The last time you made a presentation, did you notice your listeners’ eyes glazing over as you went point by point through slide after slide of the project you’d projected on the screen behind you? If you used a certain well-known Microsoft program, it’s possible they may have been stricken with a common ailment known as DBP, or Death By PowerPoint.
Although the venerable tool has been the go-to presentation program for millions of lecturers and speakers for more than two decades, thanks to its user friendliness and easily absorbed creations, many presenters are finding a new approach is needed to engage their audiences and hold people’s attention. Among the handful of alternatives that have sprung up recently is Prezi (“presentation” in Hungarian). Here’s how it stacks up with PowerPoint and how it can help you nail your next MBA class presentation.
The Basics of Prezi
Whereas a PowerPoint presentation usually works like a book that you progress through one page at a time, Prezi turns your information into one big picture (similar to a mind map). And it’s no static image either. Together, all your talking points — be they text, images, or videos — constitute your path, and as you hit on each one, the Prezi fluidly flows around in 3D, zooming in on the details and zooming out for the big picture. You may choose to create your Prezi on a premade or a blank template, both of which are customizable and editable anywhere on the canvas.
Bells and Whistles
On its website, Prezi keeps a log of new features that have been added to the program. While some features are unique, like the cool ability to add 3D backgrounds that Prezi automatically renders for motion, some are functions PowerPoint is offering now, or even has been offering for years. The ability to add sound or video to a presentation, presenter view, CSS editing, fade-in animation, spell check, object grouping, and aspect ratio adjustment are all elements both tools provide.
Still, Prezi has an in-house iPhone and iPad app going for it, whereas you’d have to use a third-party app to view PowerPoints on the go on an iDevice. Prezi also offers a large collection of reusable Prezies that members have agreed to share, allowing the Prezies to be modified by others. This means if you find a particular sound effect or animation you love, it’s yours for the easy taking. And Prezi even plays well with Microsoft, allowing users to “prezify” their slides by importing .ppt files.
Both programs allow you to open up your presentation to multiple editors so that they can make changes in real time, although Prezi arguably makes this a little easier. Simply click the “Share” button while editing, type in the email addresses of the people you want to let in (10 max), then click “Add.” They then have avatars that display on the canvas wherever they happen to be editing at any time. This is also the route you take to use a Prezi to present online to up to 30 people, none of whom require a Prezi license to view.
PowerPoint collaboration involves the use of Microsoft’s cloud storage service SkyDrive. Once you’ve used some of your 7GB of free storage to share your .ppt, you also invite people by emailing them. You can give them editing or simply viewing rights, plus make comments to them and read their notes to you.
Prezi’s biggest strength — it’s ability to put ideas into motion — some actually consider a weakness, finding the zooming in and out off-putting or even dizzying. Though certainly a fresh platform for presenting, a Prezi might feel like a good fit with certain business topics and out of place with others (a new advertising campaign versus a quarterly financial report, for example). When it comes to printing handouts, PowerPoint also has the upper hand. Taking Prezi out of non-linear form prevents readers from getting the full effect and can make for a heavy printing job, depending on how image-heavy a particular Prezi may be.
Finally, while the “Public” version of Prezi is free, all Prezies you create using it become public and contain a Prezi logo watermark. Private presentations and premium support cost $4.92 a month (for the “Enjoy” package), and the ability to edit Prezies offline (the Pro version) costs $13.25 a month. Granted, Office 2013 costs nearly $200, but considering PowerPoint is only one part of a suite that only has to be purchased once, the real costs are pretty even. As the public version of Prezi limits you to 100 MB of storage, you may quickly reach your limit if you need to present frequently or want to include anything other than the briefest videos in your presentation.
The Final Tally
Hardcore PowerPoint devotees insist that in the right hands, Microsoft’s program can produce presentations every bit as engaging and professional as Prezi. If you haven’t used it lately, you might want to check out what’s new in PowerPoint these days. You might be surprised at what you find, from smart guides to aid in design (a la Adobe Illustrator) to optimization for tablet and smartphone use and projector connection.
Think of it this way: when you shoot home videos, do you constantly zoom in and out? If so, you may want to stick with the steady hand of PowerPoint. And students who don’t enjoy public speaking like having the security of a PowerPoint behind them when they get in front of a crowd. But as an MBA candidate, hopefully you’re ready and willing to get out of your comfort zone a bit. Prezi is great for that. We recommend you give the free version a try; PowerPoint will still be there if you need it.
— Written by Jared Luck