Keynotes. The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the ed tech speaker. Her continuing mission: to explore strange new presentation tools; to seek out new ways to keep her audiences awake; to boldly go where no PowerPoint has gone before.
I just finished putting together the presentation on the 2009 Horizon Report that I will be delivering tomorrow at Sonoma State University, where they are kind enough to ask me back every year around this time. Last year, I crammed at least 90 minutes of information into about 55 minutes, accompanying my speed talking performance with a respectable, if uninteresting, PowerPoint. Those poor people.
Later in the year, I gave a keynote at the Midwest Library Technology Conference 2008 along with my colleague Alan Levine. Spurred by a mutual desire not to use PowerPoint, we created the presentation in the beta version of VuVox, which was fun but a little frustrating because of a couple of bugs. (You can see that preso here.)
THIS year, what should drop into my lap but Prezi, a Flash-based presentation tool that I can only say is yummy. It’s also in beta, but Alan had a log in and said I could use it. (Thanks, Alan!) So, having prepared the back up PowerPoint just in case (I’m adventuresome, not stupid), I went in and started messing around.
Prezi gives you an endless (well, not really, but near enough) artboard, like Illustrator. There’s a lovable little menu, with a limited (but not really limiting) set of choices, that takes about twenty seconds to get the hang of. You drop your content on the artboard, and move it around; Prezi takes images and videos (flash only), and you can add text blocks. You group the content using “frames,” which helps with navigation. And that’s about all you have to master, except for the underlying concept that scale doesn’t matter.
Prezi will zoom in on objects or content groups when you click them, so your presentation can have a huge range of scales. I LOVED this once I actually got the hang of it. My first instinct was to lay everything out as though I were going to print it as a poster, with only the range of sizes that are visible all at once. But that doesn’t really take advantage of what makes Prezi so interesting. You can nest content areas, so one frame can contain multiple sections that are too small to see at first.
A finished Prezi can be used two ways: either you step through using the forward and back arrows (you set the path as you create the content, so you zoom where you want in the order you want), or you just click frames and objects that interest you. Either way, whenever you go from one thing to something that’s a different scale, Prezi zooms in or out, centers, and tilts whatever you are seeing so that you can read it.
What I really liked:
- It was incredibly easy to make something that looks really good.
- It was fun to use!
- It autosaves. You can save manually too.
- The zebra wheel lets you tilt, size, and move any object just by clicking it.
- The zooming and tilting looks really cool when you step through a presentation.
- Almost everything I wanted to do was do-able, and the stuff that wasn’t, wasn’t really necessary.
What I didn’t like so much:
- I could not find a way to attach a URL to an object. The only way I found was to type out the whole URL, and then that text becomes a link. But I wanted to link pictures and things.
- There are not many design schemes to pick from (yet?). I like the basic one, but I wanted a white background so I could hide the white background on some of my images. I had issues with transparent backgrounds (i.e. they didn’t work).
- I wanted to be able to choose my own set of fonts. You get three per design, which is perfect, but I wanted to change just one of the three in the design I used.
- Although there’s an option to download your presentation so you can play it without the Internet, it doesn’t seem to be working.
- Prezi spawns windows at an alarming rate. When I saved & closed my presentation, there were three Prezi parent windows open. I have no idea where they all came from.
On the whole, I have to say that I like it a lot. I used it for hours and was having fun the whole time. No angry frustration, no puzzled pauses, no “is-it-this-software-or-am-I-just-stupid?” moments. My professional, unbiased opinion is YAY-I-LOVE-PREZI!!
Take a look at the presentation. It’s text heavy, but I did that on purpose so that it can be used without me standing there talking.
You can try Prezi yourself, even without a beta account, by playing with their demo at www.Prezi.com. Go on. It’s fun. And work should be fun.
Now, if my iPhone could only do Flash, I could carry this around with me. I’d be the life of the party!