Susan Kistler on Whether to Prezi or not to Prezi

I’m Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director and aea365 Saturday contributor. Today I want to talk about one of the hot debates in presentation delivery: To Prezi or not to Prezi, that is the question.

For the uninitiated, Prezi is a presentation tool that is a possible replacement for PowerPoint. It allows the presenter to zoom in and out of various points on a larger graphic. Penny Black wrote about Prezi in a very popular earlier aea365 post that is worth reading in order to gain an understanding of its functionality. Stephanie Evergreen, projector director for AEA’s Potent Presentations Initiative (and substitute for me last week on aea365 – thanks Stephanie), recently wrote a blog post on “Why I’m Not in Love with Prezi” on her blog, and I chimed in about my own dislike for the tool. Then, at the AEA/CDC Summer Evaluation Institute, at a workshop session on low cost tech tools, we discussed when Prezi might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rad Resource: It is difficult to explain what Prezi is without taking a look. If you haven’t seen Prezi in action, you need to see an example to understand. Colleagues from New Zealand presented at Evaluation 2010 using Prezi and their presentation may be found online here.

Lessons Learned: My dislike of Prezi stems from a two key issues:

  • It can literally make the audience queazy watching a Prezi presentation
  • Using Prezi requires a level of design skill that is rarely in evidence on the part of the presentation creator – to make a great Prezi you need to attend to both the whole and the parts

Yet, it is a new platform, and platforms evolve over time. It is a tool, and like any tool, it can be wielded well or poorly. Our workshop discussion tried to consider the strengths, and two came to mind:

  • It adds novelty to a presentation – a bit of uniqueness. Evaluation presentations can be stodgy and benefit from tools that capture and hold attention. Although we discussed the downside, in that people may be attending to the process rather than the presentation content, this was still felt to be a strength.
  • In the hands of a good designer, it likely can illustrate well parts of a whole, moving back and forth between the two. Look at the New Zealand example, about half way through there is a lovely diagram of a tree and the Prezi presentation moves us in and out from its components to the full illustration.

Get Involved: Have you tried Prezi? What works for you? I am, in particular, in search of a Prezi presentation of a logic model – moving between the parts and whole to good effect. Do share!

The above is fully my own opinion and does not reflect that of the American Evaluation Association.

3 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Whether to Prezi or not to Prezi”

  1. Everyone I have trained on Prezi has shown me they have the design skills necessary if they follow some guidelines.

    Point 1 in my post on Prezi tips explains how to use the Prezi dimensions + movement well in order to reinforce presentation message and structure.

    I think we all have quite naturally what we need to use the “concept” of this tool. Like Tony Buzan says in his “Mindmapping Book”, radial thinking is the natural architecture of the universe. We have unfortunately had it drummed out of us by linear PPT thinking and schooling.

    ps When Prezi is used for longer presentations (ie not “less than 5 minutes” looking at it on with a speaker who speaks well around her points, the transitions produce no sea-sickness at all. Spread over time, they can do a great job of reinforcing structure and transition between content.

  2. About Prezi — It is very true that Prezi, like Powerpoint, requires some design skills. For Prezi, one of the first is how to handle step-zooms to avoid vertigo.

  3. Prezi should be renamed Vertigo. Not much value add than the stodgy Powerpoint.

    Have you tried for data-driven presentations?
    It’s amazing and all done on an iPad! I think this is where the future is going.

    I found out about the App from who runs a data viz blog and iPad presentation mashup of the mobile industry.

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