Review of Prezi

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This morning, I checked my Twitter to find that Garr Reynolds was once again reading my mind:

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Last month, I went to a Faculty Development Workshop on Prezi.  According to their website, “Prezi a cloud-based presentation software that opens up a new world between whiteboards and slides. The zoomable canvas makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them. The result: visually captivating presentations that lead your audience down a path of discovery” (Source).

Phil Waknell gives a fantastic review of Prezi.  He says, “The result [of Prezi] is that the presenter is focusing too much on the visuals, and not enough on the audience. This can lead to beautiful visuals, but a failure to communicate effectively. That is one way in which the use of Prezi breaks the link between the presenter and the audience” (Source).

Waknell adds, “If the audience spends all its time looking at the projector screen, rarely looking at the speaker, that connection is lost, and the speaker might as well not be on the stage at all, and instead just record a voice-over” (Source).  He claims that Prezi becomes the star of the show (Source).

I agree with Waknell that it distracts from the connection with the audience AND forces the majority of the attention on the visual presentation instead of the presenter.  I agree with Reynolds that Prezi is exciting at first and then overstimulating, bewildering, dizzying, disorienting… just a little too much.  Prezi, for me, is just gimmicky.  Check out some examples of Prezi here to see what I mean.

What do you think about Prezi?

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14 thoughts on “Review of Prezi

  1. I would have to disagree with you on this. While it’s easy for the beginner to get caught up in making a Prezi all-flashy-and-stuff, any seasoned presenter should be able to keep the content at the top of the list.

    I’ve seen some very intense presentations (too many spins, zooms) that were light on content (that did bother me), but a presenter should know better. In my experience, Prezi does a fantastic job of allowing you to organize the content across a map and put emphasis on certain points using their unique fly-by visuals. But really, it’s only a tool to enhance a presentation, not make it.

    Presenters should practice their presentations enough to recognize hanging or unnecessary points before they present as well as keep track of the audience’s attention throughout. Don’t write off Prezi yet :]

    • Hey Billy! Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts about Prezi, and I definitely understand the idea that a fantastic presenter could make Prezi work. I think the problem lies in your comment: “a presenter should know better.” So very few presenters have in-depth knowledge about visual presentation, so few people practice “the gospel” of Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Guy Kawasaki, and other modern visual presentation pioneers. In fact, most presenters repel and fight against the principles taught by Reynolds, Duarte et al.

      I recently attended a conference by a renowned, century-old volunteer organization delivered by strong public speakers, but the visual presentation included death-by-PowerPoint slideuments. Within minutes, everyone was playing Angry Birds or texting on her iPhone and completely ignoring the presentation. We definitely don’t know better yet!

      For many people, Prezi simply replaced PowerPoint without any additional knowledge about visual presentation. This means those presenters are simply plugging way too much text into a flashy, distracting medium as opposed to into a bulleted list. Either way, information overload, “word vomit,” slideuments, and the presenter’s script in word form on a slide (or on a Prezi “map”) remain the focus of these presentations. The idea that visual presentation must actually be visual is still lost.

      You mentioned one reason why you liked Prezi: its organization tools. Can you think of any other positives?

  2. Thanks for the reply, Alex. You’re right in pointing out that I said, “a presenter should know better”. I still stand by this, however. All of us have seen a sound-effect and animation-happy presenter make an otherwise great presentation take a comical turn. I suppose part of what people find distracting about Prezi is the fact that the “effects” are built right into the main user interface. Prezi wants you to make your presentations pop!

    In addition to Prezi being a good organizational tool, Prezi can be used as a synchronous or asynchronous collaboration tool. Shared editors can make changes to the Prezi from anywhere at the same time. The Prezi meeting allows you to guide viewers through your presentation with free webinar-style features. Prezi is also web-based and most of all: free. I’d like to think that the average person can afford a full version of the MS Office suite, but opening up any Flash-enabled browser will get you building a Prezi in seconds.

    Again, Prezi is only a tool to make a presentation unique and like any other tool, a little training will go a long way. My last post in my blog lists some of my thoughts about Prezi after using it for the last year. Take a look if you have a chance!

  3. Sami Faltas

    The fundamental point is that visual aids like PowerPoint, Keynote and Prezi are just tools. Used well, they can wonderfully enhance and illustrate your talk. Used badly, they just make your mediocre presentation truly unbearable. I think that in the 20 years of watching slide presentations, I have seen about three really good ones.

    So I am with Billy. If presenters know what they are doing, they will use PowerPoint and Prezi to good effect. And if they don’t, they should not use them at all.

    To me, there are two useful kinds of visuals.

    First, visuals that very simply underscore what I am telling the audience. Three bullet points of one word each for the three parts of the problem I am discussing. A photograph of the expert I am quoting. A graph showing the trend I am referring to. PowerPoint and Keynote are great for this. The point here is that I want the audience to focus 90% of their attention on me, so I want my visuals to be sparse but relevant.

    Second, visuals that tell a story all on their own, making me temporarily superfluous. For instance, an entertaining or dramatic little video. Or a stand-alone visualisation of a message. For these applications, I suspect that Prezi is excellent. I suspect I would use it more in distance learning than in the classroom. As you have guessed, I am an educator.

    • Hey Sami! Thanks for your post. What do you teach? I’m an instructor, too, and I love collaborating with fellow educators. I teach a presentation class at a local university in Orlando, Florida.

      Unfortunately, I still disagree with Billy; I haven’t seen a Prezi yet that uses animation wisely. I totally agree with you… terrible presentations are out there! But good presentations exist, too, and I’ve seen wonderful things created in Keynote and PPT. However, I feel the Prezi tool doesn’t really lend itself to good design, and it’s difficult to bypass its dizzying features to apply universal principles of design. The tool itself is flawed, in my opinion.

      We learn from Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds, among many others, that animation should be purposeful. Why does the Prezi move? What is the purpose of the animation? If there is no “why,” then the animation is gimmicky… and the last thing audiences need in the presentation world is to be distracted with yet another gimmick.

      If you ever see a good Prezi, please send it to me! I would love to change my mind about the usefulness of the tool, but I haven’t seen an effective Prezi presentation yet to support an alternative viewpoint of the medium…

      Thanks,

      Alex

      • Sami Faltas

        Hi Alex, thanks for your thoughtful reply. Unlike you, I am not an expert on presentation, though I am an experienced practitioner. I teach political science and international relations in the Netherlands.

        If your premise is correct, and there is no purpose to Prezi’s animations, then I would agree that it’s gimmicky. I haven’t seen many Prezis yet, but those I have seen struck me as unsatisfactory (you would think Coca Cola would have designers capable of using Prezi well, but I saw a really awful Coke presentation on the official Prezi site. Makes you wonder…).

        Maybe you’re right. But I’m not ready to write Prezi off yet.

        All the best

        Sami

      • Hey Sami, I’d love to know more about your classes! What textbook(s) do you use? International relations seems like a really interesting subject. Have you always worked in the education field?

        I totally agree with you about the Coke presentation… Maybe the burden will rest on you to create the first effective Prezi :)

        Take care,

        Alex

  4. Kev

    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 (I had registered for the Pro package but failed to receive an activation e-mail). There is no other way of contacting them except via the forum. Many other users are pulling their hair out just trying to get simple help or even cancel their subsciptions and are just getting ignored while the money is taken. Having seen all the problems people are having and the appalling service they get when trying to sort things out I have changed my mind and I will not be going down the Prezi route.

  5. Kev

    I really didn’t want to be negative… I quite liked what I had seen and heard about Prezi previously and was looking forward to using it. But experiencing their abysmal customer support first-hand has changed my mind. I know that when the delivery of a presentation is critical to my business I CANNOT rely on someone possibly, maybe, getting back to me ‘in a few days’ …if I’m lucky,… if they feel like it… if at all.

    The software may well be great when it works properly (although the number of simple technical issues being raised on their own forum suggests it does not!) but the aftercare support appears to be / is absolutely shambolic. I’m not prepared to risk my professional credibility or that of my business by using it. If they had spent a fraction of their publicity budget on actually providing customer service the strength of the product would have sold itself. As it is?… I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole! Don’t just listen to me… read the posts on their own customer support facility and make up your own mind.

  6. Cindy

    After trying to put together a presentation, I’ve decided that the great number of technical issues I’ve encountered is just a bit too much. I admit that I’m a novice, but it seems at every point there is something that has to be adjusted to “work” properly. The adjustments are exhausting, and take the fun out of putting together an idea in this design concept.
    Not worth it to spend anymore time learning Prezi on so many levels. Maybe if it didn’t take so long, but even then……….eh.

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