Tinkering with tools: (Pretty) Easy Prezi


Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi the (really not so) new cool presentation tool

Prezi is a presentation tool. An alternative to Powerpoint. It has been around for a while now (four years), and I hadn’t used it since 2010 when, among others, I was wondering ‘What is learning?‘ but current circumstances at work have brought me back to using it again – as testified in one recent blog post on partnerships.

This time it’s not so much for my own use (I tend to facilitate events a lot more than present anything at those events) as for my colleagues’ use, so this ‘Tinkering with tools‘ post is about Prezi, some resources about them and a couple of tips to enrich one’s experience with it.

So what is Prezi?

Prezi is a dynamic presentation tool that is built in a totally different logic to Powerpoint. Let’s examine closely the differences between the two:

Powerpoint

Prezi

Series of interconnected slides following one path – ‘Slide’ logic, whereby the slide is the playing field Canvas offering a navigation pathway amidst an infinity of other ones – Canvas logic where the whole canvas is the playing field – it is possible to step out of the indicated ‘pathway’ to look at any element on the canvas
Lecture-like experience ‘a la overhead sheet’ though can be used very strongly (the tool is never the problem, the tool user can be) Dynamic exploration-like experience where the user is invited to discover a brave new world
Possibility to emphasise certain elements with animations or formatting (bold, colour etc.) Few formatting options (3 types of fonts though colours possible) but endless possibility to emphasise elements by scaling them up or down, adding dynamics to the presentation
Many animations possible in the slide (if used well, one of the powerful features of PPT) Some animations possible but mostly animation happening between sequences of text e.g. nesting images into images into images
Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. Possibility to embed images, videos, audio etc. AND Powerpoint presentations
Risk of putting too much text in and to bore the audience OR risk of putting too many animations in and to annoy the audience ‘Death by Powerpoint Risk of putting too many transitions and movements in and to get the audience sea-sick ‘vertigo by Prezi
Embedding in websites happens through prior uploading on e.g. Slideshare Embedding in websites directly (though via a rather not so straightforward logic for WordPress sites)
Software used from the client’s PC Online, or pay-for – free 30-day trial – desktop application

If this doesn’t help you visualise what I mean, perhaps you might want to take a look at this example:

Now let’s have a look at some useful ways to build Prezis, from my experience…

Practical tips and tricks?

First off, focus on three things:

  1. your story (the content and logic of it),
  2. the storyboard of that story (e.g. what element will you disclose one by one, flanked by what possible visuals and other media etc.)
  3. and finally how will you plot these onto your canvas. It is really crucial to think about this because the prezi will be used all the more as you incorporate a strong story in a smart way of using the canvas.

This means that once you’ve got these elements figured, you should plot (i.e. add, write, upload, include) all these elements of text, visuals, audio and video bits more or less where you want to put them on your canvas. Your use of the canvas and of Prezi’s navigation logic is what makes the difference between a good prezi and an excellent prezi. Then you can scale them differently to hide them a bit for an element of surprise.

Prezi is not Powerpoint, so don’t build a Prezi the way you would a Powerpoint. Forget about overview slides, forget about animations on slide, and certainly forget about the biggest mistakes in building and delivering (death by) Powerpoint e.g. having too much text to read, adding useless visuals which don’t strengthen your point etc.

On the other hand, use the strength of Prezi: move around, scale in and out, turn the text, play with the canvas and with details in it (e.g. nest an image in the dot of an ‘i’ or in the brain of a person in the picture), use a visual as your canvas and move around, get a hang of options with the templates offered, think for yourself and try a story canvas that suits your style and your needs. It can be a blank canvas, a pre-existing template, a picture…

However, here are also some other tips to avoid shooting yourself in the foot with your innovative prezi (at the risk of putting your audience off Prezi for a while):

  • Even on a prezi, too long a presentation can bore your audience. Time yourself and avoid speaking over 10 minutes
  • Scaling in and out is great but doing too much of it really gives vertigo. Spend some time talking over each ‘bit of text’ rather than moving straight into the next bit, to allow your audience to find its balance and sense again and to avoid vertigo
  • Use pictures not in a Powerpoint slide kind of way but rather embedding the text in the picture or vice versa, or show the picture after or before the text
  • Add different kinds of media (e.g. video) to also time your presentation and give space for your audience to stabilise its senses
  • Keep a consistent use of fonts and colours to give a sense of balance to your presentation
  • At all times, keep your story in mind. As much as early Powerpoint presentations used all kinds of animations and lost the plot (and the audience), Prezis are cool only if they strengthen the point, not dilute it.

As you can see, I also need to explore Prezi to improve my own style since my 2010 attempts.

Some more resources about Prezi:

Related blog posts:

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One thought on “Tinkering with tools: (Pretty) Easy Prezi

  1. I completely agree that you should focus on your story. This post on how to make a presentation in 5 steps may interest your readers:
    http://www.dansteer.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/make-a-presentation-in-5-steps-overview

    If you are using Prezi well, you will structure your presentation well in the 3 available dimensions. More info here:
    http://www.dansteer.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/prezi-structure-tips

    ..and finally, in case it can help, here are 30 practical Prezi tips:
    http://www.dansteer.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/the-best-prezi-tips-i-found-today

    Keep writing!
    Thanks,
    @dan_steer

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