I like speaking at Northern Voice because I don’t have to speak about web marketing, which is my usual topic for professional gigs. Instead I can pick a topic that’s of personal interest to me. This year my talk was called “What Would Mookie Do? How To Do Good on the Web” and kind of was a sequel to my “1100 Stacies” talk from a few years ago.
Another reason I like speaking at Northern Voice is that I have a home field advantage–lots of friends in the audience. And they’re liable to be forgiving if things go sideways.
With this in mind, I tried Prezi, the most innovative alternative to PowerPoint I’ve seen in a while.
Interestingly, most of Prezi’s innovation happens in the creation, not the presentation, part of the process. It’s a sad reality that most people (myself, occasionally, included) prepare a talk by creating a set of slides. The tools, PowerPoint or its slightly cooler cousin Keynote, shape how we think about what we’re trying to say. PowerPoint fosters an infamously bullet point-filled, orderly, linear approach. As Seth Godin says (and the US military agrees), bullet points are unemotional, sterile and only have the appearance of precision.
Conversely, Prezi uses a kind of tabula rasa meets the mind map model. You’re presented with an infinitely large canvas, and you drop chunks of content–text, photos, video and so forth–onto it. Then you connect these together in a kind of narrative path and, huzzah, it’s presentation 2.0.
Cognitively, it makes much more sense than PowerPoint. Instead of building this plodding, linear narrative, I’m connecting ideas. Instead of itemizing bullet points (which, truth be told, I rarely use in presentations anyway), I’m summarizing ideas in a few words.
This screenshot makes the editing interface look messy, but it’s really just the way I’ve drawn my connecting path. It makes sense to me as the creator, and that’s what’s important. Click to embiggen:
The interface is a joy to work in. Everything just works the way it should. Undo behaves the way you’d want it to, it’s painless to upload images and it makes effective use of keyboard navigation. I’ll definitely use Prezi again.