Prezi is an online presentation editor that looks and feels really cool (www.prezi.com). It’s free to use by registering an account online. I’ve used it for a couple of years on select presentations, and it’s always fun to watch people’s reactions to something different (and slicker) than Powerpoint. However, I’ve found myself using Powerpoint for more serious presentations lately, as Prezi doesn’t support transitions other than zooming in, out, and around the page. So when should you use Prezi, and when should you use Powerpoint? Here I’ll break down the pros and cons of using Prezi.
Prezi is freaking cool. It’s smooth, it’s cutting edge, and the non-linear canvas feels like it’s moving in the right direction in terms of matching presentations to how we think. A good example is Maria Andersen’s presentation (pictured on the right) called Playing to Learn? It uses Prezi to tell an informative and interesting story. Prezi is fairly easy to learn and use if you’re familiar with presentation software. The zoom transitions are really seamless most of the time, and my favorite part is that you don’t have to download anything to use it. In fact, you can save your presentation online (after registering for a free account), and access it anytime, anywhere. I also like that you can import Powerpoint slides into a Prezi, and the slides just plop around on the canvas in neat little groups. Probably the most useful feature aside from importing pics and slides, is being able to import YouTube videos and play them right of your presentation. Also, the fact that you can zoom out at any point in the presentation means you can go back to an area (instead of a slide) much easier if you need to.
Prezi is still somewhat limited. There are only a handful of fonts and color schemes you can use. You can get around this by creating your own images with text and importing them in, but them you might as well create a Powerpoint (or Keynote) presentation. There are also no other transitions other than zooming around, and sometimes I really need some text to fade in, or some key image to appear next to another instead of zooming out to be able to see it. Learning Prezi can take a little bit of time, although they do offer a nice tutorial to help you get started.
I really like Prezi for telling stories. Ironically, even though the canvas isn’t linear, I feel it lends itself well to narrative and linear timelines. I also like it for breaking up monotony. If you know you’re audience has been watching Powerpoint presentations all day, use Prezi to mix it up; they will deeply appreciate it. Also, the future of Prezi remains to be seen, as they are now starting to heavily promote their new iPad app, which seems like the perfect solution for creating cool little presentations on the fly.