Prezi vs. Powerpoint

You’ve probably noticed that Prezi is going big on social media advertising the last couple of weeks. They are trying to differentiate from their long-life competitor Powerpoint. Their main point of differentiation, according to Prezi, is the fact that there ‘method’ of presenting is more conversational than a powerpoint and consequently the effectiveness of a Prezi presentation is higher than the effectiveness of a powerpoint presentation.

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While I like the word ‘conversational’, it’s not really new. In fact, by presentation-experts every type of presentation, whether it is in Powerpoint, Prezi, or no visual aids at all.. is considered a conversation. Sometimes it’s just a conversation with a lot of people at once.

Now to come to the point: the claim that Prezi is ‘more conversational than powerpoint’ is just not true as far as I’m concerned. The 2 ‘features’ that Prezi claims to be more conversational are not exclusive to Prezi:

  1. The ‘click feature’ they’ve added in Prezi Next is something that was also included in powerpoint (under the name ‘zoom’).
  2. The so-called unique zoom-in and zoom-out effect you have in Prezi is something that you can replicate in powerpoint relatively easy.

The main difference between Prezi and Powerpoint is not the fact that one is more ‘conversational’ than the other. It’s simply the philosophy on which both softwares are built. In Prezi, the design originates from underlying connections (or a presentation mind-map if you will) and does a good job in visualising those connections,  while powerpoint doesn’t require interrelations.

While I’m keen to agree with Prezi’s philosophy of connecting the dots, it just doesn’t feel like that much of a competitive advantage over powerpoint. The main reason for this is simply because it’s not your visual presentation that needs to connect the dots, it’s what YOU as a presenter say that needs to connect the dots. A software that automatically ‘assumes’ certain interrelations between topics can even stand in the way of an ‘effective conversation’ in case what you say implies different interrelations that what your presentation is showing to your audience. Just to give you an example: if you watch the most effective TED-talks of all times, most presenters often show a black screen in between slides, which frees up time to explain something without any visual aid – in essence, this is something that Prezi’s philosophy doesn’t recognise: the fact that ideas are connected through words instead of visual effects.

I feel like Prezi still hasn’t grown into a software that is offering fundamental advantages over powerpoint. In the contrary, powerpoint can do the same as Prezi and also so much more: since it has been around for so long, it has so many incredible features that Prezi just doesn’t have yet.

Although it seems like I’m a big defender of powerpoint, I’m still excited that Prezi is around: it forces powerpoint to add new features to their software that will allow presentation designers like us to eventually build better products for our customers.

I conclusion: a terrible powerpoint presentation is still better than a terrible Prezi presentation, simply because a terrible powerpoint still allows for a greater focus on how the presenter connects ideas while terrible Prezi draws the attention away from the speaker by its animated visuals.