Prezi distracts audiences. Why do speakers inflict it on us?

PowerPoint can be bad enough, with dozens of tedious slides containing small text. But Prezi is in a whole different league in terms of preventing an audience from concentrating on a speech.

You see, Prezi, an ultra-modern, web-based presentation tool has something PowerPoint doesn’t have. It allows presenters to “Zoom outside the slide and bring your ideas to life.” What this means is that every time the speaker changes slide, there is an immensely distracting 3D animation which shows the slide being zoomed out of. The next slide is then found and zoomed into.

While this is going on, the audience has stopped listening to the speaker and is instead focussing on this irrelevant zooming out and in again.

Drew Banks, head of marketing at Prezi, says that “You’re not bound by a linear format” with Prezi. Funnily enough, I find that giving a speech in a linear format works pretty damn well. I haven’t tried putting the end before the middle of a speech before, but maybe I should try.

Truth is that good speakers know that to communicate effectively, the audience’s eyes need to be looking at them. Slides can help but they should never become too dominant. And prolific speakers who use slides know that PowerPoint has features that help them present coherently and on time.

Specifically, they are used to the way PowerPoint displays a Presenter View on their laptop screen that’s different to the view on the big screen. A clock, images of their current and next slides, and perhaps some hidden notes are available.

If I’m correctly reading a somewhat obtuse article on Prezi’s blog, Prezi used to a have a feature like this, but they deleted it. Apparently “only 0.05% of people who download the software use[d] the feature” and “you now have a simpler Prezi experience that isn’t cluttered with a feature you don’t want”.

Eliminating a tool that’s vital for professional speakers says it all. This is a tool for amateurs – and should be avoided.