prezi for presentations? Perhaps

I’ve heard a lot of fuss and hype around some presentation software called prezi.  It’s an alternative to Keynote and Powerpoint, in that it’s designed to create the visual aids (aka a slideshow) that goes with your presentation.  So far so good – the more packages there are in the market the better.

Always wanting to know more (yes, I know, I’m behind the curve here, but I’ve been busy – so sue me! :) ) I signed up for the free version to see how it shapes up.  Hmmmm.

First things first, it looks slick – the demo presentations are well done and (to my surprise, sorry!) pretty interesting. The price isn’t bad, either.  If you can cope with your presentations being online (only) the free version seems to work nicely and I didn’t have any problems experimenting.  It imports PDFs and so on very comfortably too, so all in all a nice package.

But so what?

Well, for me, so…. so very little to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ‘flying’ and ‘zooming’ effect that was the basis of the demo presentations I watched (such as here, for example).  Also, I kind of like the way it forces you to work – planning things by jotting notes almost, rather than the rigidity of planning-by-Powerpoint.  The thing is, as I watched the second demo, I got a sense of deja vu.  And again with the third… in fact they all looked disappointingly like the training demo I’d watched.

Essentially, I’m gradually concluding that this is because prezi is, essentially, a one trick pony.  At it’s heart it’s a kind of combined mindmap and flow-diagramme, with pictures/text stuck on it, creating narrative, which is great, but that’s all it is.  The zooming out to see where you are in the bigger picture is nice, but it gets old really quickly – for me at least.  (I imagine for anyone who suffers from travel sickness it’ll get old REALLY fast!)

Maybe it’s just me – has anyone used it “for real”?

Simon is one of the UK's most highly regarded presentation skills trainers and professional speakers in the fields of presenting, confidence and emotional resilience.


  1. Nailed it there Simon, its a one trick pony piece of… Ship.

    The problem with bad powerpoint presos was never that you couldnt zoom in and out and twirl around the place.

    Also for all of their “we are not ppt” they use bulleted screens (which are essentially slides when they remain staic on the screen).



  2. Both technologies offer pros and cons. Prezi is so tactile but lacks in presentation effective control and fast authoring, zoom & spin are OK but for what purpose i ask myself, the fact you can move to a point of relevance is useful. PowerPoint is restricted by its Linear design and lacks real-time navigation. It is possible to create the same agile interface of Prezi in PowerPoint, without leaving the comfort of PowerPoint. Retain the benefits of PowerPoint and lose its linear restrictions allowing for greater PowerPoint presentation agility…

  3. Ed, take a deep breath there….! :)

    Tim; I take your point, Powerpoint and Keynote have been able to zap around in a non-linear way for a long time now.

  4. I still like flipcharts…

    There’s a place for keynote/ppt (or even Prezi) but it’s a very small place…

  5. Simon, I think there are occasions when being intentional and presenting in a normal sequential fashion is useful and Prezi seems sadly lacking here. I found the fact I could not upload PowerPoint files into a prezi annoying having to convert them to PDF. On the point of animation.. it is helpful to reveal content on a slide and again Prezi is lacking in this area.

  6. I’m with you on this one Simon, I had a student demonstrate it once, and I was quite impressed with the graphics and the images. But after about five minutes I felt that there needed to be a little more variation.

  7. In defense of PowerPoint and making of real contact.

    I agree with you Simon.

    There is a collective idea that its the software (PowerPoint, Keynote) which makes the presentation bad or boring.

    I want to avoid that speakers will use Prezi and thus think they bring an interesting presentation. That requires more than a tool like Prezi or PowerPoint (Keynote).

    I foresee that we will have soon alongside Death by PowerPoint also Motion sickness by Prezi.

  8. i’m the founder of a new venture that attempts to help faculty and scientists convert their powerpoints to prezi’s in a tasteful non-dizzying manner. see .

    that said, i’m absolutely sympathetic if not in total agreement with all the opinions expressed thus far.

    prezi is superior for only a handful of things. (1) zooming in, which should only be used in conjunction with a deeper or hidden level of analysis; (2) zooming out, to show a myopic handicap or the ‘big picture’; (3) reframing, based on angles or clever word juxtapositions; (4) gradual slight zooming, in which text is gradually revealed or hidden in order to illustrate connections revealed or criticisms neutralized; (5) helping to guide the audience’s eyes via (say) carefully placed arrows and accompanying canvas shifts. These presentation devices (6) altogether help to ensure that the audience is collectively sharing the same intended message.

    roughly speaking, that’s about it. while powerpoint can do a subset of these, I believe prezi’s singular canvas defines the remaining difference.

    and of course, it is the presenter’s burden to make sure that his spoken word choice complements the prezi. the prezi shouldn’t be used to substitute for oral presentation ability.

    clever but conservative use of prezi, imho, effectively matches up with the way the human mind would prefer to process information. powerpoint bullets or slides (that make their appearance onto the screen in mere milliseconds) can really take for granted how seamlessly our natural–and specifically, creative–thought processes.*

    but yes, totally agreed: it can be really easy to use prezi in a way that completely dizzies the audience… especially when the presenter overuses graphics, applies the text to accommodate the graphics, and yanks the audience around like a little dog.

    -s hsieh

    * And no, in my book, simple screen wipes aren’t good enough.

  9. Hello,

    I know this post is rather old, but I’ve just come across it. I have been thinking about trying Prezi for teaching. One of the points that I like, at least theoretically, about Prezi – and that I’m not sure I’ve seen mentioned a lot – is the ability to add in extra material that isn’t part of the main “flow”.

    So the idea is to have the presentation made available to students, including some “asides” that are not included in the main “path”, but that interested students can discover on their own, or maybe even some “Easter eggs” that they can find. (I realize that you could try to do the same by adding links in Power Point / PDF – presentations, but it doesn’t feel as natural / interesting to me.)

    I’d be interested to hear whether people do have some experiences with using prezi in this way, and what you think about it.

    (By the way, I think they recently introduced a feature that does allow you to “reveal” certain items, which they didn’t have before. I think this is a good move, because there are times when you _do_ want to do that, even though it might not quite fit with their paradigm.)

    • Hi (btw, nice to see someone from Liverpool Uni here – my daughter is studying medicine there).

      I have to confess that I’ve not tried Prezi recently so I can’t respond with any integrity to your idea – but it sounds like a good one! :)

      From what you’re saying, I’m *guessing* that you’re thinking of standalone stuff, rather than using Prezi to support a live speaker: if I’m write about that, I can see it working quite well as I’ve seen quite a few people using Prezi for that successfully… backgrounds on large screen TVs in waiting rooms and that sort of thing.

      That said, my personal preference, if I’m ever doing that sort of thing, is HTML! Web tutorials work very nicely… Maybe I’m a luddite here though! :D

      If I’m wrong, and you’re using it to support live presentations such as in a lecture or seminar, I’m a fan of the flexibility that PowerPoint (though pedantically I’m using Keynote) has of just skipping to/from any slide you like when a student asks a question.

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