I was pleased to read Brent Manke’s honest, thoughtful review of Prezi today. He agrees with much of what I’ve said about Prezi in the past – mainly that Prezi alone cannot make a presentation great (see What Prezi Does for a Poor Speech for my views). Brent says:
“Prezi is the new trendy tool in the world of presentations. But the thing is, it’s still just that: a tool. Often as presenters we can fall prey to the temptation of creating a presentation around a particular tool, rather than using the tools to help clarify our message and engage our audience.”
And he’s completely right – a bad speech accompanied by a great Prezi is still a bad presentation. Your audience would rather you nailed your speech than gave them some fancy pictures to look at while you bored them.
But I believe Prezi is more than just a presentation tool – it’s a symbol (and opportunity) for changing the way we approach presentations; and one more step along the road away from ‘death by PowerPoint’.
Prezi is a tool – for changing the way we think about presentations
We’ve been trained to see presentations as linear lists – and that’s what 99% of the professional presentations I see are. A whistlestop tour of boring facts, numbers and ideas displayed in long bullet lists on a PowerPoint slide.
When you’re creating with Prezi, you start with a big, blank canvas. Immediately, your first thought , usually “what will I put on my first slide?”, changes to “where will I put my first frame?”.
Suddenly, you’re free to find natural links between your ideas, and make your presentation a natural, free flowing story rather than a stuttering, boring series of bullets.
Thoughts and ideas aren’t linear – they can be interrelated, cyclical or independent. Having a blank canvas on which to spread out those ideas helps us to find natural ways of explaining them, and be more creative in designing a presentation.
So if you’re going to present with Prezi, your first step (after nailing your story) should be to cover the canvas in all of your ‘assets’ (images, videos and text); then you can spread your ideas out and organise your visuals organically.
And if you’re a PowerPoint die-hard, maybe you should consider using Prezi as a brainstorming tool, to give your ideas a chance to grow.