ZimmerFish was asked to create a presentation using Prezi. This was a great opportunity (kick in the pants) to dive deeply into understanding this relatively new presentation software. We’ve now created several Prezis. We are not alone in having very mixed feelings about the software.
As with any tool, there are appropriate circumstances for its use. Prezi can be an easy and fun way to add simple animation, links to Web sites, and video uploads to a presentation. With Prezi you can zoom in (seemingly indefinitely), layering information in an active or playful way. It’s less stuffy than what people generally see with Powerpoint . Judicious use of features and effects can certainly liven up dry material or give exciting concepts the energy they deserve.
Anyone discussing Prezi warns against getting too carried away with zooming and spinning, as you can leave your viewer seasick. This is no joke! It takes significant planning to keep elements of individual “slides” clean or at a level of focus that the eye/mind can process well. Like all other communication media, a good Prezi requires forethought, an apt concept, well-chosen imagery, and solid design. To do it well takes time.
For presentations, Prezis can be downloaded and set up to run automatically, or shown live with ad-lib forwarding. They’re great for educational settings and training, as you can visualize the overall picture, then move ever deeper into details. Still, an overlong Prezi can be every bit as tiresome, despite all the schnazzy tricks, as a static presentation.
Some features (like links) require online access, leaving presenters at the mercy of the venue. Some elements in SHOW mode behave somewhat inconsistently, causing links to come up behind the screen and difficulty getting back to the program, or auto-zooming in a way you just can’t control.
It’s crucial to remember that the success of any presentation depends on a dynamic speaker. No software can make up for someone who simply reads what’s on the screen or drones from scripts. Too much activity on the screen can detract from the speaker, drawing attention to the action, but not necessarily the point being made.
I do recommend using Prezi. It’s a perfectly valid tool and ideal for conveying certain types of content. Just choose elements and effects carefully. Include enough animation to add flavor, but not so much as to overload.
Here’s a link to one of the best Prezis I’ve seen so far. It fully demonstrates the level of depth that can be achieved, as well as most of the design/animation options. While it’s exceptional, it still took me about 15 minutes to lose the queasy feeling that built up watching it. It’s worth it just to see what Prezi could do for you.