Saturday, July 7, 2012

How to use Prezi to blow away audiences

Are PowerPoint presentations not working for your audiences? There’s a solution in sight, and it’s called Prezi.

Prezi uses a what-you-see-is-what-you-get interface to create beautiful zooming and rotating presentations. Here is a demo:

Prezi is special because it is cloud based. It can facilitate potentially dynamic and exciting offerings that leave positive vibes with audiences long after. Prezis can be shared via email, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t say enough about how cool Prezi is. Prezi is amazing!

Except when it’s not done right.

Prezi can definitely be done the wrong way, which is when things get ugly. Fast.

Today, I’m going to explain some simple pointers for using Prezi. Use these tips and you’ll find your presentations pop more. I assume from the outset that you have some design skill, and that you can do the following. If this is difficult, you’ll want to enlist a designer to help you out. You can definitely do even more with Prezi if you know Flash, but I want to keep this straight forward.

Let’s do this.

Find photos and video

The most important thing you can do to make your Prezi’s interesting is by introducing elements of surprise. This is accomplished by zooming in and out.

Look at your presentation topic. Is there a common theme? Are there visual elements? What ties the speech all together?

After you’ve brainstormed your speech elements, go to Google images. Make sure to only use photos that you have permission to use, or can use under fair use. If you are a student, almost any images you use for a class project will be considered fair use. If in doubt, use to find content (you’ll still want to check that the content is indeed usable).

Use the most high-resolution .jpg files for your art. Change your search terms to “large” photos for these purposes. Once you find the photos you want, save them to a folder. Once you have all your photos gathered, “save as” them as .pdfs. Making the .jpgs into .pdfs ensures that they will not get pixelated when zooming in and out of them.

You can also use videos from YouTube in your Prezi. Be careful that you don't use clips that are so long or powerful that they take away attention from you and the rest of the Prezi.

Here are some photos I'll be using:

Make captions

You can use Prezi itself to insert text into your presentation, but for a custom look you will want to create your own captions offline.
Here’s how to do it. Open a graphic design program (I prefer InDesign) and set up a new document. Make sure to switch it from “print” to “web”. You can really set up whatever pixel dimensions you want. 1024x768 usually works well for me.

Create a text box that is centered and fill it with words for your presentation. Just use a standard font at this point. After you’ve made sure that everything is spelled correctly and makes sense, select all and use new font that looks good – Comic Sans and Papyrus are two fonts you should avoid like the plague.

Generally san-serif fonts are sleeker, look better for headlines and have a more modern vibe, while serif fonts are easier to read in larger chunks. Here’s what I mean:

When you have created your text, “save as” your work as a .pdf and put it in a folder where you can easily find it.

Here is another example:

Choose a master photo or graphic for your backdrop

Remember all those photos we set aside? Choose the one that best summarizes your topic or will be easiest to remember, and which has plenty of white spaces that you could potentially zoom in on.

Log in to Prezi and select “your Prezis”. Choose “new Prezi”. With few exceptions you will want to use the white/blank background. Delete all the default starter elements by zooming or out until your elements change from light grey to vibrant grey. Now you can click on the elements and delete them. Do so.

Use the “insert” selection on the top left side of your screen and choose “image”. Select the photo that you want to use from the folder on your computer. It will be uploaded to Prezi after a few moments. Move it into position and resize it so that it fills the screen appropriately. Right click on it and choose “send to back”. 

Here's the photo I'm using for this tutorial:

Don’t make your audience members nauseous, but do
surprise them

Besides using pixelated images, the single worst error I see often on Prezi is overdoing the rotating and zooming function. Yes, Prezi supports rotation and zooming, but that doesn’t mean you should do it!

That said, use the master photo you have placed as your point of entry. Zoom into different places on your master photo for places where you can add other pictures and captions. 

Here is another place where Prezi’s can confuse audiences. Choose logical patterns to place your materials. You’ve already piqued your audience’s interest with the introduction, now you need to inject some stability. There is a fine balance between a presentation that is staid and a presentation that is confusing to follow. You might want to choose some sort of grid pattern or use simple shapes to establish coherence.

This is what I mean:

Use your path and invisible frames wisely

Now that all your elements have been placed on your Prezi canvas, you need to chain them carefully.

Select “path” on the Prezi menu on the upper left hand corner of her screen. Click on your photos and text in the order that you want. As you do this, your elements will pop up on the left hand side of your screen in order from top to bottom. These are your “slides”.

Once you’ve ordered your slides and text, you might want to have points that you zoom in on. Choose “frame” and then choose a frame style. 

Personally I prefer invisible frames, because the other type of frames look very cookie-cutter.

Click where you want to set your frame and drag until it covers what you want. Go back to your “path” button on the Prezi menu. You’ll see all the path points jump up, with little “+” signs next to points. The pluses let you add path points. Click on a “+” and drag it to the frame you set up. Let go and it should turn into a new point.

If at any point you want to change your slides around, just click on them while the “path” menu is selected and move the slides up or down to reorder them. If you want to delete path points, hover over the slide with your arrow. A little red “x” should pop up. Just click on that if you want to get rid of it.


  1. Hi Aatif, do you have any examples of good Prezi presentations? I haven't seen any that made much a difference in terms of presenting good content to the audience in a way that is significantly more compelling than PPT.
    From my experience, the zooming and rotating largely distracts from the important part (the content). I realized you mentioned "don't over do the rotating" but beyond that, what is it Prezi does that PPT doesn't?

  2. Hi my unknown friend! There are few questions you raised, but I'll try to answer all of them.

    By being better than PowerPoint, I mean Prezi keeps people engaged better. You can surprise people in a way that simply does not happen as easily with PowerPoint. Granted, PowerPoint presentations can also be very interesting if done right, but for the most part they are linear and predictable.

    I think Prezi really shines in several major ways that most PowerPoint presentations I've seen do not:

    1. With Prezi, you can incorporate Flash in a way that is visible when you zoom out. With PowerPoint, you must be on the slide you are viewing to seen animations. A skilled designer who knows how to use Flash can simply link ideas all the way from the big picture down to details in a more integrated fashion with Prezi

    2. Embedding YouTube clips is very simple with Prezi. Not so with PowerPoint. Embedding movies into PowerPoint is incredibly annoying, and even then you have to be careful to port all videos along with your PPT presentation if you are using multiple computers to design and present. Just google this topic for more information. If there is an easy way to do this in PPT, I haven't heard of it (doesn't mean it doesn't exist -- if you know of a way, please post it here!). To me, the ease in which video can be linked is the biggest advantage Prezi has over PPT.

    3. Because Prezi is cloud-based, you can easily work on it or present from multiple locations without worrying about the operating system or compatibility issues of different versions of MS Office. This saves time for us to focus on actually presenting our material.

    4. Prezi is not as widely used as PPT, which means your audience is more likely to be impressed if you use it. This adds to your credibility, and they are more likely to see you as an innovator.

    5. There are some very interesting Prezi presentations you might want to check out. Go to and click "explore". You'll see many popular presentations ready for your viewing. Perhaps you'll see one you like!

    I can't stress highly enough how much having design skills can influence the impact of your Prezi. Talk to a designer and he or she will definitely give you many more reasons to use Prezi than I can here.

    Good luck! :)

  3. PS: Since you asked how Prezi can be better than PPT, here is a good example inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Better have a fast connection and processor for this one! :)

  4. Great article.

    aka The Prezenter

  5. Russell, thanks for the praise as well as highlighting the article on Twitter! I'll be sure to check out your site soon.

    Do you have any Prezi tips you'd like to share here? What works for you and what have you seen others do that maybe doesn't work so well? Looking forward to your ideas!

  6. hello will you please help me.i m a beginner and dont know much about prezi.i have tried many times to upload images,videos and import ppt from my files but every time im getting this error 'id: 2500 the reason is: ErrorEvent ioError Error #2038'
    please help me

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