Across the Internet, an endless debate rages on. Prezi or PowerPoint? Which is the best tool for designing presentations? A Google search on the subject yields over 400,000 results. Among them, fiery posts fiercely argue for or against each option.

Each camp has a cult of loyal followers. But I believe they’re all wrong: neither Prezi nor PowerPoint is the best choice in all cases. (And both of them, in the wrong hands, can ruin a presentation.)

It’s all About the Story

The presentation medium is secondary to the story. Here’s how I approach presentation design: First, I figure out how to craft a compelling story. Then, I select the best medium to support that story. It’s very case by case, but there are six situations where Prezi tends to have an edge over PowerPoint. Before we get into those six cases, here’s a quick overview of Prezi’s strengths and weaknesses.

Prezi Plusses

PowerPoint, as you know, takes the audience through a story linearly, one slide at a time. By contrast, Prezi pans and zooms over a large image to emphasize ideas as you discuss them. This fully two-dimensional movement can be dramatic and mesmerizing. And a well-produced Prezi often elicits a strong emotional response.

Prezi Weaknesses

If you aren’t careful, Prezi’s greatest strength can become its greatest weakness. Overdo the panning and zooming and you can cause motion-sickness.

Prezi has other shortcomings, as well:

  • A steeper learning curve than Powerpoint’s.
  • Weak charting capabilities.
  • Limited design options, which only experienced Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) users can overcome.

And Prezi lets you trigger movements with a click. But if you want to sprinkle your presentation with timed animation, Prezi’s not for you. Some of us have been asking for that since 2012. Sadly, Prezi’s shown no willingness to yield to popular opinion.

Prezi Moments of Greatness

In spite of Prezi’s weaknesses, there are times when Prezi can’t be beat. Here are six situations where Prezi outshines other presentation formats.

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1. Take a Visual Journey Through the Life of a Person or Company

When you want to celebrate the life of an individual, or the history of an organization, sharing photos of important moments and accomplishments is the obvious way to go. And sure, that’s easy enough to do in PowerPoint. But a Prezi can bring the experience to life on a whole new level.

With Prezi, you can build a virtual museum to honour the history of your organization. That’s what we did to celebrate Berggruen Institute’s five-year anniversary.

And what better way to showcase the work of an artist than to take a stroll through her virtual art gallery? Take a look at this hommage to my favourite artist, Tamara de Lempicka.

2. Show the Different Facets of a Single Idea

One of Prezi’s strengths is its ability to highlight many aspects of a broader concept. In this Prezi for Reading Rewards, we anchored the program’s key features to items in a young boy’s room – reading incentives to a trophy, logging reading to a computer, connecting with friends to a team photo, etc.

And here’s a Prezi I built for Exaltus. Watch how it travels over a cross-section of an office space to show the value we offer to each department.

3. Create the Effect of surprise

With its panning, zooming and rotating, Prezi can be used to create the effect of surprise. In this Prezi, take a look at what happens to the pair of shoes after the second click.

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4. Give Your Audience a Guided Tour of a Physical Space

Prezi was originally developed by an architect. He built it so that he, himself, could present a global view of his installations, then zoom in to show their details. Years later, this is still one of Prezi’s greatest strengths.

In this Prezi, REC Media showcases all the great ad opportunities they offer in skating arenas.

5. Present a Very Large and Detailed Image

You may occasionally need to present a large image, then zoom in to emphasize detailed parts of the image. Great examples of this are timelines, organizational charts, or infographics.

Handling these cases with PowerPoint is awkward. You’d have to cut the image into smaller segments, then spread them across many slides. But that approach makes it difficult to keep track of where you are in the context of the larger image.

This is the kind of situation that Prezi handles beautifully. Just set the image as your canvas, and drill down into the details, as needed.

6. Make Text-Heavy Slides More Interesting

Wherever possible, I look for visuals to communicate each idea within a deck. But some subjects are text heavy by necessity, and just don’t lend themselves to visuals. In those cases, Prezi is a better alternative to bullet-laden PowerPoint slides. Here’s an example.

My friend Alex teaches Canadian constitutional law at McGill University. He spends much of his lectures dissecting sections of the constitution. There’s no getting around text heaviness, here. So we used Prezi to inject a little humour. How? By hanging the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms on a wall adorned with Canadiana and meaningful photos.

Over To You

What do you think of these uses of Prezi? Are there other ways you’ve seen Prezi used that make it shine? Where do you stand on the Prezi vs. PowerPoint debate? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


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