from the Paste Special options. Repeat this three more times. You'll have five slides. (In PowerPoint 2007, right-click the first slide in the Slides pane, and choose Duplicate Slide. In PowerPoint 2003, select the first slide and choose Duplicate Slide from the Insert menu.)

9: Change the digits

Now, change the 5 in each of the duplicate slides to the remaining countdown numbers -- 4, 3, 2, and 1. When you finish, you'll have five slides with the numbers 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Slides pane shows your five countdown slides.

10: Run the presentation

To run the countdown, press [F5]. Each slide will transition into the next automatically. The current settings keep a constant flow of fading one number into the next. You might want to adjust the fade timing, making it a little faster or a little slower.