Design Your Next Slideshow Presentation with InDesign

As a marketer with a strong design background, I would often pay closer attention to the graphic quality of a presentation than the presentation itself. Most of the time, these presentations are created using Microsoft PowerPoint and suffer from excessive bullets, oversized headlines, and awful backgrounds. Don’t even get me started on the clichéd built-in clip art. Overall, PowerPoint is an updated version of an old-fashioned slide projector with the combination of built in wizards and templates to aid the user in adding text, graphics, and designs in attempt to enhance the presentation’s appeal. I must admit, Microsoft has created an extremely user friendly piece of design software. However, those ‘helpful’ tools have limited our creative capabilities and have caused page after page of repetitive, often dull graphics.

For years I attempted to construct the perfect, most visually stimulating designed PowerPoint presentation, and failed miserably. I realized after considerable self-criticism that this failure had nothing to do with my design skills, but everything to do with the limited features that Microsoft PowerPoint has to offer. I was simply using the wrong program. I have since switched to Adobe InDesign and have forever bid my farewell to Microsoft PowerPoint.

Why Would I Use InDesign for a Presentation?

Even though several firms use InDesign to create proposals and other multi-page marketing materials, most people would have a hard time imagining that InDesign can also create great presentations. The small group of people that could possibly imagine such a thing might ask “Why would I want to?”

Branding: In the same way that a proposal’s format helps move the presentation to its final stages, the slideshow design leaves a strong impact that visually conveys a powerful and appropriate message, consistent with the firm’s branding.

Design Flexibility: Manipulating the presentation’s layout using InDesign is much simpler than PowerPoint because you have amazing flexibility with type, images, graphs, color, and so on. The same font set with the exact same specs will not look as good in PowerPoint for the software is not capable of reading all the information that is embedded in the typeface.

Compatibility: There are far less compatibility problems if you’re going to be showing the slides on a computer that is not yours. More than once I’ve seen speakers aghast that their carefully crafted PowerPoint slides were somehow mangled, and the fonts changed into garish text. This humiliating experience would have been totally eliminated if they had used a PDF file.

So with that said, if all you want to do is show a series of slides in sequence, with simple transitions, then this is what you should do:

  1. Create the slideshow presentation in InDesign
  2. Export the InDesign file into a PDF
  3. Add page transitions in Adobe Acrobat
  4. Present in full screen mode

1. Design the Slideshow Presentation in InDesign

The first step is to create your slideshow presentation in InDesign.


Create a new document in your preferred PowerPoint dimension and in landscape orientation. A common dimension is 10” wide and 7.5” tall. Then design each page as a slide for your presentation.

2. Export the InDesign file into PDF

The next step is to create a PDF document with the things you want to display in order, page-by-page. Select the following menu choices in InDesign:


3. Add Page Transitions in Adobe Acrobat

If you want to set transitions between the pages, select the following menu choices in Adobe Acrobat:


You have choices for how quickly each transition will take (slow, medium, or fast). You can also set it up so that the pages transition automatically after a set number of seconds, and that the slideshow will only apply to a certain range of pages.

4. Present in Full Screen Mode

Once you’ve got the transitions set to your liking, you just open the PDF and then select:


And voila! You have your well designed slideshow presentation!

But maybe you are concerned that the presenters won’t have Acrobat on their computer. Or a certain design award requires you to submit a PowerPoint. No problem! Export the document into slide images and place each image onto a Powerpoint slide. Keeping true to the 10-20-30 PowerPoint rule, you hopefully don’t have that many slides to place!


Advanced Methods

For those of you who are adept at creating elaborate PowerPoint presentations, InDesign CS5 has the capability to create PDF documents with a variety of interactive features such as playing movies, sounds, or linking to Web pages. Once skilled at it, you can join the revolution to banish PowerPoint all together from the design community!

Author: Nikou Tabaee, CPSM, is the marketing director of Shrader Engineering, an electrical, mechanical, information technology engineering firm in Houston, TX. She also serves as Communications Director for the SMPS Houston Chapter. She can be reached at or This article was first published in the December 2011 Marketer. 

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