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Revisiting Prezi for Presentations

Playing with Visual Interfaces PreziWith summer conference season well underway, I’ve been preparing a number of presentations. There are lots of options for presentation tools and techniques, but recently I’ve been relying on Prezi. When Prezi was a new presentation tool, Ethan examined the early version for its possibility to challenge the way we give presentations. The first version was fairly limited, with preset color palettes ranging from the garish to the bland and aggravatingly fussy process for arranging content. However, the platform’s recent extensions make Prezi worth a second look.

If it’s been a while since you looked at Prezi, one of the best features added since the tool’s release is the ability to edit the CSS. The “Colors and Styles” options incorporates both a quick interface for choosing colors for each of the main Prezi interface elements and text and the ability to dive right into the stylesheet. This can really help for designing a visual metaphor and working in harmony with imported graphics.

Prezi also now incorporates logic that makes it easier to group pieces of information or sets of images. The frames that Prezi uses as one option in lieu of slides now act as groupings, making it easy to slide everything within the set while keeping the spatial organization. (This can be annoying when trying to get rid of the frame itself, but it’s very helpful for making the final Prezi coherent even after planning through a more organic or brainstorming process.)

Two key pieces of Prezi’s evolution make it more accessible if you are considering a move from PowerPoint. The first is the ability to import from PowerPoint—which may sound like a bad idea, given the potential to recreate “death by powerpoint” in an even more dizzying space. However, it can be useful if you already have the slides for a talk and want to play with the information in new ways. Another useful tool for the PowerPoint devotee is the ability to view the Prezi as slides. The side view of the presentation in “Path” mode shows a more traditional view of the screens on which the presentation lands, a view very similar to PowerPoint’s overview. It’s easier to see the linear path without traveling through frame by frame, and this path can be exported as a PDF (and then imported into PowerPoint) for last minute presentation needs in places that aren’t Prezi-compatible. I used this method to quickly recreate a Prezi as PowerPoint when a system wouldn’t allow the Prezi Flash launcher to run, and it allowed me to keep the style and visual metaphors without starting from scratch.

Opinions on Prezi tend to be strongly divided. Prezi gets a bad reputation for causing motion sickness, encouraging bad design (not unlike the infamous PowerPoint transitions or horrific slide formats), and offering only the illusion of nonlinearity. While calling Prezi a non-linear presentation tool is a misnomer, I find it particularly valuable for how it explores the potential of the screen in a manner akin to the “infinite canvas.” Unlike PowerPoint’s strategy of isolating information onto individual pages, borrowing the metaphor from old-fashioned slide decks, Prezi allows for communication “between the slides”–the placement of information in relation to other content can be another part of the presentation’s message. Thus Prezi is particularly at home on the iPad, although right now the iPad can only be used for viewing and not editing presentations.

Here’s a couple of my recent Prezis and information from the designers from Prezi Day. Do you use Prezi, or encourage students to use it in your classroom? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments!

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