Today, Ekant Veer shares his thoughts about Prezi. Ekant is a Marketing professor at the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), publishes frequently in a number of international marketing journals, and runs his own blog on academic life. Oh, and he is one of the most engaging and entertaining presenters that I have ever seen! So let’s see what he has to say about this new presentation paradigm.
If you’ve never heard about Prezi, here’s a quick overview (and see video below)… but it’d be far better to go to their site and have a play. Prezi is a reasonably new means of creating presentations. Instead of a linear series of slides, you create a mindmap or a flow diagram of your topic and include content as you go. The platform offers a very different feel from your standard Powerpoint or Keynote presentation by zooming in and out of your mindmap.
Prezi is web based, so you can edit your presentations (Prezis) from anywhere with an internet connection, as well as access old Prezis whenever you need. You can also play them on your iPad with a free Prezi Viewer App, which since its latest version gives you some basic editing capabilities.
How Prezi and I met…
I heard about Prezi from a colleague a few months back who was certain it will revolutionize the way we present, and signals the end of Powerpoint. In my usual vitriolic style, I told him that replacing one presentation platform with another, albeit sexier, is not revolutionary. To me, it’s like changing from an old car, to a new car…the new car has nicer bells and whistles, but it’s still a car. To me, revolutionary needs to change a car into a helicopter; a carrot into a steak dinner; a mouse into a hippopotamus. None of which I was convinced Prezi would be able to do for presentations…
Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago when I came across a different colleague’s webpage where he openly shared one of his Prezis. I had a quick look and was actually quite impressed by the slickness of the Prezi and gave a little giggle with how ‘cool’ it looked.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… Is it really worth investing time and effort into Prezi just to look cool? I appreciate I’m talking to mainly Apple junkies here who are more interested in looking good than functionality, so perhaps it is. Let me run you through a few pros and cons of Prezi, and then I’ll let you make up your own mind…
Pedagogically, the only reason I see Prezi offering any real value over linear based presentation platforms is that you can zoom out and see how your whole presentation fits together. As a student, this can be invaluable. We hear a lot of times how a presentation just doesn’t seem to flow or that they just don’t see how everything fits together.
Because Prezi encourages (almost forces) an integrative and holistic means of presenting, it is far easier to show a student how the whole lecture/seminar fits together. This is, for me, the best, and possibly only advantage.
Another key advantage is that it’s free for basic access. Free access for corporate clients means that all your Prezis are public and anyone can see this. You will need to upgrade to make them private and do a double upgrade to Pro status if you want to have more storage space and the ability to edit Prezis offline.
HOWEVER, if you’re based at an academic institution as a teacher or a student, you get one upgrade free (so you can make your Prezis private) and the next upgrade to Pro status is heavily discounted. Make sure you check out the Edu profiles… don’t pay if you don’t have to! Finally, all those years of tolling away as a disenfranchised doctoral student and through the tenure system is paying off…
You can download your Prezi to create handouts… but you can do the same with Powerpoint & Keynote. You can share your Prezis and collaborate with others, which is cool, but not all that common, I suspect. You can download your Prezis and play them offline, but the filesizes are big (my simple presentation was 20megs compared to 260kbs it would have been on Powerpoint). You can link in YouTube movies, sound, websites and the like, but you can already do that, too…
I really think my first Pro, is my only real Pro.
Ok, I’m usually a pretty tough grader, and this review will be no different. Like I said, I don’t see the point to Prezi over Powerpoint, pedagogically. Yes, your students will (as mine did today) oooh and aaah at it the first time they see it, but seriously, it’ll be so normalized, that any ‘cool’ factor will soon be lost.
It’s a little lackluster with regards to its presentation. I can’t seem to find a way to easily change object colours beyond the handful of themes on offer. The fonts are basic and the overall feel, although has the potential to be very cool, takes a lot of effort to get there…
It can be a little difficult to get the hang of, but I won’t hold this against Prezi – everything is difficult the first time and with practice, it gets easier. I tell my students that I occasionally load up the DOS emulator on my PC, just to feel alive and young again…I then go on to explain what DOS is…which then leads to the obligatory “In my day” rant…
One of the things I personally found annoying, is the motion sickness. Prezi flies around zooming in and out of content in its cool and nonchalant way… after a while on a massive screen, I start to feel pretty sick…I’m sure my students did, too, but I didn’t stop to ask, this is all about me.
You can’t manage the transition speed between content, which could have helped. You can overcome the motion sickness by having all your content on Prezi in a straight line…but then why bother with Prezi? Go back to Powerpoint or Keynote.
Conclusion: Should you Prezi?
It’s cool…it’s sexy…it’s new enough that you’ll get people’s attention compared with the standard linear presentation. However, it’s not revolutionary in my mind.
No fancy gadget will make a bad teacher better. No new technology will make stale content more current. If you are seriously interested in improving your lecturing technique, then there are far better ways to do it than to convert all your presentations into Prezis, which would take hours…
Invest that time into updating your material, or sitting in colleagues’ lectures to see what they do, or, heaven forbid, get some additional training. Prezi will no doubt be around for a while, but I don’t expect it to be the BEST presentation software on the planet, as claimed by their CEO Peter Arvai in a recent email to me.
If you want to revolutionize your presentations…perhaps throw away your presentation completely. Don’t pretend a new lick of paint will cover up the fact you are still driving an old car. Think outside the square and fly….kinda like at the end of Back to the Future…you know, that movie in the ‘80s…In my day etc etc etc.
About the Guest Lecturer: Ekant Veer, PhD, is a father, husband, friend, Consumer Researcher, Marketer, award winning teacher and researcher, and happens be a Senior Lecturer of Marketing at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He owns an iPad, but hates Apple. Follow him online via Twitter (@VeerOffTrack), Facebook, or on his blog about academic life.
Disclaimer: All images by Prezi.