In Praise of Prezi

The first time I saw anyone use the presentation software Prezi, I hated it. Hated it. It had all the worst assets of PowerPoint: swoopy graphics that made me feel sick, showy offy zoom in and outs that added nothing to the points that the speaker was making. It was a distraction to the audience, and a bloody irritating one at that.

Then, a few years later, I was asked to speak at the Institute of Classical Studies in London. I had a large chunk of time. I had a lot I wanted to say. I didn’t want to use a script. I did want to be able to share my presentation afterwards.

So I thought of Prezi. I went back, thinking I would have a little play, and probably end up using PowerPoint. But something about actually making the presentation in this medium clicked for me. I’m a person who thinks visually, who likes to mind map and scribble, who likes to spread out their points all over a sheet of A4 and draw arrows between them before committing to (hopefully) elegant paragraphs. Prezi lets me do this in a way that looks more grown up archaeologist and less GCSE revision plans, turning scribbles into slick(ish) slides. By looking at the presentation laid out in front of you, my thought process can be instantly viewed by anyone interested. The medium allows me to clearly structure my talk in a visual way, which makes speaking without notes 100 times easier. The natural flow of the presentation is obvious, there’s no chance of losing my place and not knowing where I am.

Maybe that’s selfish in that Prezi’s easier on me, the speaker, than on you, the listener. However, for a long talk, the zooms and wiggles should be coming at you slowly and infrequently. I have used Prezi for a shorter talk, but I’m not sure I would again. Spread out the pain for the audience and they might get caught up in the ideas and delivery and let you get away with it.

I’m about to give another longer talk at UCL, and have just finished the Prezi for that, too. While the swoopy overdone effects still annoy me, I think the chance to visually follow a story from start to finish, not just skim through slides, makes them worth putting up with. But if anyone knows how to get rid of the damn things that would be great. Cheers.

And if you’d like a look at my Prezi creations, here’s that initial ICS talk: https://prezi.com/1ghaybchcqqn/translating-the-corpus-vasorum-antiquorum/ I will put a link to my 18th October talk (which features some stats from the survey plugged below) up as soon as I’ve given it. If you find it on my Prezi, don’t give away the end 😉

**This post was sparked by a gentle and amused reproach for using Prezi when I mentioned it on Twitter. There’s not space in 140 characters to really explain why it works for me, so I thought I’d write about it.**

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