To Prezi or not to Prezi

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The Presenter as Projectionist?

As Presentation Skills trainers we do bang on about the appalling use of the ubiquitous projector to blast screens full of words at long-suffering audiences. Using PowerPoint or Keynote is certainly slicker than the dear old overhead or indeed 35mm slide projectors but the ‘wow factor’ has long since vanished to be replaced by a weary, ‘Oh no! Here we go again’. In an attempt to the up the excitement, the animation and transition options have become ever more dramatic and ‘whizzy’. In practice the effect is even more wearying as the audience are now expected to marvel at the creativity of whoever put the show together. The presenter has become a projectionist.

Whilst it would be great to step back to first principles, and propose that Visual Aids MUST ONLY be used to help the audience to understand, to remember or to pay attention, so few presenters these days seem to have the time (or the inclination) to work from (to my mind much more professional) cue cards. We are probably stuck with the Visual Aid – not as an aid to the audience – but more as an auto-cue for the speaker.

So how can you (for a while) stand out from the crowd. Well there is a product called Prezi that you can find at www.prezi.com. This works on the premise that you start with a work area of infinite capacity and simply drop or import words, pictures, movies etc. onto the work area. Once they are in place, they can be rotated, moved and their size can be altered. They can also be grouped by placing them in frames. Once all the elements are positioned, you connect them by a path through the presentation. The presenter then simply moves through the presentation in the normal way. Interestingly, however big or however minute the text or images appear on the home screen, which shows the whole presentation, when projected they, or the frame they are in, will fill the screen.
There is a free version which allows you to create your presentation online and then either present from the web or download and present from the laptop. If you use the free version your work is available to be viewed by anyone and you cannot edit offline. The paid version allows you to create and edit on your PC.

The advantages of Prezi are that it is quick and easy to use  and you can be reasonably creative without being naff. Since it is not being used by many, it is still quite quirky and has some novelty factor. It’s brilliant for showing how elements fit into a bigger picture. The downsides?  The choice of fonts is limited  and that the programme does swoop from one element to the next. If you elect to set up the main screen with the elements rotated to fancy angles, the combination of spinning them back to horizontal and swooping combined, with a rapid transition, can engender nausea in the audience! Still, at least they’ll be awake while they’re vomiting!

There are some excellent ‘Prezis’ that you can view on their website and it is well worth playing with the free version to see if it suits the type of presentation that you deliver before electing to pay the modest user fee.

You could of course use a flip chart!

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3 Responses to “To Prezi or not to Prezi”

  1. Claire Fuller Says:

    Absolutely love the video around flipchart tips Ken.
    100% in favour of them!
    Creating in front of the audience is far more interesting for them, in my opinion…

  2. BillyMeinke Says:

    Thanks for recognizing Prezi as a tool for keeping people tuned into presentation. I’ve found that it can be a nice replacement for Powerpoint and isn’t too hard to make look really good! My latest blog post is about a Prezi workshop I gave to my faculty. Maybe you or your colleagues will find it useful :] http://wp.me/p1yjZp-58

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