Is Prezi really a PowerPoint killer?

Prezi is often presented as an alternative to Powerpoint. The dynamic presentation tool has gained much notoriety since its launch in 2009 and has matured into a capable and easy to use communication aid. But could pitting it against Powerpoint actually be doing Prezi a disservice?

What is Prezi?

Prezi is a multi-dimensional presentation tool which scrolls, zooms and rotates around visual (and often audio) media to create engaging experiences for audiences. If you’ve not come across a Prezi yet, here’s one I wrote, designed and built for Miramar:

As you can see, it’s a million miles away from your average Powerpoint presentation. It can be built, presented and shared online, embedded into web pages, downloaded to PCs and Macs and works on smartphones and tablets. Time to bin Powerpoint, right? Well, it’s not quite that straightforward…

The reality of Powerpoint

Let’s face it, the majority of Powerpoint presentations are not really presentations. They’re documents displayed on a large screen. Copy, bullets, diagrams, charts, tables… they get read aloud, then distributed via print or email. For most organisations, they’re simply the way teams share data and information. Often created by content creators with just enough understanding of the software to get by, they do a job. Usually they can be done much more effectively with the help of a designer, but there’s no getting away from them.

Prezi – share your ideas

If Powerpoint presents information, Prezi presents ideas. It helps and encourages one to organise those ideas into a format that’s digestible and engaging for the audience. Prezi is a hybrid of page-by-page presentation and motion graphic animation, so creating a compelling Prezi requires planning and creative thinking from the very beginning.

Prezi demands a new mindset of authors

It helps to think of the text of the Prezi as a script, a series of statements that tell a story, one that could be expanded on by a presenter. Keeping those statements short and concise is the key to a strong Prezi.

Things to consider at the writing stage:

  • What’s the overall message?
  • What’s the setting going to be?
  • How will you keep each frame concise?
  • How will the frames flow?
  • What information goes in and what gets left out?

Storyboard your way to glory

When the script is signed off, the storyboard can be created. As you can see, Prezi has more in common with motion graphics animation than you might think. The storyboarding process allows the art director to be creative and innovative with the visual presentation and movement. Problems such as displaying large tables of data need solving with lateral thinking, the results of which can be a revelation.

Plan first, then build

By planning how each element will be positioned on the 3D canvas, the creative concept and flow of the presentation can be masterminded and signed off before a single frame is built in Prezi. While the software is flexible enough to accommodate changes and new ideas, the client can have confidence that what they sign off is close to what they’re going to get.

A breath of fresh air for presenters

Because the nature of Prezi requires one to keep the frames simple, the hackneyed Powerpoint approach of packing the screen with information and reading it aloud doesn’t work. The presenter must present and use the Prezi content to aid and prompt them, not present for them. This means the presenter must have a strong grasp of what they are presenting and believe in it. Practice makes perfect.

Choosing the right tool for the job

The key is to think carefully about what your presentation is trying to achieve and choose your presentation tool accordingly. Dense document style presentations actually work better in Powerpoint. If you already have one of these and want to make a Prezi from it, you’re going to need to be ready to radically rethink the content and try and find a way to organise it that works.

Ideas based Powerpoint presentations can be wonderful, but they are always tied down by the page-by-page nature of the software. Prezi is the perfect place to set these ideas free with its free-flowing zooming canvas that will delight the audience, whether they are in the room, clicking through online or watching on a screen at an exhibition.

Contact Peter O’Flynn on 01869 243988 if you wish to discuss creating compelling Powerpoint and Prezi presentations.