Rethinking how to write a Presentation

I’ve been pushed into holding more presentations at work, and I’ve sort of been fumbling my way along, writing 2-3 talks a year, and I’m at the stage where my process is the main productivity problem.
I just find myself not wanting to write, because the software sucks!

I basically want to work like this:

  1. Write bulletpoints outliner-style with sub-points
  2. Find graphics, ideas for links/references and all sorts of non-textual stuff that can go in the different bulletpoints
  3. Write the actual text I’m going to say
  4. Iterate on the whole talk till I’m happy

The problem is every single one of these steps requires a complete shift in software:

Bulletpoints are best written in OmniOutliner or MindNode. Finding graphics and stuff is pretty easy, I just make sub-points for them.
Writing the actual text is FAR easier in Obsidian, though obviously that’s just my preference.
However, to see how it looks in practice, I then have to put it into Powerpoint, since I have to end up in Powerpoint at some point due to a corporate template.

But then I get to the iterate point, and I find that I now usually do that in Powerpoint, which is where productivity completely breaks down, because I end up messing around with image placements, font choices, slide templates and all that jazz…

Not to mention that at this point, I should really be going back to the bulletpoints and redo them, since I now know what they actually ended up meaning in the context of the entire presentation!

IA Presenter actually looks like a good solution for the first part of the process, and if I am able to output it to the work template, that would be great, but there’s no way to do that yet.

Is there some other tool out there? Or is there a way to make IA Presenter work (better)?

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if you do not mind using Google service, give it a try on their Google Slides

I believe you can export the finished slide deck to common formats such as MS PowerPoint or Apple Keynote

Nah, that has the same problem.

I use two applications - a word processor for planning, and a presentation application for the content. Personally that is Obsidian and PowerPoint.

In a word processor (I use Obsidian)

  1. Write out the key themes, and then chop them up into slides (slide 1 will be about x, slide 2 will be about y, etc.) - one key point per slide is my metric.
  2. Write out in prose what I want to actually say (I am not a confident presenter, so I find this step really helpful but more confident people may find this overkill)
  3. Reduce my prose into bullet points
  4. Reduce my bullet points into a single point per slide (this often becomes the headline)
  5. To your point - I do not think about visuals when in this part.

In a presentation application (I use PowerPoint)

  1. Create a framework of slides based on point 4 above
  2. Write the headlines
  3. Build the slides (my company has a nice slide library so this step is pretty easy for me, but is challenging if your starting with a completely blank slide) - keep in simple - 1 text box, one graphic, 1 headline and then evolve from there.

Hope this is useful!

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+1 for keeping it simple.

I worked for a major corporation in the 90’s and the number one mistake presenter’s made was putting too much information on their slides. The rule when presenting to our CEO was: No more than 7 lines per slide, and no more than 7 words per line.


My best advice:

  • Keep the slides simple. Supplement what you say, don’t put words you say on the slides. Use the slides simply to focus their eyes and perhaps part of their brain on your presentation. Otherwise their brain will wander.
  • If using PowerPoint, use PowerPoint features to setup a layout with fonts and margins for the elements on the page. AVOID (don’t do!) applying any special fonts or margins. Focus on content. Changing fonts all the time can confuse readers and wastes your time
  • Assume nobody reading your slides. Assume they are listening to you. Focus on what you say.
  • Write phrases not sentences on slides
  • if you must put full text and content in slides for printing, format portrait so that readers don’t have to read long sentences in landscape.

Emulate Steve Jobs’s slides best you can get away with.


Adding to @rms’s excellent points:

  • assume the projector’s bulb will be burnt out.

That is, know the material so well that you could do the presentation without slides.

Also, the outline view of PowerPoint sounds like it would be helpful to you. While it might not be your ideal outlining application, the overhead of moving from, say, omnioutliner to PowerPoint, etc. is probably greater than just doing it all in PowerPoint.



I was once told “A Power Point slide serves the same purpose as the toy a photographer waves when photographing a child.” It holds your audience’s attention while you present your information.


@Shruggie thanks for bringing iA Presenter to my attention. That looks like something worth exploring.

I’ve signed up for the beta, but might anyone in this forum have an invite?

As a person who sits through many corporate presentations, there is nothing more deadly than a slide deck of mostly bullet points. Don’t do that! The slides should be making visual points to complement the words you are saying out loud.


iA Presenter sounds like exactly what you’re looking for. I don’t know of anything else that’s going to do better working through this iterative cycle you’ve outlined.

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Is your corporate PPT look something that can be imitated in iA? Here’s their theming guide. That wouldn’t be a hard job for most freelance developers or an internal developer at your company, if they’re willing to support you.

FWIW - I find PowerPoint to be a solid tool for almost the entire workflow. For rough pre-planning and visual thinking, I mostly start in MindNode. Here I can list the main points, arrange them in a logical order and add lots of branches that expand on the main topics.

Of course, it helps to have a good slide template in advance, so you don’t need to fret about color palettes, typefaces and other design elements as you sit down to create the presentation. However, for me it helps to see my content directly on the final slides. This way I can easily judge if I need to break a slide into two and how the image elements work.

One stupid thing with Office is its total inability to properly use Copy/Paste. It always wants to bring in the copied typeface, color, language and every other attribute it can grab. This ends up making a mess, and even if PP can change it back, it takes time. Paste with “Keep text only” usually works better.

I sometimes use the “animations pane”, but only for very subtle effects like “appear” - so I can introduce one thing at a time and avoid the audience reading ahead too far. As noted above, PowerPoint does have an outliner, but I seldom use that. The slide sorter view is great though, as it is another place where you can easily validate or adjust the flow of your story.

The “Speaker Notes” section is something I always use. Here I put my base script for each slide and I can basically read off it like a teleprompter using “Presenter view”. Of course, you can also just put keywords or bullets here, based on your preference when presenting.

Making and giving a compelling presentation is hard work, but very rewarding when you nail it. I absolutely agree with all others about keeping slide content low and speak more about the topics.


Deckset may also be worth a look while you’re waiting to access the iA Presenter beta. It’s an established app that iA Presenter would appear to be emulating (though I haven’t tried iA P)


I took two courses in college (many years ago) that really helped me with making presentations, public speaking and cinematography. The public speaking is obvious but the cinematography may not be. In almost any presentation you’re trying to tell a story, just like a movie. I think about the story I want to tell and how to make it interesting. I often sketch out a storyboard match my visuals to the story. I then use other tools to build the presentation.

I generally agree. I happen to be in a role at a volunteer org right now though where they basically rely on sharing slide decks to communicate presentation content. So that’s got me into the bad habit of over-explaining on slides not because I need it, but because it’s assumed the slides will serve as notes.



+1 for Deckset. Really helps me focus on the content instead of bells and whistles

The most well received presentation I ever did for senior leadership was 1 hours talking with 5 slides. Each slide was a different meme that related direct to the topic for the 12 minutes.

The majority of my presentations are written in org-mode. It’s used very, very similar to the iA Presenter demo. Outline is written, presentation is written, select portion of presentation to export to slides.

Presenter looks so good I’ll probably try that once it’s released.

Have you considered Curio? It offers the ability to bring together all the steps that you have outlined in one application.

Otherwise, you are not alone in your struggles with how to design a good oral presentation. My guidelines would be

  • Strive on any one slide and from slide to slide to keep the core content from being lost by sloppy, inconsistent, cluttered, excessive, abusive, flashy, or glaring choices in formatting or style.
  • Learn to put the absolute bare minimum of words on slides and instead speak to pictures, illustrations, charts, and graphs that you provide in place.
  • Learn how to put just the right amount of information on each slide so as not to bore but also not to saturate the audience.
  • Finally, we read naturally from left to right and from top to bottom. When both images and words appear in a frame, our eyes go naturally first to the images and then to the words. Use this natural order to make the audience follow your slides as naturally as they would read them by themselves.


Wow, so many great answers!

Thanks everyone!

I do have access to Ia Presenter, and I am trying it out – indeed, that’s probably what started the seed of the idea for this thread.
The problem is once I’m in Powerpoint I am stuck there.
I might try not moving to Powerpoint until I’ve iterated a lot more, at least.

As for the template - it’s a very good template. It’s not just the corporate style, but it actually makes the layout choices for you so I just have to fill in the text and then fix all the little bugs where the fonts get overwritten by the pasting, the image doesn’t quite fit and so on.

I’ll have a look at Deckset!

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