Presenting hell? Forget boring slides; think ‘blank canvas’!

Move over PowerPoint and Keynote – bring your presentations to life with Prezi!  Hang on a minute…’blank canvas’…how’s that going to help?  I’m not an artist!

Another boring presentation…

Before we get into that, let’s look at two of the most popular presentation tools out there – Microsoft’s PowerPoint and Apple’s Keynote.  Both have certainly souped up their offerings over the last few years and now offer some powerful and eye-catching graphics, animations, effects and sharing capabilities.  They’re certainly not the dull slide-by-slide offerings they used to be.

But I still find them too restrictive and they fail to provide the “wow factor” needed to help stand out from the crowd.  Once you’ve done a few presentations and used the various visual effects and jazzy content tools, they get a bit ‘samey’.

Aside from your rhetoric while presenting, you need a visual feast to keep people’s attention and ensure they will remember not just what you said, but how you brought them into the presentation and did more than merely keep their attention.


“Death-by-powerpoint” (sorry Microsoft!) is often the maxim used when people present, but those days are over.  Enter: Prezi.  I used it once and was hooked.  You have all the capabilities of the traditional presentation tools, but don’t have to click through each slide one-by-one.

Don’t get me wrong.  Slide-by-slide presentations still have an important place, particularly in the boardroom and in corporate environments.

But with Prezi, you literally have a blank canvas on which to put your content and then have the flexibility to pan around the canvas and zoom in on the important parts – it really helps visualise and bring to life your presentation.

Let me explain…the key feature in Prezi is the ability to “Pan and Zoom” to help visualise your ideas.  You take your audience on a journey through your content.  You can import all types of media; from images, PDFs and videos, to embedding YouTube videos.  And yes, there is a Prezi iPad App as well.

Once you’ve mastered the simple beginner’s stuff, like the ability to move, scale, rotate, zoom and create a path to travel across the canvas, then you can start experimenting and refining.

One excellent feature is the ability to group and layer content to connect your ideas, streamline the flow of your presentation, and build a more engaging Prezi.  I also love how YouTube videos are quickly embedded and will start automatically right on cue, as opposed to having click ‘play’ or set up an auto-start on traditional presentation tools.

To really understand how it works, here’s one I did earlier!   You should now be taken to the Prezi dashboard – if you’re new to Prezi, please follow these steps:

  1. Hold your cursor over “More”, click “Fullscreen” for best viewing experience
  2. Then hover your cursor over “More” and then either:
    1. Click “Autoplay” (Prezi will commence with 4 second intervals), or…
    2. Click on the Right arrow to manually move forwards through the Prezi, or the Left arrow to move back

And remember, you can interrupt the flow at any time if you want to explore that part of the Prezi in more detail – pause, rewind, zoom in or out while you’re viewing – it’s really that simple and that interactive!

Have you used Prezi before, or are you a die-hard Ppt or Keynote fan?  I always want to learn more and hear more about experiences, so do please share and leave a comment if you have an opinion.

About Dan Purvis

PR, comms, digital / social media specialist and advisor.

While consistently balancing the need for sustainable, impactful campaigns that incorporate PR, social/digital media and external communications in the mix, I ensure that game-changing strategies are aligned to commercial goals and objectives. Passionate about social media, the value of digital properties and PR, I have a proven track record of successfully leading various PR-specific and multi-discipline marketing campaigns. Internal comms, crisis comms and stakeholder liaison is also a core strength of mine.


  1. Hi Dan,

    I couldn’t agree more, I have used Prezi myself

    I found the interface wasn’t totally intuitive, however, once I got the hang of it, it was super easy to use

    And you are right about the wow factor. Even if open and reading from your laptop, it has that extra level of slick visuals that instantly grabs attention – especially of those typically bored to ‘death by PowerPoint’

    Will it catch on for internal use, training documents etc? I am not so sure, but definitely a winner for public presentations or sales pitches!

    • Cheers Mike – I love it, but you’re right…maybe it won’t be so good for your typical internal presentations, but in front of the right audience it’s a winner!

      Just got to be careful with the pan and zoom functions…go too crazy and you’ll make your audience go dizzy!

      • Yes we love Prezi! Great for the way it allows video to be part of your presentation pretty much seamlessly – and having had plenty of issues with PP in the past, that’s important ;). Tips – structure your presentation first – make some notes so that it’s easier to build in Prezi – not everyone does because the tools are so easy to use when you build it, and that does become obvious during the presentation… a sort of “made up as you went along” feel comes across! I’d also be careful that you don;t push the zoom to it’s absolute limit otherwise you may get framing probs – but that’s true of any whizz bang toy or gimmick to my mind. You don’t want anyone dizzy, as you say Dan! And finally, not sure I agree it won’t take off for internal use – we do our internal training and reviews on it and it lifts the level of engagement of the employee and the team by quite some margin. In terms of public presentations – yes it’s a step up from PP (primarily because you can use text led slides and they have relevance and are visually engaging in a way that PP could never be) but for me a good presentation will always come down to the presenter and their connection with the audience – never hurts to have great tools though and this is one, in the right hands. Great post Dan 🙂

        • Thanks for your comment Tracy – great tip too! I’ve seen a few where they haven’t planned it and it kinda jumps all over the place!

          Internal use is an interesting one – again, it depends on your audience and perhaps your industry sector. Marketing, comms and digital professionals would lap it up; the C-suite execs of financial services companies may not. Horses for courses I guess.

          And yes – you can dress things up as much as you like, but the presenter will make or break the presentation…

  2. Hi Dan,
    When I first saw Prezi being used I was really impressed! You’re completely right on how smooth the presentation looks especially with the “Pan & Zoom” feature!

    Prezi has been a subject of conversation- my academic experience tells me lecturers aren’t too fond of it (too distracting) and a few interviewers have told me they dislike Prezi because it didn’t look custom-tailored enough!

    • Thanks for your comment, Michelle – good feedback. Interesting to hear that, as well as the corporate boardroom, academia aren’t as keen. Seems to be a bit like marmite – some love it, some don’t!

      Personally, I think it brings standard presentations to life, but you need to know your audience and cater for their needs accordingly.

      Thanks for reading – hope you like Digital Musings!

  3. Thanks Dan, a great post and actually interesting to read! Think I’ll be trying Prezi myself soon…

  4. James Self says:

    A topic very close to my heart indeed – not least because of the fact that I am currently trialling Prezi for use as a presentation tool in my area (Management Information in the telecommunications industry).

    The limitations? For “serious” presentations it’s not appropriate. I can’t see our CTO presenting a Prezi to the board or shareholders, for example. Sure, you can get Prezi to mimic a ppt, but there’s little point. From a security perspective there are obvious concerns regarding the storage of sensitive information (which in my line of work is pretty much everything) on a 3rd party server, the only solution

  5. Simon Lewis says:

    Nice post. My fear is ‘death by Prezi’ is going to come much sooner as we all move towards it.

    • Fair point – my view is that Prezi will never be able to replace ppt, it’s more of a complementary tool which,used in conjunction with the well-established (some might say “traditional”?) presenting suites out there, serves to enhance your arsenal of information communication software. Am very much hoping it doesn’t become the subject of overuse, or get used to present inappropriate content, and will be very interested to see how the developers act in future months to keep things fresh and introduce more strings to the Prezi bow.

      • Thanks Simon – as with all new shiny objects, people flock to them and before you know it everyone’s using it or doing it! James is spot on in that it is a complementary tool. Personally, it depends on your audience – use it accordingly.

        Appreciate your comment – hope you enjoy Digital Musings 🙂

  6. James Self says:

    Hmm. That’s what you get for trying to enter a blog post with a 2-year-old jumping on you :p

    Let’s give that another go 🙂

    A topic very close to my heart indeed – not least because of the fact that I am currently trialling Prezi for use as a presentation tool in my area (Management Information in the telecommunications industry).

    The limitations? For “serious” presentations it’s not appropriate. I can’t see our CTO presenting a Prezi to the board or shareholders, for example. Sure, you can get Prezi to mimic a PPT, but there’s little point – indeed, the easiest way of doing that is to import it from Powerpoint, defeating the object slightly! From a security perspective there are obvious concerns regarding the storage of sensitive information (which in my line of work is pretty much everything) on a 3rd party server, the only solution is to go for the £100-a-year subscription which gives you the software that you can run from your PC (but remember that’s only a single licence which in most companies that’ll try to avoid single points of failure won’t fly, requiring a minimum of two licences for resiliency), thereby enabling one to never have to even connect to the big bad nasty outside world once one has the software installed. Unless you want to pay a substantial (albeit one-off) fee to have your company’s own font and colour scheme uploaded, the use of these also isn’t an option, especially the former as there’s a surprisingly limited font selection. Of course, one can get around this by typing whatever you want to in another program and then saving it as an image before including it in one’s Prezi, but this is a pain in the bum that one could do without. And what the *hell*, in this day and age, is up with the inability of the Prezi dev’s to listen to their user base over the course of the last 3+ years WRT the use of sound within Prezis? Currently the only way of adding sound that can be played in the background of your Prezi is to jump through some convoluted and distinctly funny-shaped hoops to get your music added in as an SWF file. Yuck. Mp3s? Nope. WAVs? Forget it. The user base have been clamouring for this for so long the vast majority have given up, so most people have sort of resigned themselves to the fact that they’ll probably need a colleague with an iPod sat in the background, or surreptitiously hit “play” on iTunes / WMP before starting the Prezi. Double yuck.

    But for all this, Prezi is a hugely powerful, massively flexible tool with a multitude of applications, near-limitless space and a way of engaging the audience and rousing them from their Powerpoint slide-induced comas that can’t be duplicated except with some prohibitively expensive software and training on something like Adobe After Effects – and from first encountering the software it’ll take you a freakin’ age to come up with the sort of content that you’ll be able to put together with Prezi after a few hours of hapless fumbling about.

    Prezi is the simplest and quickest way to produce visually engaging digital storytelling. The near-limitless space on one page makes it easy to storyboard content, one can embed a range of rich media content, including youtube etc, zoom in to highlight important topics, and it’s easy to share without e-mailing large files, either by sharing a link, collaboration or via WebEx-style leader-piloted presentation. As with WebEx, no additional software is needed to view, either. Take that, Powerpoint. Purchasing of any licence above the basic level enables the use of branding (replacing Prezi tag on presentations), albeit with the font limitations described earlier. Powerpoint, simply, cannot be used in the same way except by advanced users willing to spend weeks drawing paths and with massive file-sizes. Oh, and the icing on the cake is the relatively recent advent of the iPad interface – and Prezi’s look *good* on the iPad, one can just imagine showing one of those off.

    Now for the cherry on the icing on the big fat Prezi cake: last week, for the first time, I used my android phone (just sat at the back of a meeting, not even connected via WiFi, just over the 3G mobile network in the UK) to remotely and wirelessly control a presentation being conducted on the screen. Literally walking around the room running the presentation from the palm of my hand as I talked, advancing through my Prezi, zooming in with a pinch, scrolling around the screen with the touch of a finger etc etc. Bloody marvellous. Sort out the ability to upload sound in the background and I’d be buying it for, myself, let alone for my team…

    • Some excellent points and observations, James. Love the anecdote of you using your smartphone to navigate through your presentation – a killer USP!

      And I think your insightful comments have covered off the need for me to do a follow up post on this!! 🙂

      Appreciate you taking the time to read this piece and post a comment.

      • One question I have burning in the back of my mind, just as a follow-up to the wall-of text and after due consideration: do you know of any large companies who have taken on and are actively using Prezi, either on its own or as a complement to their existing presentation toolset?

        Answers on a postcard…

  7. Hi Dan,

    I do enjoy watching presentations when Prezi has been used as it brings the lecture/ conference to life. I find working with it inspiring and stimulating.
    However we at Blue Cloud Europe use Slide Share to broadcast our content.
    Slide Share is simple, to the point and functional.
    I might have to look at Prezi in more detail as a shift in the way we deliver content.

    • Thanks for your comments, Emma – you’re so right!

      Slide Share is indeed an excellent business communications tool for presentations, although limited in scope / functionality.

      Let me know what you think of Prezi – it is also great for collaboratively pulling a presentation together if there are several of you that need contribute content to it.

  8. “Presenting hell? Forget boring slides; think ‘blank canvas’!
    ” mariahmphoto was indeed a terrific article and therefore I actually was truly glad to find the blog post.
    Thanks a lot,Christy

  9. Love Prezi, I’ve been presented to using Prezi in a knowledge sharing session and it worked really well – everyone was impressed (and a bit seasick as there were a lot of rotations involved).
    The only issue in a business context is that you cannot “print” a slidedeck for your audience and that’s what most people really are used to. It will take a while before they will feel comfortable with just having a prezi up in the cloud. Which also brings me to another point: most company information security departments would not be too happy having confidential information in the cloud.
    I am putting together a Prezi soon with a “photography basics” course (just as a hobby) – I’ll let you know how that pans out.

    • Completely agree with the post presentation hand-outs issue…unless you have access to a v large printer that will print your canvas! 😀
      Seriously though, I love it, but I am very hesitant about using it extensively for either external meetings (I sometimes link to a short Prezi from a slide in a Ppt deck, but v v v rarely conduct such a meeting using Prezi alone), and likewise for internal senior leadership meetings.
      Know your audience, and stop yourself from getting carried away with delivering a “WOW factor”…less is more, is often best. 😉
      And definitely send me a link to your Prezi when it’s done – I want to learn more about how to get the most from our digital SLR camera!!

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