Last October I saw a Prezi presentation by a colleague of mine. The material in the presentation was stellar, but it nearly took a back seat to the dazzling, engaging and, yes, spellbinding mechanics of Prezi. It is a new zoom-style presentation platform that makes PowerPoint look like a moped up against a Ferrari.
And it is free.
Like anything worthwhile, there is a learning curve that needs to be dealt with, but it is worth the time and trouble to learn it. Since December, every presentation I have done has been Prezi-based, and literally every person I have shared it with was eager to learn how to do his or her own.
It was developed by Adam Somlai-Fischer, a Hungarian architect, as a tool to help with visualization. But instead he has developed one of the more interesting storytelling devices yet created. It follows the speaker with a visual narrative of the material. True to the developer’s mission to “make sharing ideas more interesting,” this presentation tool does just that. What it does is give the user complete freedom to exploit the visual experience by using a zoom feature. The techies among you will recognize this as a Zooming User Interface, cloud-based SaaS, (Software as a Service) presentation delivery model.
With Prezi you don’t have to think outside the box — because there is no box. Imagine a huge screen — no, bigger — the size of a movie screen in a theater. Then imagine you could design any kind of saying, photo, image, anything you’d like. You could start anywhere on the screen and put photos, videos, words in colors and different sizes — anything you want to show in any angle or size. Then imagine there is a flying camera that will zoom in on your images and scoot across the screen making each image right-side up for the audience. If you can imagine that you have a taste of what it is like to watch a Prezi.
One of the more fun features I’ve found is to write something very, very tiny on a photo I am showing — then ZOOM into it. The words, the statistics, the data comes alive because the material is visually interesting. Even with a lengthy presentation the surprise factor is there to engage the learner. I am certain someone will be doing studies showing the retention with Prezi-style presentations is higher: The level of engagement and attention certainly warrant it.
You can upgrade your PowerPoint or Keynotes by putting them into Prezi and making your changes there. Again, be prepared for a bit of a learning curve, but the online tutorials are excellent, and more and more users are finding their way to Prezi. Take a peek at some of the samples linked at the end of the article, and look at the companies who are using it. It is the next generation of presentation.
The other interesting feature is the use of frames to group material so you can alternate between a structured presentation with a linear format and one that accesses frames of images collected around a central topic. This means that you can use a “path” to move in a linear fashion from one topic to the next, like the way a PowerPoint is organized, but you can also select out the material and group it within a frame so when the question and answer time comes your material is all instantly visually available to you. You can then fly — well, actually, zoom — to the cluster of images you want to refer to. There is also the capability to leave all of your images on this huge screen freeform and not linked by a path. This gives you the freedom to move from topic to topic as needed.
The free version allows you to create and download your Prezis on your computer or iPad. There is a size limit, but it is very generous. There are two other levels, an EDU and a PRO, for which there are modest annual fees. But if you have an .edu email account as either a student or teacher the Edu / Enjoy level is available to you with no charge. This level gives you more storage capability. The Pro level lets you develop a Prezi without being online. There is also a Prezi meeting feature, which allows people to create a Prezi from different locations all at one time.
But the main attraction here isn’t even the glitz or technology or the entrepreneurship. It is the statement of values upon which the company is built. A while back I wrote an article about generosity as a business model. This was before I knew about Prezi. They have a page devoted to their values. It clearly provides their moral rudder as well as explaining the ethical and constructivist nature of their endeavor. It is worth reading if for no other reason than to learn a bit about the company’s character.
I chose to write about Prezi because it had four elements that were very positive. First, it was fun to learn, use and get others excited about. Second, it had a strong positive value and mission statement, something I think businesses are moving toward. Then it directly linked the visual arts with science, education and business — not-too-shabby enterprise — and finally, it directly invites creativity into presentations. That’s something that anyone who has been tortured by a dull PowerPoint can appreciate.
So what are you waiting for? Zoom over and see their examples!