Sunday 18 September 2011

Thing 17: The Medium is the Message- Prezi and Slideshare

Prezi- I like to move it, move it

driving home by myfear, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  myfear 

Prezi is now a very well known presentation tool and a great alternative to PowerPoint, but like any tool it has to be used well to achieve the best possible results. The unique aspects of Prezi include the ability to zoom, pan and layer levels of information in a way that offers the best viewing experience for the attendee. In an effort to avoid ‘death by PowerPoint’ people often overuse these aspects of the software and the results are as predictable as PowerPoint, albeit with more motion sickness! 

The main thing to bear in mind when experimenting with Prezi is to step away from a linear presentation style, this will allow you to dance around your subject, drawing commonalities and contrasts from different elements of your topic. There are some great online guides which will help you, and I suggest you have a look a these, but there is no better way to get a grip on Prezi than to get your hands dirty.

So rather than walking you through Prezi, I'm going to consider a few general techniques you could use when selling your information and library service. Thinking about how we can exploit the intrinsic qualities of Prezi let’s consider a couple of uses:

Dynamic presentations

The success of this depends on using the functionality of Prezi to tell the story of your argument. Use the fact that you can travel along the canvas with your audience to illustrate the main points of your presentation. Raise a problem, look around it (literally!) , offer solutions and then show the audience how they can take your approach and apply it to their own situations.

Great techniques for this include:
  • Using a circular structure to link solutions to problems, allowing you to visit and revisit areas of the screen as you talk.
  • Zooming in- hiding key points within pictures or other text allows you to expand on arguments without overloading the structure with text.
Linking ideas together

A Voice in the Wilderness: Personalised Library Services in a Virtual Environment- Meg Westbury

Using one large picture as a background allows you to show detail, the whole picture and the relationships between them.
Techniques to bear in mind:
  • Choosing a high-quality, interesting, relevant or relaxing picture to compare or contrast to your subject matter- how about a beach scene to mount your 'Beginners Guide to FRBR'?
  • Regularly zoom back out to reveal the big picture- hint, use invisible frames.
  • Be careful with your colour choices to ensure that your text really stands out against an image heavy background.
Teaching take-aways

Scale of the Solar System Activity- Todd Ensign

Prezi is a great alternative to a hand out, or for getting your message to those who can’t physically attend your talk. If your voice isn’t there to accompany the presentation you will have to be more reliant on text, but you can do this without resorting to those tried, tested and tired PowerPoint bullets!

Try these:

  • Group your presentation/lesson into manageable chunks based on topic or difficulty using frames. Answers or clues can be hidden as text or pictures within the frames.
  • Use arrows to emphasise that the course is moving along, consider zooming out after each few sections so remote users can track their progress- you could also offer a recap here.
Presentation preparation

Not everything is best taught using a projector and a laser pointer, welding, for example, but even if you are not teaching welding you can use Prezi to help bring together your non-projection teaching. Simply use the Prezi as a mindmapping space, the different text colours, frames and arrows allowing you to forge connections between disparate parts of your subject. 

By the way, I was wrong about welding. As 21 pages of 'how-to weld' Prezis proves. Go have fun!

Does Prezi mean the end for my PowerPoints?

Relatively new to prezi is the ability to upload and enhance PowerPoint slides. This gives you an opportunity to remix your existing PowerPoint slides, adding value by connecting them in a way that comes naturally to Prezi, but is impossible to do with PowerPoint. One of my students created this Prezi from an established slide set. It is intended to work as a stand alone teaching resource- notice how he’s grouped elements together so students can work though at their own pace. He’s added additional images to the ones already on the slides and integrated video content. This is his FIRST attempt at a prezi.

Over to you...

Take some time to experiment with Prezi and think about what kind of angles it could offer to help you sell your service more effectively. Try creating a take-away teaching course, breathe new life into some PowerPoint slides or create a dynamic induction presentation for new staff or students.

A final but important tip about images. Be sure to use high-quality images- .png or convert to .pdf, try Zamzar for free conversion. You can achieve variety or uniformity by mounting your images on frames or applying washes or treatments like drop shadows- Picnik
will do all this and more, quickly, easily and most importantly: gratis.

Extra Credit:

Prezi For The Win? Ten Top Tips To Make a Good One- Ned Potter Edited 29/09/11: Ned has pointed out that this guide is now out of date. His revised version is here: The ultimate guide to Prezi.
Prezi: The PowerPoint Alternative?- Lora Helvie-Mason, Communication & Higher Education Blog

Slideshare: does exactly what it says what it is on the tin

Got an idea by horrigans, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  horrigans 

Panning back to PowerPoint, let's look at one of its biggest hangouts: Slideshare.The difficulty with Slideshare is pinning down exactly what it is: it's an archive, a ready made audience, an inspiration factory and a place to get yourself noticed. Let's try and untangle this one:

Your personal archive- shared

If you do a lot of teaching the chances are you have a lot of PowerPoints knocking around on your machine, your website, your shared servers, your institutional repository, your cutlery drawer... well maybe not your cutlery drawer, but you get the picture. Slideshare gives you an opportunity to host all of your teaching materials in one place, and makes them available in an easily embeddable format for others wishing to share and promote your work. 

It's a small point, but really worth mentioning. This is not your institutional repository, this is on the open web and can be discovered by a much wider and variable audience. If someone is looking for an inspirational teaching presentation they can cite in an article or use as a great example they are not going to come looking for your work. Put it where it can be easily found. 

Can you think of materials you have produced which could gain a new audience on Slideshare?

Inspiration for you

Okay, so presentations vary from awesome inspiration to terrible, terrible warnings, but if you are a visual person you might find that browsing a handful of good presentations on Slideshare will equal an hour reading how to guides.  From individual presentations to browsing the channels e.g. Pew Internet and American Life Project, The White House, or the Economist Intelligence Unit, there is a wide range of excellent slide sets available for you to learn from.

Browse Slideshare in search of the good, the bad and the ugly. Can you find anything that you could draw inspiration from?

Shareable teaching products, okay, predictable, but what else? What was that about getting noticed?

At a very basic level Silideshare is just a way to host PowerPoint presentations and .pdfs. The reason that it mostly contains presentations is only because we have a pretty fixed mindset regarding what PowerPoint can do. If you stop thinking about a room sized audience and start thinking about a panel. One of the most interesting new uses is to sell not just your service but your self. Have a look at this great CV
Do you think this could replace (in certain circumstances) your paper CV or resume?


  1. Hey, thanks for linking to my prezi guide - just a quick note to say that it's very out of date now so don't follow it too closely! (There's a link to a newer one at the top of the post.)

    For example, there's no need to convert image files now - JPEGs seem to work absolutely fine.

  2. Does anyone know if you can put a url into a prezi so you can link to a webpage from the prezi?

  3. Hi Laurel,

    Yes you can. Just paste in a URL into a text box, making sure you have the http:// at the beginning of it (e.g., not just Now, for some reason Prezi doesn't turn this straight into a clickable link. To make it do that, you have to copy and past the text. In Prezi you do that by hitting Control + D on your keyboard (not the familiar Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, because Prezi calls it 'duplicating', not copy and paste). That should bring up a copy of your text, which should be a clicky link.

    Do say if that doesn't make sense!


  4. Hi,
    I had a bad experience with Prezi in the past but will have another go.


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