Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jazz Up Your Presentations with Prezi

Prezi Technology Review

If you’re like me, you have to make PowerPoint presentations on various subjects for people with varying levels of understanding about what you do.  You may even watch a few at meetings or conferences.  Up until last week, I’ve been a devoted fan of PowerPoint.  I’ve used other presentation tools, but none compares to MS PowerPoint…until now!

I recently attended a local chapter of Project Management Institute where I saw a presentation made entirely in Prezi. I’ve seen customized PowerPoint presentations by Prezi_SamplePresentationMicrosoft, created by professional designers using substantial animation.  I’ve also seen Flash-driven presentations for business training.   I’ll tell you that what I saw at PMI compares well to both of these and then some.  The beauty of using Prezi is that you can get started with it after sitting through their handful of online training or just the home-page video.  I was creating my first presentation after 15 minutes!

 

Pros
The biggest idea about Prezi is that you’re NOT making slides, but using a canvas much like a painter or a graphic artist does.  You’re not limited to a single slide.  Instead you have an infinite panel where you can place, constrict, or open up your ideas and present them.

Prezi_ControlsAs soon as you try to place something on this canvas, you notice the menu system, which  is…surprise…animated.  You have, what appears at first, a limited number of fonts and shapes.  What’s interesting about this limitation is that it forces you to think creatively about the flow of your ideas.  In fact, the process feels very natural.  It is like mind mapping your ideas on paper that you later connect for animation effects. 

The other big plus is the ease to animate.  All you need to do is connect the text or parts of the presentation in the sequence you want your audience to see it.  Prezi does the rest to generate the animation.  It’s intelligent enough to even go through complete rotations of text, depending on the angle and degree of rotation you placed the text.  In that scenario it’ll actually animate the rotation in and out of the text to give the audience the full experience many professional animators could deliver before the advent of Prezi.

Cons

So far I’ve missed the myriad of fonts and graphics options I have available in MS PowerPoint.  I admit, this could be limiting since I may want to use a particular font for my company-centric text.  On the other hand, this limitation could also free you to just express your ideas onto the Prezi canvas without the convolution of deciphering the exact font or transition you want.

The software also doesn’t quite work well with Google Chrome browser.  I noticed this when I had spent about an hour working on a presentation without logging out.  I received an error that the Prezi editor didn’t think there was a connection to the Internet and couldn’t save my work.  Lucky for us all, Prezi auto saves on a regular increment.  I had just lost two lines of text.

Overall, I’d recommend using Prezi, if for nothing else, to free your mind to think about the content of what you want to present, rather than litter your presentation with the arcane concepts of a slide or flashing text.  Of course, the end products of your effort will also have a shocking effect on your audience since the majority of them haven’t seen this sort of animation developed in such a short amount of time. 

What Do You think?

I’d love to hear from you about Prezi or other presentation tools you’ve used that give life to your content.  Feel free to comment below.