Review of Prezi

October 13, 2011  |  Technology
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Impress Your Audience

Last week, I had to create a presentation about digital marketing. The thought of slaving over yet another PowerPoint made me cringe. I had heard of Prezi.com, an online zooming presentation creation tool. Although it would take a few hours to really learn Prezi, I decided the investment would pay off when I presented a PowerPoint on steroids.

Screenshot of a Prezi from prezi.com Flash presentation toolPrezi

It took me about three hours to learn the ropes of the zoom tools, the frames, the objects, and the paths. I was able to select a theme with colors and fonts, then modify the CSS to use my company’s color codes. The biggest hurdle was breaking out of my longstanding .ppt slide paradigm. I’ll never go back.

Prezi is all Flash and you can import Powerpoint or Keynote slides. On your canvas, a massive grid, add objects and organize them in any array or direction, add visible and hidden frames, and don’t worry about matching sizes of images and fonts. After adding objects, you create a path (progression) by clicking on each unit of text, image, video, or a frame. Click on an object to zoom to it or click the outside of the frame around the object to zoom to the center of the frame.

Insert images, video, live links, .animated gif, YouTube videos, Excel documents, PDFs, and more. If you’re going to present with a projector, TIP: Hold down shift when placing a frame around an object(s). This will automatically size contents in a 4:3 aspect ratio to mitigate distortion. I started in the free account mode but upgraded to the Enjoy package ($59/year) for more features, such as creating private Prezis and inserting my own logo.

Best of all, Prezi is in the cloud. Offline, a downloaded Prezi plays as a movie. However, live links and YouTube videos will not play in offline mode. You can print hard copies, but note that many trees will die because many paths mean more pages.

For ideas, view other Prezis in the Explore section. Here is an official Coke Prezi:

Check out user-generated popular Prezis in the Explore Section. Make a copy of any public Prezi, then work off of that version, editing and adding your own information.

Having the ability to zoom in and out and control the presentation in such a fluid way is great; people will ask questions and instead of flipping back through boring slides, you can just unzoom and zoom back to the desired area. Email and share the Prezi online, it’s iPad friendly, embed it, download it, copy it, and more. Prezi will impress your audience.

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  • http://twitter.com/RickyInMotion Richard Marginson

    This is the 2nd time in as many weeks that I’m hearing good things about Prezi. Thanks for the overview! I think I’ll make the investment, too, and figure it out for my next presentation. I like the dynamic style – hopefully it’ll help keep the audience a little bit extra attentive :)

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      Richard, go for it. I think of presentations differently now. They have the ability to be more fluid and visually interactive. And the easy sharing, embedding, emailing, etc. of your Prezi is so much better than sending or hosting a .ppt.

  • http://twitter.com/JTDabbagian James Dabbagian, M.A

    This sounds fairly interesting. I’m looking for a PowerPoint alternative (Although I seem to be one in the few that actually loves using it) but does this also export PowerPoint? 

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      A Prezi doesn’t export to PowerPoint, it only takes PowerPoint and adapts it so you can create a Prezi. Most of the features wouldn’t work in PowerPoint. It is a great alternative — I’m hooked.

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      James – No, from what I can see currently, Prezi doesn’t export to PowerPoint. It only can take PowerPoint and adapt it so you can create a Prezi without duplicating all of your work. Most of the Prezi features wouldn’t work in PowerPoint. It is a great alternative — I’m hooked.

  • http://profiles.google.com/togotooner Todd Dolce

    In the real business world, Prezi has a big shortcoming. First, the “cloud” may be a cool concept for those having some fun,….and Prezi IS fun for sure,…..BUT it is not a welcomed concept in the business environment due to security and legal reasons. It’s just a terrible idea. Second, one cannot purchase Prezi Desktop outright (last time I checked) but rather one must pay a licensing fee every year to be able to have the privilege of using it. That’s crazy. 

    It’s a very neat program, and I love the features and principles behind it, but in its’ current iteration, it is not a viable option for many big businesses. I don’t mean to broad brush it, because as you can see that Coke has experimented with it and so have a few others,….but if you really want to target that Powerpoint market,…make it so that we can “own” it.

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      You’re correct about the licensing fee for Prezi Desktop. And to be honest, now that I have purchased it and tried to use, I’ve hit a few snags. I.e. it has not yet worked. I will hit up Katrin at the zendesk soon.

      I agree with you. From a security and ownership standpoint, it is too open source (yet not free) to be a viable option for certain businesses. You could always create Prezi with the free software, download it, then delete it from the cloud.

      I simply can’t present a PowerPoint ever again. I’d bore myself, let alone my audience. Mostly myself. What aspect of the Prezi cloud do you find the least secure?

  • Michael Compton

    Thanks, Emily, for the overview.  I saw my first Prezi presentation this afternoon and will definitely try it.

    I have a slightly different concern than the excellent ones mentioned so far.  I’m worried that the flying, swooping, zooming transitions can actually detract from the presenters message.  I’ve been using PowerPoint for a very long time, and have gotten pretty good at it.  However, I never, ever use “transitions” in PowerPoint because I consider them flash-over-substance in most circumstances, and find them really distracting as a viewer.    With Prezi, it seems that even “subtle” transitions (if there is such a thing) are almost overpowering, which may tend to diminish content.  Which IMO is a step in the wrong direction.

    That said, I’ll still try it.  Thanks again for the review.

  • John

    Wondering if anyone has ever tried Ahead.  It is similar to Prezi. I am interested if
    anyone has done a comparison.

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      I haven’t tried Ahead but it looks interesting. I just signed up for an account so hopefully I’ll have a chance to experiment soon. Let me know if you’ve tried it and what you think compared to Prezi.

  • Stephen

    I’m with Todd: Prezi isn’t for the day-to-day business world. In the right hands, with enough time, and with a strong conceptual structure, it *could* indeed lead to dizzying (whether that’s good or bad) visuals. Perhaps a boilerplate-type presentation like the Coke example — which I’m sure took dozens, if not hundreds, of work hours (by designers, I’m guessing) to create (and still has messed-up fonts) — or a special one-off keynote speech at an important event. But day-to-day, Bob in marketing who is working on the content of his presentation right up until the meeting — and who has zero design skills (sorry Bob!) — what you’ll end up with is nothing more than a standard bullet-point presentation with whizzbang transitions. Some people might indeed equate whizzbang with impressive. And that’s what they’ll talk to you about after your presentation. Not the content of the presentation itself.

  • Seamus48

    Before parting with any money I suggest people check out Prezi’s own support forum and read the high number of complaints posted about Prezi functionality and even more worrying, their abysmal customer service support! Prezi might indeed be an interesting alternative to other presentation software but they are absolutely deluded if they think that their customer support is anywhere near what is obviously required. I have been waiting for 3 days for an answer to a very simple subscription question. There is no other way of contacting them except via the forum. Many others are pulling their hair out just trying to cancel their subsciptions and are just getting ignored while the money is taken. Appalling service! 

    • http://www.emilybinder.com Emily Binder

      Sorry to hear you had such a bad customer service experience. I had the opposite. Funny how it varies so much. I was traveling six months ago and needed to work on my Prezi at the hotel. That particular Hyatt had firewalled or somehow blocked websites like prezi.com and had no tech service. I used the Prezi ZenDesk and worked with Katrin, who is one of their best/most prolific support reps. She was like a miracle worker.

      Aside from customer service, I’ve been pleased with the updates to Prezi since I wrote this post in October 2011. Dragging slides around your path and modifying path order is so much easier now. It’s not a perfect program, and it IS in Flash, but I absolutely prefer it to PowerPoint now that I’m used to its format.

      The $159 one-year Pro membership is well worth it to me. I use Prezi for about six presentations a year. I have an iPad2 and find the Prezi app to be a nice addition for sharing, viewing, practicing, and editing. I’d like to see more robust template offerings.

      • Seamus48

        I’m glad your experience was good Emily. As for me? I would not entrust my professional credibility or that of my company to Prezi at this time. If they spent a fraction of the budget they have used to publicise and market the product on providing genuine customer support I believe the product would have pretty much sold itself. As it is? I won’t risk it thanks. Just read the number of unresolved complaints and requests for technical support on their own support forum (the ONLY way of getting in touch with them by the way) and make up your own mind.  

        • Seamus48

          P.S…. I should perhaps clarify. I deliver an average of 20 odd different presentations / classes per week. When Prezi works (and is used properly) it seems really great. When it doesn’t? You might as well be stood at the podium in the Emperor’s new clothes for all the help you can expect.

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