Tips & Tricks: Create Countdown Timers & GIFs in PowerPoint

If you’re anything like me, you’ve both created and sat through long presentations supported by that trusty piece of software: Microsoft PowerPoint. Furthermore, you have probably also sat through presentations where the speaker has no sense at all of how long they’ve been speaking for and how far ‘behind’ they are getting through their slides.

I’m a firm believer that one of the real skills of successful presenters is sticking to an agreed time allocation, respecting both the audience’s time and any subsequent presenters who might be nervously thinking ‘when will this guy finish, so there’s still time for me to do my presentation?’ Pondering this, I’ve come up with a couple of great hacks for PowerPoint that you should consider for your next presentations.

Add Visual Countdown Timer To PowerPoint Slides

As you can see in the above GIF, the PowerPoint Side has two visual cues – a timer progress bar across the top of the slide and a countdown ‘clock’ at the bottom right. Both of these were easily achieved using simple animation that I got the idea from on this post. The problem I encountered was that the ribbon only shows a maximum of 59 seconds for an animation to occur. Whilst encouraging people to keep to 1 minute per slide might be a good thing in many contexts, the reality is this would be too short.

Fortunately, I had recently attended a work presentation from Howard Gold from Three Cat Presentations and I pinged him asking if he knew any work arounds. The trick, it turns out, is to not use the ribbon for animation settings, but to instead drill down:

  • Add the rectangle across the top of your slide in the colour of your choosing (red in my instance)
  • Add the wipe animation (from left) under the effect options
  • Open the “animation pane” (this was the key I was missing)
  • Find the object in the Animation Pane that you’re animating and then from the drop down arrow to the right, choose “Effect Options”
  • Select the “Timing” tab that opens and then you have the “Duration” that you can set any value you wish. For example, if you wanted the slide indicator to show for 5mins then you’d choose 300 seconds:

Problem solved (albeit, requiring delving into sub menus of PowerPoint! Howard also offered a great suggestion for the second timer visualisation:

Another nice way to do it is to create 2 circles the same size (like a clock face) and place them on top of each other. Make them different colors. Set the animation on the top circle to Wheel and then choose your time preference. This will create a clock like effect

If you’re wanting to give this a go, then I’ve uploaded my PPTX file that you can get a copy of and tweak the settings here:

Remember, the outcome should look something like this:

Creating GIF Quickly in PowerPoint

When you write a lot of blogs, animated GIF can often be your friend. Of course, you can create a YouTube Video and embed, but often a short, animated image is a quicker way to get the point across – to wit, the GIF above showing my PowerPoint visualisation. I’ve occasionally used some of the free, online GIF makers on the web, but they typically brand your image with their watermark – something I generally prefer to avoid if I can.

I was pleased, therefore, when I came across this Office Insider article showing that since late 2019 the ability to export slides as GIF inside PowerPoint could achieve what I wanted! There is also the official Office Support article to assist, and I gave this ago to create the above and it worked seamlessly.

Often, however, you’re wanting a GIF of a video media file and this can be quite a different thing altogether to make these quickly and compress to a file size that is acceptable for load times. I tested this with a short video I made of a hike to Foggy Peak I completed recently and I will share the results with you below. For reference, the original video was 13 seconds long (so I ‘speed it up slightly’ and was only 11.8MB in size.

I created the same video three times, compressing it to 10 seconds in length and using the small / medium / large file size compressions:

Small GIF – 9.8MB
Medium GIF – 37.7MB
Large GIF – 134MB

WordPress did not like embedding an image of 134MB seemingly, so you’ll have to be content with the two above!

For better or worse, I use PowerPoint just about every day and blog often once a week on average, so I’m glad I know these two tips to help with timely presentations and easy media creation. Trust it was useful for you too!

I am always keen to discuss what I've written and hear your ideas so leave a reply here...