Prezi LogoIf you're like many of us in the corporate world, you've spent hundreds (yes, hundreds) of hours on PowerPoint, perfecting your message while ensuring all of your text boxes are aligned and there are page numbers on each page.  The process of building a presentation goes through the same steps: figure out the message you're going to try to get across, storyboard the flow that will make this most successful, and crank up PowerPoint to get started. 
This may soon get turned on its head as a new presentation tool has begun to make waves among college students along with some companies.  The tool is called Prezi, and I'm going to do a deep dive into whether or not this is a viable replacement for PowerPoint.
What is Prezi
In short, Prezi is a presentation tool on steroids.  While you may create a storyboard for your PowerPoint presentation, Prezi is almost like a blank canvas to create your master painting.

The main difference is that within this canvas, you're allowed to zoom in from spot to spot, creating a 3d feel to your presentation.  You create frames (similar to PowerPoint slides) that can be as big or small as the canvas allows, which let you use visualization to get your point across.
By doing this, you're essentially getting people's attention with the movement of the materials and making them think differently than if they were just sitting through a presentation slide by slide.  A good Prezi presentation will flow through the canvas and make the story easy to understand, real and engaging all at the same time. 
How Does It Work

Prezi comes with a number of predefined templates, but also gives you the option of working on your own blank canvas.  Once inside the tool, the view is similar to that of PowerPoint with frame (slide) previews on the left, and your main working section in the middle.


Prezi Start
If you're an avid PowerPoint user like me, one thing that you'll notice right away is that the familiar ribbon that PowerPoint 2010 introduced on non-existant.  In fact, there really aren't a ton of fancy options for inserting content into your presentation.  You can write in text, insert pictures, or insert video.
Once you start adding frames to your presentation, you can hit the 'Present' button to see how the flow will work.  As you can see here you can jump in and out of frames as you wish.
Prezi Flow
Within each frame all that you need to do to insert text is click on the blank canvas.  There are typically 3 different font options offered and you have the option to resize or make them a different color (although the color choices are limited).

To zoom in / out of a frame you need to hover on the right side of the screen to see the classic + and - signs signifying whether to go in or out.
Zooming and is actually one of the best features of Prezi and the one that sets it apart from PowerPoint.  Imagine a scenario where your first frame is a picture of the world and you're describing the global changes occurring in the marketplace.  Your next frame could be a city within that world, and your presentation zooms into that city while you discuss how the changes are impacting the local economy.  Your third frame could be a building within that city and again, your presentation would zoom in once again to the building to discuss impacts to your company.  Your fourth frame could even be a window within that building, and here you describe the changes impacting your department.
While a scenario like this could be done within PowerPoint, it would have nowhere near the same effect or give the same level of engagement as actually seeing the picture zoom in closer and closer to your department.
How Easy Is It to Learn
From the opinion of someone who has spent hundreds of hours building PowerPoints, Prezi was pretty intuitive once you got the hang of it.  The most difficult things to get used to were the zoom features as well as highlighting (selecting) a frame.  To highlight a frame, you need to hold down Shift while dragging your mouse over what you're trying to select.  This is much different that just clicking on a picture, text box, etc.. and expecting it to be highlighted.

Prezi Smiley

The toughest aspect of building a presentation, though, was the pure options of what was available.  Within this canvas you have an opportunity to build a story that uses a ton of visual stimulants to get your point across.  You really need to think more artistically and outside the box for what will grab people's attention.  It can't just be going left to right through a bunch of frames.
In working with some folks who weren't as adept to PowerPoint, they were able to pick up the intricacies fairly quickly and help build the presentation.
What are the Pros / Cons for Using Prezi at Our Company
  • More engaging materials (visualization)
  • Easier to embed videos than in PowerPoint
  • Ability to import complete PowerPoint slides
  • Free option available, and the full version is only $150/year
  • Ability to access presentation from any computer
  • Technically, Prezi is on the *cough* Cloud *cough*, making it a tough sell in some corporate environments
  • Does not work as well if your presentation is full of numbers (you wouldn't use it to review a budget)
  • Less options for customization than in PowerPoint
  • Less familiarity for your audience of what to expect
  • Tougher to send out materials beforehand (it is possible to PDF the presentation, but it won't have the same effect)
In Conclusion
To wrap it up, I do not expect Prezi to completely overtake PowerPoint anytime soon.  PowerPoint / Microsoft is just too embedded in the corporate world, and the risk of using Prezi on the cloud along with the time it will take people to learn the new tool would be too great.

However, in the right circumstances, it's clear that Prezi would be a preferred option for delivering certain types of pitches / materials.  There are too many pros that separate Prezi from PowerPoint to make it not become more popular and gain additional market share.
I would hope to see more adoption to Prezi as more and more college kids enter the workforce and think at some point we will see corporations become more open to allowing employees to use the tool.
Hopefully this helps with the Prezi vs. PowerPoint debate.  Let me know if there are any specific questions on the tool in the comments below!
Prezi For Dummies
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(price as of Sep 22, 2013)