Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!

  • Nearly 200 Free Applications and hundreds of resources to help you get the most out of them!
  • Tools for interactive collaboration, gamification, OER, mobile learning, & so much more!
  • YOURS FREE just for signing up for blog posts!

Sign Up Now


10 Pretty Awesome Things You Can do With PowerPoint

by Kelly Walsh on September 14, 2014


When Used With Tact, These Techniques can Help to Make Your Presentations Fun and Engaging

It’d easy to bash PowerPoint, especially given the poor uses we see all too often … plain boring slides with no personality, or worse yet … slides that are inundated with text, delivered by monotone lecturers lacking enthusiasm. But this much maligned yet widely used application is capable of so much more! Just give PowerPoint a chance.

Those who are experienced with some of these functions may find them a bit mundane, but I still remember how cool it was to find and use them for the first time. While many may be aware of some of these techniques, I think most readers will find something fun and new here.


Following are 10 pretty cool things you can do with the popular presentation tool. Some are really easy, others will take more time and effort to get familiar with. Just be sure not to go overboard with these – use them sparingly for emphasis and to keep it interesting, not to create a kaleidoscope of visual chaos.

1. Animations

PowerPoint’s Animation capabilities are an easy way to bring some fun and pizzazz to your slides, with just a few clicks. Just click on some content on a slide that you want try an Animation with, then click on the Animations menu. You will see options like “Appear”, “Fade” “Fly In”, etc. Click one to see what it will look like when applied to the content you’ve selected! Note that it’s pretty easy to tweak how the animation works with the controls on the right of the Animation window – Effect Options, Trigger (does it start when you click, immediately after another animation, etc.?), Duration, Delay, etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

Again, you’ll want to exercise some restraint here (before your audience puts you in restraints!). It’s easy to get carried away with these and create a dizzying array of flashing, whirling content … please don’t.

Here is a more detailed overview of using PowerPoint Animations.

2. Motion Paths

One of the most flexible Animations available in PowerPoint is the Motion Path. Objects can move across the screen and you can adjust the path they follow as they do so. If you click the ‘Add Animations’ button from within the Animations menu, this will bring up a menu of the various Entrance, Exit, Emphasis, etc., Animations, including Motion Paths (you may have to scroll down to see these, or select ‘More Motion Paths’). The basic Motion Paths provided include Lines, Arcs, Turns, Shapes, Loops, and a Custom Path (this is the one that lets you define the path). If you select ‘More Motion Paths’, you’ll see a whole bunch of pre-configured paths, like “4 Point Star” and ‘Tear Drop”.

Give it a try (and see No. 4 below for a fun example of Motion Paths in action)!

3. Text and Image Emphasis

One set of Animations are for “Emphasis”. When you click the Add Animation button on the Animations menu, you see these. As long as you’ve selected an object before you click the menu options, you’ll be able to hover over Emphasis options like Teeter, Wave, Grow/Shrink, etc., to see how they will look when applied. Remember, you can tweak things about the Animations, so you may be able to get it to act rather differently and achieve a desired effect.

4. Follow the Bouncing Ball

Okay, so if you’re of a certain age, the phrase “follow the bouncing ball” brings to mind images of a small white cartoon ball bouncing merrily along above a scrolling line of song lyrics at the bottom of the screen while some scene plays out above them. This is a fun, nostalgic effect. It uses the Motion Path effect to achieve the end result.

In the music video below, you’ll see how I used this technique along with quite a few of the other Animation tools to create a fun music video for my song, Hurtin’ Up My Heart. Here’s the instructions I found online that showed me how to do this.

5. Narrate over Slides

This is also probably easier than you thought! There are a couple of ways to tackle this. They’re both discussed in the video below.

6. Use PowerPoint as a Blank Template for Building Video Content

By combining Animations and other PowerPoint techniques and functions with a Screencasting tool, it’s pretty easy to create video content that looks professional. By using a blank background, or a picture as your background, viewers will have no idea you even used PowerPoint. I used this technique to make parts of the music video in #4 above.

7. Embed a YouTube Video in your PowerPoint Presentation

Okay, so I confess, I’d never tried this until I wrote this article. Turns out it’s a piece of cake! Find the video you want to embed, click the Share link and then the Embed link and copy the Embed code. Then, back in PowerPoint, just click the Insert Menu and choose Video, then select Video from Website and paste in the embed code for any YouTube video. Done! It’s easy – try it.

8. Create an Animated GIF from a PowerPoint Slide

You can save a PowerPoint slide as a GIF and then use a program like GIMP to create your own animated GIF!  This Wikipedia entry provides further details (there are other GIF animator programs out there as well).

9. Find and Use Your own Unique Templates

I love to seek inspiration when starting a new slide deck or animation by seeking out a new template. There are lots of good free ones available on the Web (there are also a lot of purveyors of templates for a fee, but I have not used any of them). Here’s over 44,000 free presentation templates from!

10. Embed a Functioning Excel Worksheet into a Presentation

Did you know you can have a totally functional Excel Worksheet embedded in a PowerPoint slide? This is super easy, just a couple of clicks. Click the Insert Menu, then choose Object from the menu ribbon. Then either click on Excel Worksheet under ‘Create new’ or click ‘Create from File’ and browse out to an Excel worksheet and select it. Realize that a large format worksheet isn’t going to work well here, but if you create or insert a small functional worksheet, it should be easy to navigate and use.

Of course, these aren’t the only cool things you can do with PowerPoint. We welcome your ideas and input. Tell us about your favorite creative  things to do using PowerPoint!



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

Print This Post Print This Post

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

setbeat February 22, 2017 at 8:39 am

I didn’t know that we can do these awesome things on powerpoint. I tried to add music track from setbeat but could not do that.

syed maaz October 13, 2016 at 7:34 am

its really very helpfull!!!! and that recording is good !!! i learned new something today

powerpoint presentations February 14, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Good info. Lucky me I ran across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
I’ve book marked it for later!

Kelly Walsh January 10, 2016 at 11:46 am

Thanks Ben and Robert for the tips!

Ben January 10, 2016 at 9:17 am

How about…

11. Audience Participation

Use an audience feedback or polling tool such as to find out what your audience think and to keep them from playing with their phones.

Robert October 22, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Great article summarizing everything pretty well. You could also mention some websites where you can get free website templates – like or

Paulette Dodson February 3, 2015 at 1:17 am

Great tips :)

Marija Petreska December 31, 2014 at 8:24 am

How about creating infographics using PowerPoint shapes and colours only. Peek into our world and discover a unique way to use PowerPoint All the clip art and digital paper was hand made in PowerPoint and every infographic has a how to page with step by step instructions how each element was made

Ellen Finkelstein September 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Glad you liked that bouncing ball animation!

Dave Pearson September 14, 2014 at 8:40 pm

In many ways, PowerPoint was my introduction into applying “technology” in the classroom. Sadly, like many of us “older” teachers, PowerPoint was just a new way to do the same thing… present information to our students through the outdated “lecturing/direct instruction” methodology. Consequently, PowerPoint was just another tool in my belt that reinforced that pedagogy. I believe PowerPoint can, however, be a very useful and powerful tool in the 21st century learning model. It’s apparent “bad rep” has been perpetuated, I believe, because it has been used by many of us to continue the antiquated “lecture” pedagogy that doesn’t address 21st century learning styles and needs. Thank you for “re-inspiring” this useful tool. In particular, your article has inspired me to go back and “embed” rather than hyperlink my videos, create more dynamic animations (including GIFs), narrate over some of my slide presentations, and teach students how to use PowerPoint as a template for building video content. I, like many teachers, have a great deal of time and effort invested in PowerPoint presentations and would like to update rather than abandoning and starting from scratch. I feel like I can go back and give many of my presentations a “face lift” as well as ‘tweaking’ them into a 21st century partnership model. Perhaps you could continue this “reviving” of Power Point by addressing ways to use PowerPoint in a 21st Century “flipped classroom” model. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

Emmanuel September 14, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Thanks. Not too new but a refreshing recap. The last three are particularly helpful!

Leave a Comment

{ 32 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: