An alternative to PowerPoint presentations: the Prezi approach

 

Whether you are a faculty or a student, enhancing your in-class media presentation can be a great way of capturing the attention of your audience.  While media presentations are not the sole factor that makes for good presenting, they can—if done well—significantly increase an audience’s engagement and help transmit the intended message more effectively.  Over the years, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the program of choice for presenters in school classrooms, business meetings, and other settings.  However, a new platform with more visually stimulating features has emerged, and has been winning over users on a large scale for the past couple of years.  Prezi, launched in 2009, today claims to be generating over a million new users a month – here we explore its functionality and a few of its many advantages, as well as some of its potential drawbacks.

 

Prezi is a cloud-based presentation tool.  It’s a free online service, but there are tiered payment options (called “licenses”) for users looking to increase their storage capacity and wishing to keep their presentations private. (All presentations made with a free account are available to the public.)  The process is simple: a user signs up for a free account at Prezi.com, creates a presentation using one of the many 2D and 3D templates (a blank canvas is also available), and either shares the link to the presentation with others or uses that link to run the presentation in a classroom.  The completed presentation file can also be downloaded as a PDF or as a “portable Prezi,” which can be used to present offline.  If the computer from which you are presenting has an internet connection, then the Prezi presentation can simply be run from your account on the Prezi website.  Once the presentation fully loads (this takes two to three seconds), it will continue running even if the internet connection is lost (similar to a fully-loaded YouTube or Vimeo video).  To see an example, visit http://prezi.com/n-ox6c-3f7lz/the-hong-kong-macau-zhuhai-bridge-proposal.

 

The feel and look of a Prezi presentation can be described as modern, clean, and attention-grabbing.  There are numerous tools available inside Prezi to help enhance your presentation, but the overall layout is simple and user-friendly.  Presentations are created and edited through your online Prezi account.  The ability to install Prezi on a desktop and edit presentations offline is only possible with the Pro plan, which is priced at $13.25/month.  However, it is unlikely that online editing should be an issue in an academic setting where the internet connection is easily available.  To get a quick sense of what it is like to work on a presentation using Prezi, watch this minute-long introductory video at http://prezi.com/support.

 

Ultimately, the Prezi platform is a great way of visualizing your idea and your content, and the presentation can be as simple and minimalistic as it can be complex and extensive.  Here are a few great benefits of using Prezi:

 

  • Collaboration: Multiple users can work on a Prezi presentation at the same time, much in the same way that multiple users can work concurrently on a Google doc.
  • Media Integration: Adding media such as images, video, and audio is an easy process, and you can even provide a link to an online video or image and the file will automatically be integrated into your presentation.  With Prezi, you do not have to click on a video link to access the video as is the case in a PowerPoint presentation.  Instead, the video is already loaded when you get to that slide.
  • Zooming Capability: Prezi allows you to zoom in and zoom out.  This is a great feature if you wish to emphasize a specific portion of your slide or an image, or zoom out to show the “bigger picture.”
  • Support: There is extensive user support via quick and simple video tutorials and articles.
  • Attention and Engagement: Your presentation can really stand out and your audience will notice the difference.  Every time I have used Prezi for my own presentations or watched someone else present using Prezi, the change in audience attention was striking.  As Prezi continues to gain in popularity this may change, but don’t expect it to occur any time soon.  Most people continue to use PowerPoint, and Prezi is a great way to not only better present your material, but also to more effectively engage your listeners.

 

There are, nevertheless, also some potential drawbacks of using Prezi.  Two stand out in particular:

 

  • Potential of Dizziness: A Prezi presentation that jumps around too much and too rapidly might be more distracting than useful.  One has to be especially careful with this, or the only thing audience members will get out of the presentation is a severe headache.  It’s up to the user to make sure the presentation contains the right amount of movement.
  • Too Much Fancy New Technology: If you are a student, deciding to use a Prezi presentation might not win you points with professors who often find new technologies distracting or annoying.  Some professors are strong proponents of a basic and straightforward PowerPoint presentation approach, and for them a new presentation tool such as Prezi will detract from the material you wish to convey.  In some instances, using PowerPoint will make more sense, and that’s perfectly fine.

 

Prezi is at the very least worth a shot if you anticipate creating and delivering presentations.  With this (somewhat) new platform, your ideas and content will come to life and visually stimulate your audience.  Prezi is a great way of presenting material more effectively and is also a really fun tool to use.  Try it out for free at www.prezi.com.

 

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