Addicted to novelty since 2001

Prezi and My Northern Voice Track

I like speaking at Northern Voice because I don’t have to speak about web marketing, which is my usual topic for professional gigs. Instead I can pick a topic that’s of personal interest to me. This year my talk was called “What Would Mookie Do? How To Do Good on the Web” and kind of was a sequel to my “1100 Stacies” talk from a few years ago.

Another reason I like speaking at Northern Voice is that I have a home field advantage–lots of friends in the audience. And they’re liable to be forgiving if things go sideways.

With this in mind, I tried Prezi, the most innovative alternative to PowerPoint I’ve seen in a while.

Interestingly, most of Prezi’s innovation happens in the creation, not the presentation, part of the process. It’s a sad reality that most people (myself, occasionally, included) prepare a talk by creating a set of slides. The tools, PowerPoint or its slightly cooler cousin Keynote, shape how we think about what we’re trying to say. PowerPoint fosters an infamously bullet point-filled, orderly, linear approach. As Seth Godin says (and the US military agrees), bullet points are unemotional, sterile and only have the appearance of precision.

Conversely, Prezi uses a kind of tabula rasa meets the mind map model. You’re presented with an infinitely large canvas, and you drop chunks of content–text, photos, video and so forth–onto it. Then you connect these together in a kind of narrative path and, huzzah, it’s presentation 2.0.

Cognitively, it makes much more sense than PowerPoint. Instead of building this plodding, linear narrative, I’m connecting ideas. Instead of itemizing bullet points (which, truth be told, I rarely use in presentations anyway), I’m summarizing ideas in a few words.

This screenshot makes the editing interface look messy, but it’s really just the way I’ve drawn my connecting path. It makes sense to me as the creator, and that’s what’s important. Click to embiggen:

Prezi Editor Screenshot

The interface is a joy to work in. Everything just works the way it should. Undo behaves the way you’d want it to, it’s painless to upload images and it makes effective use of keyboard navigation. I’ll definitely use Prezi again.

Here’s my embedded presentation from my Northern Voice talk, complete with a quote from “Do the Right Thing”.

6 Responses to “Prezi and My Northern Voice Track”

  1. Eagranie

    I especially liked how the slides all zoomed around crazy like, but I’m a big fan of shiny things. The fact that it seems to be a more intuitive way of building a presentation is a very nice bonus.

  2. harriet Fancott

    Loved you Prezi-tation on slacktivism. Thanks for the tip on a better alternative to PowerP. And thanks AGAIN for the fantastic Northern Voice. I loved it!

  3. Derek K. Miller

    Over time, I’ve tended to have less and less formal structure and fewer slides in the talks I give. Usually these days I have a list of some of the ideas I’d like to cover, in rough order, usually on a scrap of paper, and that’s about it. Years ago, I gave a presentation about PowerPoint itself which had one slide, and this was it.

    Part of that approach is simply pushback against PowerPoint and its ilk in general, but a bigger part is (a) I think there should be far more focus on the talking part rather than the visual aids part (which should be aids, not an essential part of the talk, and (b) I like to be able to let the audience and me redirect the conversation into new directions, which slides often don’t permit.

    When I have wanted to include slides of some sort, I usually put them in one long scrolling web page, which I can have on a laptop, on the Web somewhere, or on a USB key. Then I can scroll up and down as needed if we want to go back to something. I also like having a whiteboard or flip chart I can write on.

    The way I like to think of it is, if there were no laptop or projector, no Internet, maybe even no power at all, I could still do the talk and have it work. That might be a good way to approach all sorts of presentations. At least it would help avoid PowerPoint-itis.

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  5. Julie

    I was reminded during the keynote at Convergence yesterday how difficult it is to make really great slides. Even the leader of one of North America’s most recognized branding agency had a pretty clunky PowerPoint. I’m glad to see some innovation in this space!

  6. Stewart

    Prezi is intriguing because it seems so cool and yet it bothers me. The zooming around, the transitions distract me, they take me away from the content. I’ve seen a few examples and although yours is better than most, the movement irritates me.

    Bravo for trying it though! In the same vain I hope to try a product called Novamind 5 – which is a mind-mapping application which has a presentation mode. This too is intriguing in the prep, as you mentioned about Prezi. Whether it leads to a better presentation remains to be seen.

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