There’s been a bit of a buzz around the office about Prezi, the “Zooming Presentation Editor.” But not for the reasons you might think. Obviously we build a lot of strategy decks, both for clients and ourselves. So we’ve had our frustrations with presentations.
But that’s not why we’re buzzing about Prezis here at ENC. We’re not convinced Prezi will displace PowerPoint. Nor are we convinced that Prezi is going to make it easier to develop great presentations. Rather, we think it’s going to put an even higher premium on the eternal keys to presentation success: great design and strategic storytelling.
To understand why, we need to take a look at the key difference between Prezi and traditional slide-making software. It all boils down to transitions. Call it a frame or a scene or a slide or a page, every presentation format has some type of basic unit or building block. You create presentations by arranging these units/building blocks into a sequence. You use transitions to get from one unit/block to the next.
At best, traditional linear transitions get you from one place to another but they don’t convey any useful information, such as context or relevance. They also limit you to a structure where one slide follows another.
Prezis still consist of basic building blocks (called “frames“). But they blow traditional linear transitions out of the water with the ability to zoom between any frame location and any other. This gives you the power to use transitions in a completely new way—to quickly convey context and other important information.
It also frees you completely from the restrictions of a linear structure. Instead, you can relate frames in any order within a flexible hierarchy of storytelling. Zoom in and out from frame to frame to navigate the hierarchy, explain relationships, and maintain narrative momentum.
More power and almost complete freedom.
While those might seem like the elements of a revolution, we’re not so sure. Because they don’t eliminate the 800-pound gorilla of presentation making. They actually make him bigger. Sure, a beautifully designed and carefully structured Prezi will definitely pack a storytelling punch few traditional presentations can match. But it may also be just as difficult to produce as the best (or worst) of the traditional decks it surpasses. You’ll probably need a skilled designer/director to turn your napkin sketch into a really good Prezi.
And there’s the catch: If Prezis (or Microsoft with similar features) raise the bar for effective presentations, will busy people even try to clear it? Or will they just shoot bullets at it, as they always have?