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How to Add a Countdown Timer to PowerPoint (2 Ways)

Have you ever wanted to insert a timer in PowerPoint?

People in our Microsoft PowerPoint training often tell us they would love to add a timer to a slide to set a time limit for answering a question… or to let participants know how long a break will be but there just doesn’t seem to be a way to do it.

Look no further! This article describes two ways to add a countdown timer to PowerPoint.

Feel free to forward a link for this article to all of your colleagues – because once they see your countdown timers, they’re going to want to know how you did it!

Excited about adding a countdown timer to PowerPoint
Excited about adding a countdown timer to PowerPoint

Method #1: Add a Countdown Timer in PowerPoint with SmartArt

The first way to create a countdown timer is to make it.

This method is useful if you need a timer for short durations – like setting a time limit on a question you’ve posed during your presentation.

I like to use PowerPoint’s SmartArt graphics and custom animation effects to do this. Don’t worry – there are a lot of steps in this process but it’s not difficult. Just complete one step at a time and you’ll get there!

Here is what you do.

  1. Select a slide in your presentation where you’d like your countdown timer to appear (or add a new one).
  2. Click the SmartArt button in the Insert > Illustrations group.
  3. Select Basic Chevron Process from the Process category in the Choose a SmartArt Graphic dialog box then click OK.
Choose a SmartArt Graphic
Choose Basic Chevron Process
  1. Enter numbers next to each bullet in the Text Pane for the graphic in descending order, as shown below then close it.
Enter numbers in the Text Pane
Enter numbers in the Text Pane
  1. Click Convert in the SmartArt Design > Reset group then select Convert to Shapes and reposition the graphic, if required.
    The SmartArt graphic is converted to individual shapes.
  2. Click the Group button in the Shape Format > Arrange group then select Ungroup from the available options.
  3. While all of the shapes are all still selected, click Disappear from the Animation gallery on the Animations tab then select With Previous from the Start: drop-down menu in the Timing group.
    All of the shapes will initially be hidden.
Disappear in the Animation gallery
  1. Click the slide background to deselect the graphic. Click Animation Pane, if you’d like to see additional information as you layer animation effects in your presentation.
  2. Select the number 5 chevron, click Add Animation in the Animation > Advanced Animations group, then select Fade in the Entrance section of the Animation gallery.
  3. Select the number 4 chevron and hold Shift as you click chevron 3, 2, and 1.
    Chevrons 1 through 4 are selected.
  4. Click Add Animation in the Animation > Advanced Animations group, then select Fade in the Entrance section of the Animation gallery.
  5. Select After Previous from the Start: drop-down menu and configure a delay of 1 second in the Timing group.
Timing Group
Timing Group

View the Countdown Timer in PowerPoint

Click the Slide Show button in PowerPoint’s status bar to begin the presentation from the current slide (or press F5). Tap the Spacebar to start the countdown timer in your PowerPoint presentation.

Method #2: Insert a Timer with One of PowerPoint’s Add Ins

If you want a countdown timer for tracking longer durations, like a 15 minute coffee break, your best bet might be to insert a timer using one of the many add ins available for PowerPoint.

Here is how you add a timer to your PowerPoint presentation using one of the available add ins from the Office Store.

  1. Select a slide in your presentation where you’d like your countdown timer to appear (or add a new one).
  2. Click Get Add-ins in the Insert > Add-ins group.
    The Office Add-ins dialog box appears.
  3. Type timer in the search box and press Enter.
  4. Click on a timer for more information about the add-in or click Add.
  5. Read the license terms and privacy policy then click Continue.
    The add-in is inserted into your current PowerPoint slide.

The add-in displayed below is called Coffee Break by Flow Simulation. It comes with a number of background images and you can set any duration you’d like in the floating toolbar at the bottom of the image.

Coffee Time Add-in
Coffee Time add-in by Flow Simulation

A Quick Word About Add Ins

Add ins are supplemental programs that add features or capabilities to PowerPoint. They’re not made by Microsoft and Microsoft doesn’t guarantee their performance or capabilities.

Always test add-ins thoroughly before using them in your presentations.

Will You Add a Timer to Your PowerPoint Presentation?

A countdown time can greatly enhance your presentation. Depending on your needs, you may decide to insert a timer you’ve made or you can use one of the many add ins available in the Office store.

If you’ve found this topic useful, you might be interested in learning how to create a timeline in PowerPoint with SmartArt.

By Michael Belfry

Working as a full-time training consultant, Michael provides Microsoft Office courses to government and private sector clients across Canada.