How to Use Triggers to Control What Happens Next in PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint triggers give you a lot of power because they let you choose when animations are implemented during the show.

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It is common to click once on a Microsoft PowerPoint slide to start animations that occur in a particular order. But what happens when you want to control the order during the show? When this happens, use PowerPoint triggers. In this article, I will show you how to connect three famous quotes to three arrow shapes. During the slide show, you will control the order in which PowerPoint displays the quotes by clicking on the arrows.

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I’m using Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can use an older version through PowerPoint 2007. For your convenience, you can download the .pptx demo file. This file contains two slides. The first is complete. The second contains the shapes and text boxes so you can follow along using the second slide.

What is a PowerPoint trigger?

A PowerPoint presentation trigger is a small instruction that causes something to happen. You might think of clicking a slide to move to the next as a built-in trigger. By using a trigger, you determine when a specific action or animation occurs. The trigger doesn’t contain the action or animation, it just sets it in motion. It is the referee of the race who shouts “Go!

Perhaps the best thing about triggers is that they let you control when something happens. If you decide to reveal information in a different order than the original plan, you can! Now that you know what a trigger is, let’s move on.

How to Prepare PowerPoint Shapes and Text

Figure A shows some shapes and some text. We keep it simple so as not to distract from the trigger. We won’t spend time inserting the shapes and text, so if you’re working with your own slide, I’ll use the arrows to trigger an animation that reveals its corresponding text.

Figure A

We will use triggers to display text.
We will use triggers to display text.

Since we need to assign each trigger to an element, we will name the arrows. Later, when you connect each arrow to its text, meaningful names will make this process much easier.

Now let’s name the first arrow, the one to the left of the Benjamin Franklin quote:

  1. Select the arrow, then click the Format Shape contextual tab.
  2. In the Arrange group, click the Selection pane to open it.
  3. In the resulting pane, the arrow you selected is highlighted (gray).
  4. Click it once and PowerPoint gives you access to the name of the shape.
  5. Walk in franklin (Figure B) and press Enter.

Figure B

Name an arrow.
Name an arrow.

Repeat the above steps to name the remaining arrows, Seuss and Confucius, accordingly. You don’t have to guess which arrow in the Selection pane corresponds to the quote: just select the arrow and the Selection pane will identify it for you.

You are now ready to add the animations that will expose the quotes when triggered.

How to Add Animations in PowerPoint

The triggers will launch the animations that expose each quote, so we need to apply the animations next. We’ll keep things simple:

  1. Click on Franklin’s quote.
  2. Click on the Animations tab.
  3. In the Animations group gallery, click Clear. If it’s not available, click the More button in the gallery and look for it in the Input section. You can choose another animation if you want. Applying an animation will show a small indicator next to the text box with the number 1.
  4. After setting the Appear animation, click Effect Options and choose From Left from the drop-down list or choose any direction you want. When the animation is triggered, PowerPoint will reveal the text from the left.
  5. With the Franklin quote still selected, double-click Animation Painter in the Advanced Animations group, then click the other two text boxes to apply the same animation to the other two text boxes. Click Animation Painter to turn it off.

Figure C displays the small animation indicators and the selection pane. Currently, the indicators are numbered 1, 2, and 3. This means that if you click on the slide, the animations will show the quotes in that order. We don’t want that, we want a trigger to display each quote, in whatever order we choose. This is where the arrows come in.

Figure C

Add an entrance animation.
Add an entrance animation.

How to Add Animation Triggers in PowerPoint

Instead of clicking in the order of the animation, let’s add triggers to the arrows so that we can click the arrow to expose each quote, in whatever order we choose. To add a trigger to the Franklin quote, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Franklin text box.
  2. In the Advanced Animation group, click Trigger.
  3. From the drop-down list, choose On Click.
  4. The resulting list shows the objects we can use to trigger the entry animation for Franklin’s quote. Remember when we named the arrows? That is why. You can easily identify the right arrow. Choose the Franklin form (Figure D).

Figure D

Connect the Franklin arrow to his quote with a trigger.
Connect the Franklin arrow to his quote with a trigger.
  1. Note that the other two indicators have new numbers because we replaced animation 1 with a trigger. The two remaining text boxes are now 1 and 2.
  2. Repeat the above steps connecting the quotation marks accordingly: Seuss to the arrow named Seuss and Confucius to the arrow named Confucius. At this point, the animations will no longer be numbered.

Believe it or not, you’re done!

How to Run PowerPoint Slideshow

Run the slideshow now and PowerPoint will display the slide and the three arrows, but not the quotation marks. Click on the arrows in the order of your choice to display the citations. Figure E displays the result of a click on the Seuss arrow.

Figure E

Click an arrow to display a quote.
Click an arrow to display a quote.

The value of the trigger is that you control the order of things. You can even let your audience choose the order. When running the demo file, remember that there is a second slide containing the shapes and text boxes.