My Prezi Experience

When I logged into my Prezi account a few weeks ago, I discovered that they have pushed out a new version of Prezi called Prezi Next. The old version that I am used to using is now called Prezi Classic. This made me think of two things:

  • I have been using Prezi quite heavily for more than 4 years now. Sometimes I can put together a presentation faster with Prezi than with Powerpoint. Nonetheless, I never really got a chance to reflect on this journey of "converting" from Powerpoint to Prezi

  • Just when I feel that I am so familiar with and confident about a tool, it decided to have a complete overhaul. This was not the first time it happened and it won't be the last time. It just reinforces the importance of continuously updating your knowledge and skills

Because of the above, I want to share my Prezi experience here. Self-reflection is one of the (many) things that librarians do best! I will reflect on my experience of the now Prezi Classic, and share some initial thoughts of the future Prezi Next (maybe very soon the distinction won't exist anymore).

I got introduced to Prezi back in library school/iSchool days in 2009. I remember attending a workshop on Prezi and signing up for a Prezi account right in the workshop. I don't remember much from that workshop, but two things that stood out: (1) Looking at a Prezi presentation for too long could make people dizzy; and (2) before presenting, it's safer to save a copy of the Prezi presentation in case of any Internet failure. These two things still hold true to a certain degree, despite the many changes that have been made to Prezi since then.

I didn't get to use Prezi too much until I started my current job (well except one failed attempt of creating a wedding present—a photo collage on Prezi, but Prezi couldn't handle the large amount of photos I put in at that time). The idea of zooming in and out on a canvas was a simple one, but it did take some time initially to become “fluent” in the specifics. Here are a few things I like about Prezi:

  • As an instruction librarian, the context in which I use my Prezi presentations is in the classrooms for one-shot library workshops. With limited face-to-face time with students, making that strong first impression is so important, and a good well-made Prezi can definitely help with given its graphic appeal and visual sensation.

  • By zooming in and out on a canvas, you can easily tell a visual story by building up to a climax from smaller parts and revealing the big picture at the end. For example, the iceberg template is a great one that my team loves to use for comparing searching between Google and library resources, and also debunking library stereotypes.

A Prezi presentation for a library orientation workshop

A Prezi presentation for a library orientation workshop

  • Prezi is cloud-based, which makes collaboration easy. Of course Google Slides can do the same too, but just seeing your collaborators' icons jumping around on the canvas while working together on Prezi just adds spice to the real-time editing experience.

Prezi is not perfect. Here are a few things that I dislike:

  • Downloading the big file for offline presenting was never fun, especially having to unzip it every time. Additionally, the prezi.exe file has to be run every time you want to start the presentation. Is the function of having an offline copy that important? Well, it will really depend on the venue you are presenting in and the stability of the Internet access.

  • Once in a while I find the need to create bilingual presentations with both Chinese and English in it. Although possible in Prezi, the set-up is not the most straight-forward as it involves having to choose a particular theme for displaying Chinese characters. If you only realize this half-way through creating your presentation, the change in theme may mean having to reset the colours and fonts again.

If you want to display non-roman script languages in your Prezi such as Chinese, you need to select the Chinese 中文 theme

If you want to display non-roman script languages in your Prezi such as Chinese, you need to select the Chinese 中文 theme

  • It is not easy to copy a segment of your current Prezi presentation and paste it in another Prezi presentation. Although you can select the various elements together and save them to Favourite and then add it to the other Prezi presentation, you would most likely lose the style as well as the path points from the original segment. This gets quite inconvenient when I want to quickly reuse a certain part (e.g. evaluation of online resources) of my library workshop presentations.

    Enough about Prezi Classic. Now, looking forward, here are some initial thoughts I have about Prezi Next after playing with it for a few hours:

  • First thing first, for both Prezi Classic and Prezi Next, you need a premium subscription in order to enjoy the full suite of functions. There is an free education account (you can get this if you sign up with an educational institution email address) that gives you slightly better functionality than the basic free account.

  • The most striking feature of Prezi Next is the use of layers to build up depth and in turn create a true 3D presentation. In Prezi Classic, you could actually create a 3D background too by adding up to three background layers. However, this option is not obvious and I never figured out how to choose the three layers coherently for the 3D effect.

  • In Prezi Next, the depth is built by having three different layers: topic (top), subtopic (middle), and page (bottom). You can keep it simple by having just three layers, or you could build a more sophisticated presentation by having subtopics within subtopics.

  • Another key feature of Prezi Next is keeping content hidden until you want it to be revealed. This is not merely the “appear” animation effect that we see in Powerpoint and Prezi Classic, this is done by having a cover for each topic. The cover is what you see initially, but once you zoom in, the actual content of the topic would appear. I like this feature a lot, but to be honest, it took me a while to figure out how to edit the cover, and to complicate matters further, there are two types of topic (called Planet and Stack). You can only edit the cover for a Planet topic, but not a Stack topic.

It took me a while to figure out how the Topic Cover Settings work

It took me a while to figure out how the Topic Cover Settings work

  • There is one feature that I am excited about, but unfortunately it is only available with a premium subscription, and therefore I was not able to try it out. The feature I am talking about is the ability to add presenter prompt notes to your Prezi presentation. In Prezi Classic, there is no way to add notes to each frame like the way you can add notes to each slide in PowerPoint. I always had to prepare a separate document containing presenter notes that goes along with my Prezi. This is especially difficult if I am creating the presentation for someone as it is difficult to explain which frame/path point I am referring in the separate document. Having said that, there is a free feature on Prezi Next that may help, and that is the ability to leave comments right in your presentation, which would be helpful for collaborating on a presentation together.

  • It seems that you could no longer download a copy of your Prezi for offline presenting in Prezi Next (at least not for the free version, but it seems “portable prezis” is still available for the premium version). Also, the function to download your Prezi as a PDF has been made a premium feature (which is free on Prezi Classic). 

I look forward to creating actual presentations for my library workshops using Prezi Next. Like all new things, it takes time to get used to, and there will continue be new adjustments and features rolling out. Anything that can help me enhance the library workshop experience for my students, I am all for it! The reflective journey continues =)

Here are more resources on Prezi Next: https://prezi.com/support/article/steps/classic-next-structure/