Need a timer for your lesson – try a video timer!

Timers are great and there are a lot of apps out there available for smartphones and tablets and most phones have timers built into them. However, if you are giving a presentation and you want to display a timer on a slide, what can you do?

iPhone Timer Image
Screenshot of the timer available on the iPhone

 You could connect a smartphone timer to a projection screen by using a display adapter, but you couldn’t incorporate it into a presentation. You would have to create your own timers for a presentation or install a flash image. Luckily, I have already produced some templates.

A while back, ELT-cation asked me about PowerPoint timers for a presentation event, so I produced some 20 Second Timers and wrote a page about how to create PowerPoint timers.

Since then I have noticed that there have been several search terms that focus on PowerPoint timers. They vary from questions about how to add a countdown timer in PowerPoint, to setting a countdown timer for a specific time and how to make a timer in PowerPoint.

My previous post covered some of the basic principles, but I want to write a second installment that deals with longer timers.

I want to introduce you to video timers.

Video Timers
Example of a video timer inserted into the corner of a presentation – PowerPoint 2013

Video timers have a number of advantages. They can be inserted into any presentation software (as long as you can insert video files), they can be formatted and re-sized, and your presentation will still be visible. This is especially useful if you are displaying activity instructions.

The disadvantage of video timers is that they will only play on one slide and not throughout the duration of the presentation.

How do you use timers in the classroom?

I use timers in a variety of activities.

I’ve used them for memory exercises. I give the students X amount of time to remember the information on the screen. What the students have to remember varies. It may be pictures, words or sentences. After the timer finishes the screen is turned off and the students have to work together to remember the information.

I’ve used them in brainstorming activities and writing challenges. Giving the students a theme or topic and asking them to write down as many associated words or phrases that they can think of within a time limit.

I’ve used them for speaking challenges. Trying to encourage students by gradually increasing their speaking time. This can be quite useful for students who are preparing for speaking tests.

I’ve used them to prevent activity stages from overrunning, especially stages that are only meant to be preparation for the production phase. A time limit can focus students and avoid these early stages from being drawn out.

If you want to use timers in your classroom presentations, click here if you want to skip ahead to download the timers.

Alternatively, check the table of contents and jump to any section that interests you. I have tried to answer as many questions about timers as I can in this post.

How to add a countdown timer in PowerPoint? 
Refer to this section if you want to learn how to insert video timers into a presentation and how to format them.
How to set a countdown timer for a specific time? 
Refer to this section if you want to learn how to trim the video to adjust the timer's length.
How to make a timer in PowerPoint?
Refer to this section if you want to learn how to make a timer in PowerPoint and how to export it to video.

How to add a countdown timer in PowerPoint?

Download the timers below. They range from 20 seconds to 20 minutes.

To download a file, click on share and select download

20 Seconds

30 Seconds

45 Seconds

1 Minute

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

20 Minutes

All these timers are free to download and use in your presentations.
**The longer timers may be a second or two out.

This video tutorial looks at how to add a video timer to a PowerPoint presentation, the different ways you can format the video, and the playback options.

The video tutorial is 6:43 minutes long. I have listed the contents of the video by time frame, so that you can quickly return to the sections that interest you.

Video Contents
00:05 - 00:40 Insert a Video Timer
00:41 - 01:09 Change the Color
01:10 - 01:39 Change the Shape
01:40 - 02:05 Adding a Frame
02:06 - 02:35 3D Effects
02:36 - 03:29 Trimming the Video
03:30 - 04:19 Adding Bookmarks
04:20 - 04:44 Full Screen Option
04:45 - 05:26 Looping the Video
05:27 - 05:57 Rewinding the Timer
05:58 - 06:39 Adding Animations

Next Section: How to set a countdown timer for a specific time?


How to set a countdown timer for a specific time?

It is easy to set a timer app to a specific time. You just select the time and press start. How can you do that if the timer is a video file?

This is covered in the video tutorial above - Refer to 02:36 - 03:29 Trimming the Video.

If you need a 1 minute 30 second timer, you need to download the 2 minute timer video. Insert the video into your presentation and open the video trimming dialog.

Trimming the Video
Screenshot of the video trimming dialog – PowerPoint 2013

Move the green slider to 01:30 to adjust the start time and click OK. When you click on the timer during the presentation, it will now start at the new time.

If you need a timer longer than 15 minutes, you will need to export one of the longer timers to video.

Note: The timers that range from 20 seconds to 15 minutes are accurate but the larger timers (20-minute to 60-minute timers) have a slight error margin of 1 or 2 seconds when they are exported to video.

Click here to learn how to export to video.

Next Section: How to make a timer in PowerPoint?


How to make a timer in PowerPoint?

Creating the Timer

Making a timer from scratch in PowerPoint isn’t difficult but it does require a lot of objects, a lot of animations and having a clear idea about the order of the animations.

How to make a PowerPoint Timer
Screenshot of the 5 minute PowerPoint timer – PowerPoint 2013

The screenshot above gives an idea about how to approach making a timer in PowerPoint.

On the left there are six slides. The first slide is the title slide and each of the next five slides represents 1 minute.

On the right-hand side you can see a list of animations. Each second, one number disappears and another number appears and it appears as if there is a countdown.

Click here for a brief video tutorial that shows a numerical countdown timer being created.

Exporting the Timer to Video

Once you have created a timer, you may want to export it to video so that it is easy to insert into other presentations and compatible with other presentation software.

In PowerPoint, go to file and click on export, this will take you to the export menu where you can choose the format for your conversion. Select video and video conversion options will be display.

Export to Video
Screenshot of the timer available on the iPhone

The first drop down list lets you select the quality and size of your video. This ranges from videos suitable for your computer and a HD monitor (the largest file size), to video suitable for the Internet and DVD or videos suitable for Portable Media Devices (the smallest file size).

The second drop down list lets your choose whether or not to use the recorded timings and narrations. This isn’t important for these timers as all the timings and transitions have been set.

Recording timings

If you choose to export other PowerPoints to video, go to the slideshow ribbon and select the icon that looks like a stopwatch with a red recording dot.

This will run a presentation and remember the time that you spend on each slide. When you export the presentation to video, it will remember these timings.

Underneath the second drop down list there is a number. This is the number of seconds each slide will be displayed if no timings have been recorded.

Finally, click on the create video icon to export your presentation to video.

It was this feature that let me produce these video timers.


Leave a comment below if you have any more questions about using timers in presentations.

Alternatively you can send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading and take care!

8 thoughts on “Need a timer for your lesson – try a video timer!

  1. This is an amazing information been searching the web trying to figure out how to insert an already prepared timer into my preaentation but its been difficult. My question is how can i set the timer to run down for about a month…the event is in october and i wnt to create a timer that counts down from today that way i can be flashing it as a reminder to my family?
    Will be grateful for your help.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post! You stated, “The disadvantage of video timers is that they will only play on one slide and not throughout the duration of the presentation.” Is there a way to embed a continuously running timer throughout the entire presentation? I am trying to somehow insert a timer on slide one which starts at 30 minutes, and have it visible on each slide in the deck giving the presenter and the audience a time-cap. Is this a pipe dream?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ryan, something like that would require VBA coding, an add-on or external app. It’s possible to have animated timers, but each slide would have to be a set time length. Regards, T


  3. Any chance I could get your PowerPoint for the longer timers? I would like to add automated sound effects at certain points in the count down, and don’t know how to do that without adding it into the original animation pane. Great video objects!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This timer is super helpful. Is there a way to add a sound? A horn or buzzer at the end? I am using it to time a game in class and I want the students to know when to stop without me watching the screen.


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