Prezi arrived on the scene about two (maybe three?) years ago. Since its introduction, conference attendees’ snoozing during a succession of PowerPoints has been interupted by a sense of sea-sickness induced by well-meaning presenters and their carefully crafted Prezis. All Prezis I have seen are like a PowerPoint presentation riding along a rollercoaster. They are linear in format, usually contain bullet-points (a major faux-pas in the eyes of Prezi-purists) and have a start, middle and end. They offer no additional advantage to PowerPoint. I don’t really like admitting this to the learning community, but I don’t really like Prezi.

Exhibit A:

Take the Prezi below. This was my one live presentation I gave at a chemistry education conference, I think in 2009. What attracted me to Prezi was the fact that you could show the audience the overall presentation in one go, and as you go along highlight the sections of the talk you go through as you progress. (This Prezi, for extra nerdiness, was shaped as a reaction profile diagram, which no-one in the audience noticed. For shame, physical chemists, for shame). It had pictures and videos embedded. It took me an age to do and I was very proud of it

I wonder however, in the effort to help peple get a grasp on the overall presentation, whether I lost them in the detail of the talk with a constantly swishing screen. Even now I can see faces in the audience following the presentation as it rolled around, probably trying to wonder where to focus next, as I wished helplessly for the presentation to stop being so gut-churningly jolly. There is something elegant and simple about a well designed PowerPoint slide.

Exhibit B:

Well I don’t like to pick on other people, but if you’ve made a Prezi, can you take a step back and ask yourself, what added value does it have over PowerPoint? There is an add-in for PowerPoint that allows slides to be grouped together. PowerPoint animation is becoming really quite impressive. PowerPoint doesn’t leave you fretting about whether the computer you’re giving the presentation on will have Flash Player. PowerPoint doesn’t make your audience seasick.

Exhibit C

We all recognise there is something terrible about most PowerPoint presentations. But people interested in technology have a terrible habit of ambulance chasing the latest gig (see Exhibit A) rather than taking something that’s quite good and working on it to improve it. For PowerPoint, I think disabling the bullet point, having a maximum word count per slide and creating purposeful handouts for after presentation digestion are three ways to improve.

Exhibit D

Someone very cleverly suggested to me today that Prezi could be a very useful mind-mapping software. I think that has potential. But it’s not a presentation!

I want to be wrong about Prezi. I really do. It looks and feels cool. But I just don’t see it as a good alternative for presentations. Am I wrong?!!

5 thoughts on “UnimPrezi

  1. I agree entirely! I want to love Prezi, and I tried to make our open day presentation a Prezi because I thought it would add a little wow factor. Then I realised I was one of the people who got seasick!
    I get a wee bit sick of folk complaining about powerpoint. Like most software, it is a tool and can be used to a variety of levels. Bad powerpoint is terrible, but good powerpoint is pretty good! I’ve never come across an alternative that works!

  2. Surely it’s possible to produce a Prezi that is available for non-linear use but that has a standard pathway with transitions that don’t induce nausea?
    I hear this anti-bullet point stance regularly and I concur. So can anyone point to some good Powerpoint alternatives to excessive prose and the bulleted list that still satisfy the student craving for ‘notes’? I take it you would advocate separation of presentation slides and handout content? Is there another way, same information and legibility, no bullet points?

  3. I’m with you mate … doing it for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon is lame. I did actually make “Clouds Suck” as a prezi though (I did it first as a ppt and didn’t like the feel). What I wanted from the talk fitted the tool well enough for me to use it.


    You can see I have a number of big ideas I want to move between throughout the talk and multiple narratives to draw together. Prezi works well for this. I won’t be using it for much else though :p

    I didn’t try to do anything too smart for the overall shape 😉

  4. Thanks very much for your replies – sorry for delay in response! Simon, I think your use of Prezi to represent the areas of chemistry leading to the vignettes is clever, as it is essentially a mind-map of the different areas covered showing how they relate to each other. I think that’s where Prezi’s strength lies – Declan I agree your “big ideas” approach is a nice use of it too.

    REgarding bullet points etc, I would draw a distinction between conference presentations and lectures – you’re right, if we went to a lecture and just had pretty pictures, students would have a riot! I’ve tried various mechanisms to get around this – for example having a purposefully made handout so that the lecture slides just act as explainers/points for discussion. Slides would tend in those cases just to be diagrams, so that in lecturing, I would describe a process (phys chem :)) and students could take notes in the handouts which are structured to guide them through this. It worked OK, but there were a few pit-falls to discuss another time.

    Anyway, now that term is back, students are lucky if I bring a bit of chalk to lectures, let alone all this fancy stuff 🙂

    Thanks again for commenting. Nice to feel that Variety is extending on into term.

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