Start-Up Watch COD: Prezi makes engaging presentations that go zoooom

Posted by Jim Nichols on May 2nd, 2011 at 12:01 am

People that know me know that I make an insane number of presentations. Like 2-10 a week. Lemme tell you, I know my .pptx better than anyone. I’m not going to claim that the PowerPoint developers call me for advice, but if I ever see a 425 area code on my caller ID, I’ll know who it’s from.

But I’m not here today to talk about PowerPoint. Rather, I want to tell you about Prezi, a remarkably nonlinear presentation tool that actually makes information exciting and delightfully entangling for audiences.

The idea behind Prezi is to make your content more engaging, and give it a more natural flow, by changing the basic foundation of a presentation from a series of separate slides into a virtual canvas that works like a white board. Prezi lets you glide from region to region of your virtual whiteboard, enabling you to deliver an animated experience that really is more interesting than a whole mess o’ slides.

I think of Prezi as that whiteboard plus a camera that allows you to move the field of vision from place to place. But it’s more than that. You can zoom in and out of content, or create a nonlinear flow that groups thoughts, ideas, and images in a more natural and viewer friendly way.

Video 411 below:

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There are certainly plenty of times when nonlinear might work better for a preso. Imagine trying to talk about eight aspects of something. In a slide format, you’d probably have a list of eight things, and then tick them off one by one, returning over and over again to the same slide, maybe with a highlight box around the one you are going to move on to discuss. With Prezi, you could arrange all that in a circle. Drift from place to place by zooming in and out, so that the viewer gets the sense of the totality as much as the eight distinct ideas.

In addition to providing good in person presentations, you can also create presentations for online use. It’s as easy as cutting and pasting an embed code. This is an environment that, in my view, really benefits from the nonlinear structure to hold an audience and enhance their viewing experience.

Prezi also says that its technology can make a presenter feel more confident. I can see how that is true in that just as the audience may find a linear progression a bit cumbersome to follow, so too can the person leading the meeting.

 If THIS presenter is any indication, Prezi’s ability to imbue relaxed confidence is pretty remarkable.  ;-)

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Oh, hey, I am not busting the guy’s chops for being VEEERY relaxed. In fact, I envy that.

Mastering the basics of Prezi doesn’t take long. Personally I didn’t find it any more challenging than those first few minutes with PowerPoint or Word, though the flowing nature of it does take a bit of adjustment. The adjustment comes in mindset. It’s easy to get carried away with the bells and whistles of Prezi and forget that its purpose is to help you communicate more clearly.

The flow of a good Prezi reflects the best way to connect ideas, not the most prodigious use of whizbangery. But once you get over those first few giddy moments of clicking and zooming and video embedding and and and, you move on to a permanent state of understated giddiness.  You can make really exciting and engaging content that is a pleasure to present.

Hey, I am not throwing out my PowerPoint Eagle Scout badge any time soon, because I know it so well that I can knock out a 20 minute preso in maybe two hours. Prezi takes me longer than that, but there are certainly cases where its power is more than worth the time.  I will say with total sincerity that there are times when I feel very fortunate to have access to the power of Prezi. And if you make perhaps fewer but more important presentations than I do, you may find yourself moving to Prezi for everything you have to present. It’s that cool. It’s that powerful.

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2 Responses to “Start-Up Watch COD: Prezi makes engaging presentations that go zoooom”

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