Ah Prezi, new kid on the block, the shiny new toy that us techies and geeks “have” to play with. Yes, I succumbed to its siren call as well; my earlier post stands testimony. In an interesting twist however, I found myself reverting to Keynote for an in-class presentation last week. It got me thinking, what does Prezi bring to the table that the rest don’t?
Space: Loads and loads of it as a matter of fact. With traditional presentation tools like PowerPoint and Keynote, the “slide” approach requires that each point of note be presented within a specified frame, making it harder to provide the big picture view. With Prezi’s “broad canvas” approach means you can take as little or as much space as you need to make your point, while the zoom functionality allows you to present the bird’s eye view as well as focus on the specifics.
Non-Linear: Well, ok, I’m not saying that Prezi allows you to just be all over the map if you want to. Clearly, there has to be a rhyme and reason to the order in which the material is presented, but it’s not the forced linearity that is inherent in PowerPoint and Keynote. Paths allow you to connect the material any which way you choose, so you can go up, down, and left as well as to the right. So there is linearity in terms of the logic, but it doesn’t “have” to be part of the presentation itself.
Hierarchy & Importance: I haven’t really played with this in my presentations yet, but I get the impression that it might be possible to imply hierarchy and importance through visual size in Prezi, much like one sees in tag clouds. It is possible to vary the size of individual elements, and to my mind, it makes sense to use that to imply hierarchy and importance.
Visuality: This isn’t really a “Prezi” factor per se, but I do believe that Prezi could induce us to think about presenting with symbols and visual metaphors, instead of the usual one bullet point after another on one slide after another approach. This is not to say we can’t do the same with PowerPoint or Keynote, just that it may not be as intuitive or apparent.
So should we just abandon PowerPoint, Keynote, et al, to jump on the Prezi bandwagon? I don’t believe so. In my opinion, Prezi works really well for those contexts that are non-linear to begin with, have no specified point of entry or exit within the narrative, or lend themselves to a mind map-type approach. The traditional platforms, in my mind, still serve as an effective backdrop to, say, a presentation where the goal is primarily information transfer. There’s also the learning curve to consider, it is a new tool after all, not to mention thinking and visualizing presentations a whole new way.
In the final analysis however, I believe Prezi – and similar tools – may play their part in shifting the spotlight back on the presenter. Ideally, they will awaken the realization that these tools are merely the backdrop to the dialogue, narrative, and knowledge that they can and should provide.