Many PowerPoint-based videos consist of nothing more than narration, over slide after slide of bullet point after bullet point. Not terribly engaging, or effective as a teaching tool. How can you fix this situation?

You can liven up your bullet points using a convenient, powerful, yet highly underused feature in PowerPoint, called SmartArt. SmartArt can take a typical, bullet-point-riddled slide and transform it into a visually engaging, and instructive diagram.

Creating SmartArt

You can add SmartArt to your PowerPoint slide in two ways. You can select a list of bullet points, then go up to the top ribbon, and under the Paragraph section, select Convert to SmartArt. Or, you can insert a SmartArt graphic directly onto your slide by selecting the Insert tab on the top ribbon. You’ll find SmartArt in the Illustrations section.

When you select SmartArt, you’ll be presented with a wide selection of diagrams to choose from. The diagrams are divided into categories:

  • List – displays grouped, related, or non sequential information
  • Process – shows sequential steps or subgroups
  • Cycle – displays a continuing sequence of stages or relationships to a central idea
  • Hierarchy – displays groups of information and personnel reporting relationships
  • Relationship – shows comparisons, or information that is somehow interrelated
  • Matrix – shows relationships of components to a whole
  • Pyramid – displays proportional, interconnected, or hierarchical relationships

The trick is to find the SmartArt diagram that best fits your content.

Customizing SmartArt

Once you select the appropriate diagram, your bullet points (or blank slide) will be transformed into a SmartArt graphic, ready to be customized. Using the SmartArt Tools menu on the top ribbon, you can:

  • Use SmartArt Styles to change the overall look and feel of your diagram using several presets
  • Change the color of the graphic by selecting a color scheme under the Change Colors dropdown
  • Change the layout to another layout from the SmartArt library
  • Add additional text and shapes using tools in the Create Graphic section
  • Modify individual shapes within the diagram using tools under the Format tab

Customization options are quite extensive.

Animating SmartArt

Another feature of SmartArt makes it a tremendous tool for video creation: it’s animatable. And it’s very easy. Just select your graphic, and select the Animations tab on the top ribbon. Select an animation and it’s instantly applied to your SmartArt Graphic.

You can change how the graphic animates by selecting an option under the Effect Options dropdown. You can animate the entire graphic at once, or individual parts, one-by-one. Animating elements one-by-one allows you to control the pace of your presentation, so your viewer isn’t overloaded with information.

SmartArt allows you to turn a boring, bullet-point-riddled slide into a compelling, and memorable motion graphic for your PowerPoint videos.

Michael Kinney

Michael is an award-winning media creator with 30 years of professional video production experience. He's written, produced, directed, hosted, recorded, and edited a variety of media projects - from TV documentaries to interactive learning.

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  • I had to switch to Keynote because I can’t publish on a Mac from PowerPoint. But there are similarities. Is there a point when there’s too much smart art and what about using different styles? Would you use the same color scheme throughout? Or the same style like always use squares and not switch to circles or zigzags?
    Thanks Michael.

    • Hi Crystal,

      When it comes to creating presentations, even video presentations, it’s a good idea to keep things simple and to follow basic graphic design principles. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the choice in today’s tools, but you must always keep your message top of mind. You don’t want to distract from it. MK

  • Hi Micheal,
    I just got some great values will like to learn more how to use PowerPoint, just starting my public speaking career bilingual English and French audiences, will also start my YouTube channel , don’t have a blog yet, working on it