If you are a presenter you MUST watch this company: Prezi (new features just released)

Maybe because I worked at Microsoft for three years I really can’t stand Microsoft PowerPoint. Every time I start a presentation I joke that I will not force my audience to sit through boring slides so I won’t be using PowerPoint today. This joke NEVER fails to get applause. Why? Because we’ve all seen boring presentations.

To undernote just how powerful PowerPoint’s pull on people is, one day I was hanging out in the Starbucks on Sand Hill Road with a famous venture capitalist. We came across the team from RedBeacon. You know them because they won Techcrunch 50. But this day the team was going up and down Sand Hill Road looking for funding (they were successful on that visit because they raised $7.4 million).

But they were working on their pitch, using Microsoft PowerPoint. I could tell it was the kind of pitch that bores the hell out of me. You know, the standard nine slides with nine points each. A slide for the market opportunity. Another one for the team. That kind of thing.

I turned to my VC friend and asked him whether he liked sitting through PowerPoint slides like this. He answered “no.” But the team went back to work on the slide deck anyway.

It’s too bad, because there’s a far better tool to use for doing presentations. It’s Prezi and here I interview CEO Peter Arvai about the new collaboration features they turned on last night and also see some of the ways you can use Prezi to make better presentations. (You can follow Peter on Twitter here).

I’ve studied why PowerPoint is so boring. There are several problems with it:

1. It forces you into linear thinking. “First we’ll talk about the market opportunity, then we’ll talk about the team, then we’ll talk about the challenges, etc etc.”
2. It encourages you to put a lot of words on screen. The best way to make a boring slide is put more than nine words on it. Have you ever seen Steve Jobs with a slide that has more than nine words on it? I haven’t. Yet in PowerPoint it happens nearly every slide. Why? It affords that.
3. PowerPoint doesn’t give you control over typography. All slides have the same crappy look. Why? Because you can’t use custom typography easily. I remember watching the guy who designed Bill Gates’ slides. He rarely used the tools inside PowerPoint, rather he’d design the slides in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, and import them into PowerPoint as graphics. That’s why Bill Gates’ slides always looked better than average PowerPoint users, but it was very hard and took a very talented graphic designer to do.
4. PowerPoint doesn’t let you collaborate nicely with other people.
5. Adding motion to PowerPoint is difficult and when Microsoft makes it easy it rarely is to focus on the message. With Prezi you can zoom in, which gets your audience to pay attention to the message. It’s the ultimate “drill down.” But with PowerPoint, when you find the animation tools, it affords flying text or goofy cartoons that will fly in on your slides. Looks like amateur hour, which is why most professional presenters don’t use these tools, but even when you use them they don’t add much to your points.

Anyway, if you want to do better presentations, you should visit the Presentation Zen blog, and you should use Prezi instead of Microsoft PowerPoint.

By the way, Prezi is hosted on Rackspace and we’re very proud to be hosting this very cool company that was invested in by TED, too.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

38 thoughts on “If you are a presenter you MUST watch this company: Prezi (new features just released)

  1. Keynote. It’s what you need to make presentations look great. Steve Jobs uses it. And your iPhone and iPad can be used as remote controls and pointers. From personal experience, the best presentations have little to no text and big, meaningful images. You should talk and let the deck be a backdrop. A presentation with lots of text isn’t a presentation, it’s a pitch book.

  2. I really like Prezi but i’ve hit a major stumbling block with it.

    I started using it a few months ago and was so impressed that I managed to convince my manager to buy a Pro License. As we started building more Prezis and at one point we decided that we wanted to start creating Prezis that contain confidential content. Due to the confidentiality of the content we did not want to store this on the Prezi servers. No problem, we could use Prezi Desktop as we had a Pro License. Our problems started when we wanted to share the Prezi with other people inside our organisation. The easiest way to do this would have been to embed it on one of our Intranet pages. However Prezi will not allow you to export your content in a format that allows you to do this.

    Despite asking this question several times on Prezi’s Support pages, and seeing the same question asked by many others, we have yet to get a reply from Prezi.

    The result is that my manager has now lost patience and is not going to renew the Pro License next year. As it stands Prezi is no longer an option for us,

    Such a shame.

  3. Been using it for entire they have been out and there still is nothing that helps have good images or screen shots with clarity.

    If someone found a solution then share please. Other than that I get lots of WOW what was that you used?

  4. Been using it for entire they have been out and there still is nothing that helps have good images or screen shots with clarity.

    If someone found a solution then share please. Other than that I get lots of WOW what was that you used?

    1. Not sure what issues you’re facing. While images may look blurred in birds eye view, they are fine when you zoom in (yes, a little lower in res than ppt). Take a look at this one we did at my wife’s non profit: http://bit.ly/cvEihf – at the 3rd click you see a comic strip – are you NOT getting this kind of resolution, or is it that you get this but it’s not good enough? I’m not a prezi expert but will try to help. And yes, that “wow what was that” helps when we make a presentation!

  5. Prezi is amazing; we have a paid account with them and have almost stopped using powerpoint for many of our presentations.

    In fact, our app has some ‘learning content’ – and all of it is done on Prezi
    (like this one on 50 power tips for businesses using twitter http://bit.ly/9WfUku)

    The (rare) downtimes (I think it is Prezi, not Rackspace) were earlier a concern but seem to be getting better now. Anyway, they provide an offline viewer to get around this.

  6. I checked out Presi a while ago, and the basic abilities were awesome, so for the seasoned presenter who is more comfortable scanning his slides, and powerfully talking about them, it really is a hit, but for those who invest a ton of time into their “decks” with all sorts of fancy features and high quality pictures…they still come up unsatisfied with Presi…it’s a shame, but with continued features, they are only going to gain ground.

    I’m with you on the stigma Powerpoint carries, it’s just a beast that needs to be put down. Keynote on the other hand, what a beautiful application!

  7. Even if you accept the linearity of Powerpoint (for now…), each slide should beg you to ask “what is the best way to get this point across?” I’ve found a ridiculously simple tactic to improve presentations: set your default slide to be “Title only.” When the default is the text slide, people fall into using it without even thinking. In that sense, Powerpoint doesn’t just “afford” bad slides (borrowing Robert’s term above), it encourages it. Defaulting to “title only” forces you to take the 3 seconds to decide the best way to express something. And the vast majority of the time, that is likely to be the sort of graphic Prezi specializes in…NOT the usual 4 bullets with two sub-points each.

    Ken Rosen
    Blog: http://www.pertalks.com

  8. I hate boring presentations. Most of them are made by boring people. They use PowerPoint because even an idiot can create slides using it. Before I worked for Microsoft, I worked for Aldus. They had a presentations application called Persuasion which IMO was much better than PPT. Persuasion was killed by Microsoft, when it bundled PPT into Office.
    In the comparatively small world of startups presenting to VCs, a new presentation app might seem like a great idea. But in the larger real world, in which people want the world’s leading word processor, the world’s leading spreadsheet AND a presentation graphics package, the chances of a new competitor knocking PPT off its perch are near zero.
    Bill Gates needed all the help he could get. He was not a naturally engaging speaker; people listened because of who he was and because what he said was usually important – not because of how he said it.
    You CAN make a non-boring presentation using PPT. It’s easy. Create slides with no more than six bullets per slide – if that. And then DON’T BE BORING!. If you don’t have a great, engaging presenter, just hand out the slides to your VC folks, tell them you presume they can read and offer to answer any questions. Then focus on the interesting – whatever your company has to offer that’s different and new, and why.
    The real evil of PPT bundled with Office is that it fools everyone into thinking they can be a good presenter. They can’t. It’s a performing art, like music, or dance. However cool-looking the slides you can throw up on a screen, they won’t work unless you can (metaphorically) dance with the people watching them.

  9. Don’t you think if everyone uses Prezi that the style of the presentation will get boring then, too?

    A lot of business people aren’t really good at non-linear, and honestly, presentations can be jazzy and fun and completely linear, like Steve Jobs announcing a new product.

  10. Prezi looks fantastic, although the learning curve is pretty large. If you can get over that, your presentation is guaranteed to be like no other.

    Though in PowerPoint’s defense, it’s just a tool, as is Keynote. Garr Reynolds uses PowerPoint/Keynote and his presentations are fantastic. Duarte Design created a PowerPoint presentation that helped Al Gore turn his vision into a movie. If you know how to effectively use the tool and are willing to take the time to structure/develop/practice, you can create a great presentation. Those tools give little guidance however, so it’s VERY easy to travel down the wrong (boring, bullet-point ridden) road.

    Jon Thomas
    Presentation Advisors
    http://blog.presentationadvisors.com

  11. you absolutely need a framework and defined content with a linear path to track along – but nothing ever goes 100% to plan – this seems a great way to allow for alternate paths thru the content, I suppose a likely pitfall is that too-creative types giving presentations can too easily be pulled off track.

    1. I find that isn’t the case. Prezi lets you build a path and give a normal linear presentation. If someone takes you off, you have a choice as a presenter whether to zoom out and zoom into a specific point. But all the other points are there reminding you to get through them.

  12. I’ve become a huge believer in hardly any or no words on a slide. I also create a lot of slides in Illustrator so I get the typography I like. I’m going to check out Prezi.

  13. We use Prezi and love it. We get all kinds of positive feedback each time we present with it. The hurdle to overcome is creating high rez images to place in the presentation – screen shots look like ass. So our approach was to create a presentation about Room 214 that is evergreen and then we revert to PPT of Keynote to create quick custom presentations. So we’re going down the road of bailing out of PPT, but can’t quite make the final leap.

      1. A fool with a tool is still a fool. People messing up presentation in powerpoint will be probably messing up the experience in Prezi as well and people who were already great with powerpoint (and managed to get around the limitations) are probably great with Prezi :).

          1. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          2. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          3. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          4. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          5. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          6. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          7. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          8. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          9. Agreed. Unfortunately, most people develop a speech by creating slides (instead of writing it out or creating an outline). PowerPoint drives a certain kind of linear, rote thinking. Prezi breaks that model. Is Prezi fundamentally better than PowerPoint? I’m not sure, but I love that it’s making people rethink how they present information.

            Plus, I still hear little gasps or mutterings whenever I start a Prezi-powered presentation, and people see the first slick animation.

            Now, if they could only fix their screenshot-sizing problem, I’d be completely happy.

          10. I’m HOOKED! Now I need to “diplomatically” suggest this to some people I know without implying that their presentations stink.

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