Pondering Prezi

At today’s meeting at Google, many of the presenters were using Prezi instead of Powerpoint or Google Docs or other online presentation options. Please note that not all of the presenters were from Google and this is not implying any endorsement on their part. I am simply observing a trend, and commenting on it.

I commented on the Prezi presence in Twitter, and this sparked quite a lively conversation. The conversation began like this:

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
“While Prezi is pretty and engaging, the more I am subjected to it from the audience view, the less I like it.”

… and ended like this:

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who find Prezi dizzying.”

… and …

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
“Prezi makes me so nauseous!”

In between, people asked questions, discussed reactions, compared to other products, and pondered best practices. I thought this might be worth sharing, not as any kind of authoritative view or recommendation, but more to open the conversation with others.

Actually, the conversation kind of started in the real life event, when the first presenter to use Prezi (who shall remain nameless) commented as he was setting up that, “People usually only feel queasy when they are within ten feet of the screen, so I think our first row will be safe. If you feel uncomfortable, please do leave the room.” As someone with a long history of being concerned with web accessibility, this raised all kinds of red flags for me. If you are aware of significant immediate health drawbacks to your presentation technology, why would a presenter still choose to use it?

OK, well, Prezi can be very engaging, interactive, catchy, flashy, attractive all that whizbang stuff. So that is why you would want to use it, because you want to have the whizbang bits. But, as usual, all those whizbang bits are the same things causing accessibility problems. In part, Prezi is Flash-based, which means it isn’t yet accessible on mobile devices, although they have taken the idea under consideration. That is just the basic part. The queasiness is an entirely different matter. That seems to come from the apparent movement of the material on the screen, that as you focus on something and get oriented to it directionally, it will then move and tilt as part of the transition to the next piece of information.

Here is the gist of the conversation.

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
pfanderson: While Prezi is pretty and engaging, the more I am subjected to it from the audience view, the less I like it.
laurasolomon: @pfanderson Can you tell me why? Been looking at Prezi as potential tool.
greaterumbrage: @pfanderson You have to have a real creative/design spark to do prezi right. It’s not good for presenting the way most people present.
biochembelle: I’ve yet to see Prezi used. mT @pfanderson: Prezi is pretty, engaging… more I am subjected to it from audience view, the less I like it.
pfanderson: @laurasolomon @greaterumbrage Exactly. Can be very good, can be beyond horrible. My big prob w/ @prezi is “queasy” in the front row phenom
doctorzen: @pfanderson But how do you feel about vanilla PowerPoint / KeyNote in comparison to Prezi? @biochembelle
laurasolomon: @pfanderson @pumpedlibrarian So I should skip Prezi if I’m a presenter?
pfanderson: @laurasolomon @pumpedlibrarian I would say explore, test it out, use with caution, be careful of transitions. #prezi
pfanderson: @laurasolomon @pumpedlibrarian Be especially sensitive to people with perceptual / cognitive disabilities/sensitivities #prezi
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Agreed! My fave example of good #prezi was done in form of a board game. Worked really well. Rare, tho.
pfanderson: I’m in presentations at #Google today, and most are using #prezi to present. I can’t look at screen. Missing content trying to avoid swoop
pumpedlibrarian: @pfanderson @laurasolomon that sounds really interesting, definitely a prezi i would have liked to see
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Here it is: Playing to Learn prezi.com/rj_b-gw3u8xl/playing-to-learn/
alisha764: @pfanderson is it prezi or overkill with animation? Or just poor presentations?
pumpedlibrarian: @pfanderson how serendipitous, btw, this prezi will be useful to my emerging leaders group! our topic is video games/libraries
pfanderson: @alisha764 A bad PPT only bores you, it doesn’t make you feel physically sick. A bad #Prezi does. Yes, overkill w/ animation, poor use.
laurasolomon: @pfanderson @pumpedlibrarian Good example! I will have to think on this before I make the jump to Prezi.
pfanderson: @mlrethlefsen I was a big fan of Prezi for a short time. There are some truly wonderful presentations built in it. Unfortunately, it’s hard.
juliewbee: @pfanderson Prezi makes me so nauseous!
pfanderson: @juliewbee YES!!! I literally FLINCH away during transitions, and throw my hands over my eyes. #prezi

DoctorZen brought up an excellent point – is Prezi done badly any worse than Powerpoint or Keynote or any other presentation tools done badly?

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
doctorzen: But how do you feel about vanilla Powerpoint / Keynote in comparison to Prezi?
pfanderson: Vanilla PPT is certainly less distressing to my vision and stomach. Both can be done badly, both can be done well.

Then a group of us detoured off into examples of good Prezis and what made them different from the distressing ones.

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Agreed! My fave example of good #prezi was done in form of a board game. Worked really well. Rare, tho.
pumpedlibrarian: @pfanderson @laurasolomon that sounds really interesting, definitely a prezi i would have liked to see
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Here it is: Playing to Learn http://prezi.com/rj_b-gw3u8xl/playing-to-learn/
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Notice how they move very little distance with each jump. Not as disturbing.
pumpedlibrarian: @pfanderson @laurasolomon I like seeing the map of the presentation first instead of a “surprise” of the route taken made into image @ end
pumpedlibrarian: @pfanderson how serendipitous, btw, this prezi will be useful to my emerging leaders group! our topic is video games/libraries
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian @laurasolomon Agree again! From old ed lit, provide concept map of topic w/ overview before presentation, review at end
pfanderson: @pumpedlibrarian Same author has another good one on playing to learn math. Check out her other prezis. Amazing woman.

Here is the good Prezi we all loved so much.

Prezi Conversation via Twitter
Playing to Learn (Maria Andersen): http://prezi.com/rj_b-gw3u8xl/playing-to-learn/

Ultimately for me, it came down to what I told @alisha764, (“A bad PPT only bores you, it doesn’t make you feel physically sick. A bad #Prezi does.”)

Good Powerpoint = nice
Good Prezi = especially special
Middling Powerpoint = OK
Middling Prezi = makes me physically ill
Bad Powerpoint = boring, puts me to sleep
Bad Prezi = makes me physically ill

It’s a risk/benefit proposition. If you are going to use Prezi, are you one of the folks who can use it in an exceptional fashion? Or are you going to make people sick? Well, if you aren’t a Prezi wizard, maybe you should stick to Powerpoint and similar tools.

16 responses to “Pondering Prezi

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  2. I don’t get carsick, seasick or airsick, but I do get Prezisick. It’s beautiful but slightly worse than useless. Shame. I’ve always wanted one of those screens Tom Cruise has in Minority report.


  3. I like your point about accessibility. In my LIS classes so far, I’ve seen more discussion of Prezi as an option than use of it in earnest, so the seasickness tends to be directly mentioned as a drawback–but even so, I think it’s not necessarily taken very seriously. From what I’ve seen, though, it’s fairly likely to impact my comprehension of a presentation. Even when I don’t end up feeling queasy, something about there being this big-picture map that won’t hold still long enough for me to locate information within it is…distracting, I think.


    • When I was a grad student, my research project was on using a conceptual framework of the learning content as a navigation tool for the content in a computer-aided instruction program. I really like that idea, but with Prezi even having the overview, you lose that sense of context. Unless you zoom back out between every shift, which would make the dizziness worse … oy vey. 😦


      • Sounds like an interesting project–any examples you could point me to?


      • I wish! Unfortunately, this was back in the 80s, programmed in HyperCard. There are probably some screenshots on paper somewhere in a box, but I’d be hard pressed to find it. It is clear in my mind, tho, the triangle that mapped to two cognitive frameworks for navigating the research process. One was primary/secondary/tertiary resources, and the more interesting one was the publication process model.


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  7. I use Prezi all the time, speaking to crowds on a weekly basis from 50 to 1500+. One of the things I learned early was not to do spinning zooms just because it’s something most haven’t seen before. I like having non-linear zooming, but a well organized Prezi should still support my speaking–not become the focal point. Prezi is much better than anything else out there–but those of us in the speaker biz need to be pretty careful about how we use it. And in a conference room I would be extra careful. It is a powerful tool, but can be mis-used. 5 years from now the ones who do the radical zoom ins and fancy cross-screen swipes to funny pictures will be mocked more relentlessly than the Powerpoint drones (because Hubris causes our problem, rather than incompetence which causes Powerpoint boredom)

    All that to say that Prezi is still hands down a useful thing, and I am now and likely for a long time an annual for-pay subscriber. I hope people who aren’t audience-sensitive don’t ruin it for the rest of us.


    • Hi, David, nice to meet you. 🙂 I agree that there are definitely evolving best practices with Prezi, and that the focus of any presentation tool should be on the presenter and content more than on the delivery mechanism. I’m sure you have also noticed that often the most highly paid invited speakers and keynotes use no slides or presentation tools or notes or any obvious supporting material, giving the appearance of a casual sincere connection with their audience. Wow. My biggest concern with depending on Prezi is the company’s complete insensitivity to issues of accessibility for persons with disabilities. That alone generates a substantial amount of reticence on my part to use them. Add to that the challenge of exporting content to other formats or backing up your content, and I am even more wary. I use Prezi, but rarely, and I count on creating a duplicate alternate presentation to address these concerns. The necessity of duplicate effort means Prezi is less worth my time than it might be if they fixed a few things. My 2¢. 😉


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