Why I hate Prezi

One of the many jokes about Powerpoint is how much time people who use it spend picking transitions between slides. They spend more time picking out animations and fonts than what their audience needs to learn and how best to convey those lessons. It’s like wanting to make a movie and spending all your budget just on costumes. It’s backwards and broken.

Because of how Powerpoint, and Keynote, are constructed, common habits for creating presentations are often poor. The tools are slide centric, not presentation centric, and people instinctively follow the metaphor built in to their tools. While I do believe you can make a good presentation with any tool, and a bad one too, the emphasis of the tool influences choices.

Popular presentation tools focus on slides, which should not be the focus at all. No one comes to listen to a lecture in hope of great slides. They want good ideas, expressed well, especially ideas that answer the questions that motivated them to attend the lecture in the first place. Most people I know, when informed they need to give a presentation, immediately begin making slides, and they may as well tie a noose around their own necks. There is no point in making a single slide until you know some of what you want to say, and how best to say it. If you make slides first, you become a slide slave. You will spend all your time perfecting your slides, instead of perfecting your thoughts. You will likely talk to your slides when you present, and not your audience, as you will have spent more time on the slides than you did practicing giving the talk itself. Sadly, I don’t know of any tool that guides their users properly towards how good speakers prepare.

In Chapter 5 of Confessions of a Public Speaker, I explain the best way to prepare for a presentation. You start by thinking about the audience:

  • Why are they coming to the talk instead of doing something else more fun?
  • What questions are they hoping you will answer about the topic?
  • What are your well thought out answers?
  • What is the best way to express those answers?

Only after some hard thinking on these questions is there any hope a presentation will turn out well, and it’s only then that a speaker should start thinking about slides. And even then, slides should be a tool for drafting. Make the quickest and dirtiest slides possible, and then start practicing the talk. After each practice, improve how well the slides support what you want to say. Only then will the slides have the proper role as a prop, rather being the star and making you the prop.

I first saw a demo of Prezi years ago, and it seemed interesting. I liked the idea of a fully 2D space to work from. But as I used it I realized it had taken the things I hated most about Powerpoint, and emphasized them. Prezi bills itself on the ability to ZOOM, to MOVE, to TRANSITION. All the most distracting elements for would-be speakers, elements that distract them away from the quality thinking required to speak well.  Instead of thinking “I’m so proud of how I worked hard to explain this important idea so that my audience can understand it” they think “Here comes my favorite transition! Look at how the entire screen is going to rotate!” I can see how, in the hands of a skilled communicator, Prezi makes some things easier to do, but a skilled communicator would do just fine with any tool.

I’ve experimented with many different ways to present. If I want to have more control over how to represent things in 2D, I use a WHITEBOARD. Hooking up an iPad with a drawing app works wonderfully well as a virtual one. And it’s easy to switch between it and Keynote if I want to follow the basic structure of a slide deck.  I was deeply inspired by watching Bill Verplank speak at UIE years ago, where he simply drew as he talked. It was more dynamic than any software, and more personal too, since we all could watch him work with his hands. He’s not a dynamic speaker, but he doesn’t need to be, as the clarity and value of his ideas are strong enough on their own. I can’t draw like Bill can, but I’ve found working with a whiteboard, virtual or not, invites an audience’s attention in a way software can never do. And as a speaker if I work at a whiteboard, I can’t hide behind slides. It forces me to properly prepare too.

The people most drawn to use Prezi are those who are more enchanted by the pretense of style, rather than substance. To this day I have yet to see a Prezi presentation that would not have been better had the speaker used something else, including nothing at all. Many presentations would be better if the speaker just spoke, sans slides or any props at all. If they just spoke, they’d be forced to think hard about what they wanted to say, and not expect to hide behind whizzy transitions or obfuscated slides.

If anyone has seen a great talk done with Prezi, please leave a comment.

[Updated Note 2-3-15]: here is an excellent post on the problems with misusing transitions in Prezi and how to fix them. I still don’t recommend the tool, but this may help those who choose to use it anyway]

[Minor edits 1-12-2016]

148 Responses to “Why I hate Prezi”

  1. Mike W

    I can appreciate your point of view when it comes to public speaking, a riveting speaker with substance should enthrall a crowd. I however work in a call center was stuck with a software called clearslide for my presentations to other people in different states. I have to show them what I am talking about or they lose focus. Peoples attention spans are limited now and as I am pushing products that are worth up to $100,000, any edge I can get to convince is a bonus. Since I have started using Prezi instead of boring slides my sales have skyrocketed. Just my two cents.

  2. Cauvery

    What I understand from your article is its’ the content and not its presentation what is important. Consider a situation when prezi is used for offline presenting i.e. I made a ppt and uploaded it for people to read themselves.. Do you still hate Powerpoint and Prezi ?


    1. John Primbs

      A presentation’s message comes from the presenter who should speak to the audience and not to the audience from the slides! A slide show, depending on the technicality of a subject, should only be used to provide markers for the speaker’s address to the audience and emphasize particular points. Reading slides to the audience is a poor way to communicate and many novice briefers do just this. Otherwise, just print the slides and hand them out to the audience and don’t bother wasting time reading it to them. PowerPoint is still a great tool when used properly.

  3. Marge Lawrence

    Reply to John’s comment of March 16, 2013: Is there something wrong with being a “left-brainer”? I like analytical thinking; I think more people should do it.

  4. Ellen Lorenz

    Using language of “hate” to express dissatidaction, frustration and overall dislike is simply horrible. Ugly ugly word. And you teach on leadership?

    1. Scott

      Hi Ellen. Is there ever a situation where you would use the word hate?

  5. Chris

    Visual media, as an adjunct to public speaking, can make a bad speech even worse. We all seem to be in vehement agreement on that point. However, the right image can shorten a presentation with technical or difficult concepts or relationships. Occasionally, animating that image may be useful. Where slides and Prezi shine are in online or self-guided presentations, where the presenter is unable to drive the boat, so to speak, but needs to use other techniques to focus the audience and emphasize points.

  6. mandarine

    There are a few instances where prezi might be just the right presentation tool. It’s when you actually want to present your work as a big poster (thinking infographics here, mostly). When your work is not linear and would look really perfect as an 8ft tall poster with the big picture and the smal print eaqually relevant, that’s where prezi could be perfect. I make presentations daily and have found a handful of such occasions. Prezis can otherwise be kinda OK for presenting nonlinear stuff ‘mindmap’ style (generally for immature concepts and interactive presentations). Otherwise, if I /had/ to use prezi, I’d just do a linear prezi with slide-like steps and just a zoomout on table of contents for big sections. No zooming, no rotation, just pan. One thing prezi got right is strict limitation of font use. Too many horrible powerpoint presentations with no typographic consistency out there.
    But I agree with the article: the presentation comes first. The tool is just a tool. And whatever the tool (even with a blackboard), modesty is key.

    1. Bhavleen

      i dont like prezi cause its a difficult site to make ppts u cant understand the things properly and its a total wastage of time. In microsoft powerpoint presenttation its very easy to make and u can make it very quickly.

  7. magatz

    I’ve spent almost 10 days to think in a Prezi way.
    Yes if you focus only on panning, zooming your audience will feel sick, very soon.
    But if you spend your time, thinking about the Great Picture, and let the people drill in detail, when needed, then Prezi is the winner. Surely you can’t produce anything nice in two hours, but if you have the time you need than… go Prezi

  8. Len Babin

    For someone who claims to be a professional public speaker/presenter, it is hard to understand how you could miss the point of Prezi. PowerPoint nerds will like fancy transitions and they will be thrilled by Prezi. They may even try to convert PP slides directly into Prezi – a fatal mistake. But, if they don’t understand how to create a real presentation, they will fail using either tool.

    It is hard to understand how you cannot see that being able to show the big-picture message over and over again while zooming into key details is way ahead of linear slides. It is hard to understand why you cannot see that people who deliver messages want to use the power of Prezi to focus on the major messages on one large canvas and deliver the details in an innovative way. Anyone who is only about fancy transitions should stick with PP. It *is* getting better so stick with it. The rest of us will jump into the future.

    1. karen

      Prezi has little to do with communication–it’s all ego and fluff.

    2. Kresster

      +Len Babin, I totally agree with you. I find it ironic that Berkun says it’s important to think about who is the audience and what they want to learn, yet resorts to condescending, snarky negative assumptions about “people” who use presentation software. His inability to make Prezi work for him has nothing to do with the possibilities.

      I agree with you that the ability to move from the macro to the micro and back again and to navigate ideas in a non-linear fashion is a tremendous advantage. I am speaking as someone who worked very hard, through responding to written feedback that I always request when I do my public health education presentations. I have honed my skills from “good presenter” responses to “excellent” or “fantastic” “presenter” or “presentation” most of the time.

      Prezi helps me to move where the audience wants to go in terms of discussion and content area, while also making sure I cover the information I am mandated to relay. I can, for example, in answer to a query, more easily go back to a previously presented graph to elaborate. And I can more easily move to other topic areas depending on the interest and responses of the audience. It has helped to enhance the richness of participation and flow in discussions.

    3. Michael Morad-McCoy

      I’ve only seen a couple of live Prezis and my major reaction was that my attention was drawn more to the tool than the content of what was going on. And the examples highlighted on Prezi’s website primarily seem to be a mess as far as presenting a coherent message or just bad PowerPoint techniques (for example, text-dense bullet points) gussied up with pseudo-hip graphics and non-relevant panning transitions. I’m with Scott: Your audience is there to hear your thoughts not to marvel at your technical skills. As soon as your tool takes attention from your content, you’ve failed.

  9. David

    I like a lot about Prezi, but they also give you so much to hate. It seems that they suffer from a combination of indifference and incompetence. I guess this is why PP has survived so long, at least it is reliable and robust. Here are some things I hate:

    1. Useless restrictions on color choices. For example, when I insert a circle or square into my presentation from their shapes library, I have to choose from 1 of 5 colors, and black is not one of the options.

    2. Prezi may be the last place on the internet that can’t handle gifs. You can insert a gif animation, but it will appear as a static image. I bought Prezi specifically for a presentation that I’ve spent two months working on. Switching to PP is not an option anymore. Now I find out I cannot insert several of the gifs I had planned on using. Do they not care enough about their users to make a simple update? Is the problem that they don’t have the software engineers? I’m a PostDoc at MIT and one of our bright undergrads could code this for them. Instead of addressing this problem, their service reps give the same useless answer “you can use SFW or FLV files.” I don’t have SFWs or FLVs, I have gifs.

    1. lee strahan

      I have just used Prezi for only the second time at a Rotary Conference in Australia
      I was presenting on our foundation and the 15 local and global grants that district 9790 are working on this year
      I love the format of prezi because you can show the overall picture and then draw your audience into the story, then when your done its off to the next story….. If you use Prezi to fast, yes you will feel sick. But the proof is in the pudding, i had so many people from the audience ask “What was that program” and only the other day had an email asking about it.

      It gets a big thumbs up from an old Power Point Presenter

      Go Prezi

      1. Kahnet

        “But the proof is in the pudding, i had so many people from the audience ask “What was that program” and only the other day had an email asking about it.”

        Shouldn’t they ask you questions about your topic instead ?

        I agree with this article it’s not the tool who matter. Personnaly I’m only using Powerpoint. But each time I’m doing a presentation with powerpoint, every one is asking me which software I used. Because they don’t even think that skill still exist, for them it’s only a matter of tool.
        I think that nowadays people are so assisted by tons of apps and software that they lost the fact that they still need to think and create themselves.

      2. Jared J. Jemison

        Say there’s a group of monkeys that has been customized to eat bananas. Now, give them a pineapple and they will wonder for days what the hell are they holding instead of eating it. You get the point?

  10. Adriana

    I was introduced to Prezi a couple of days ago and my teacher used it for a class presentation… I got very sick from all the moving and zooming… all I wanted was to enrich myself with new things but with Prezi it was very hard to follow…

  11. Krista

    I totally agree that people over-rely on presentation slides, but I completely disagree that Prezi is nothing more than an over-animated version of powerpoint. It is one of the BEST tools I have found to both think through and present non-linear, complex concepts. I have one of my presentations linked below- creating it was a serious exercise in structuring my abstract thoughts, and I definitely think the effect this presentation had on my audience came from that concept mapping rather than the “ZOOM”, “MOVE”, “TRANSITION” effects that this author speaks about.

    Link: http://prezi.com/wrykyflwrwht/ed-tech-challenge-overview/

    1. Richard M. Thornton

      Let me guess, you get paid to advertise them? Prezi is loathsome, hell, mediocre at best, it’s even more boring than powerpoint, yet even more distracting, pricey and just full of gimmicks that’s not needed if you’ve a bit of creativity on other tools.

    2. Barbara

      I understand what you did here with the levels of content. Still, I found the “swooping” nauseating. Is there a way to turn that off in Prezi? To just click rather than swoop?

  12. Pooja

    If you don’t like Prezi, there’s another tool you may like known as Visme (www.visme.co).

    It’s a great free way to create presentations that are HTML5 based and all in cloud.

    1. Alinde

      Thanks so MUCH for that recommendation! For me, Visme is much easier, and even fun!

  13. Paul

    I will give one good reason to never sign up to Prezi. It is impossible to stop the yearly payments after you sign up. For three years in a row I have been billed on my credit card for an annual professional subscription when I don’t have one and have no access to any professional features. I go to the Prezi website and there is no way to contact them. It appears I will be paying Prezi for the rest of my life! It’s a blatant rip off!

  14. John Rogers

    You claimed: “The people most drawn to use Prezi are those who are more enchanted by the pretense of style, rather than substance.”

    Not at all in my case. What instantly attracted me was the ability of this tool to help us think and present ‘holistically’, which is very difficult to do with Powerpoint’s linear structure. It seems to me the ideal tool for systems thinkers to constantly go between micro and macro and show different levels of a topic or system.

    Here is how I used it to present the topic of Local Money: http://prezi.com/byn39kcf9s2g/local-money/

    On the point of dizzying transitions, here is a real Prezi expert masterfully laying that to rest in Death by Prezi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS8IUtTbyC4

    1. Scott

      > Not at all in my case.

      So you claim. Looking at your link I disagree. It’s probably best to leave it at that.

    2. Russell Anderson-Williams

      Thanks for your kind words John. Glad you liked the YouTube of me speaking at Prezi day. I think we have to be realistic and say that some people (as in Scott’s case) just won’t like Prezi for whatever reason. I normally find though that they haven’t really given it a chance, and simply clicked through other peoples Prezis online in 30 seconds or less and then complained of motion sickness!

      I’m glad not everyone understands the power of Prezi just yet because those in the know will no doubt make greater impact when presenting amongst a see of others using tired old Ppt slides.

      I still agree with Scott though. Any tool in the wrong hands can destroy a presentation.

      Scott I’d love to catch up with you some time.

    3. kilo

      I looked at your Local Money prezi. I can’t believe you would do that to your audience.

    4. Michael Morad-McCoy

      Hmm. All I see in both of these links is a linear series of, essentially, slides. The only thing at all that’s different is that they are scattered over an image or laid neatly on a flat surface instea of stacked. Aside from the second presentation’s rotating one slide and doing some zoom effects I see nothing substantive provided by the Prezi bells-and-whistles. I’m looking, but still haven’t seen a Prezi that actually makes substantive use of all the special effects.

  15. Andy Ebsworth

    lee strahan wrote

    March 29, 2014 at 1:27 am

    “I have just used Prezi for only the second time at a Rotary Conference in Australia”
    Well he would, wouldn’t he?

  16. Russell Anderson-Williams

    I agree with most of your points here. A great speaker will be great regardless of what tool they use. However I think it’s a little unfair to title this post with the word ‘hate’ when referring to Prezi. Especially as what your post is really saying here is that you hate people missusing presentation tools. After all its not PowerPoint’s fault there are bad slide decks, and definitely not Prezis fault there is a lot of Death by Prezi out there. It’s really all down to that fact that you make really well above. People need to focus on their story and words first before even touching any presentation software.

  17. Daniel Engelberg

    This is starting to sound like a religious argument. I really like Scott’s position that the presentation is about the presenter and the content. It’s about telling a story. Stories are linear for a reason. If you’ve ever tried telling a non-linear story, you probably lost your audience. I’ve watched non-linear movies and I can appreciate the art but I think enjoyment would be overstating it.

    But I do see the value for presenting concept maps and maybe for zooming in more dynamically on different topics.

    Btw in Powerpoint you can just add a concept map slide after each section to show where you’ve been and where you’re going. I do that often. You can even put dynamic links on the concept map. I never use transitions.

    Having said this, I’m curious to try Prezi and see what all the fuss is about.

  18. Benji

    Prezi is like a good suit. You might have a world changing business idea, but no one probably listens to you if you go in your PJs. That is the world we live in. How you present your ideas will complement your content.

  19. Geoff

    I can’t believe this post still gets comments – mission accomplished Scott.

    Everyone well knows that the quality of a presentation has almost nothing to do with the tool one selects to throw bits up on the wall behind you. We have all experienced wonderful presentations with horrible slides, with wonderful slides, and with no slides at all. Whether PowerPoint or Prezi or Keynote or Google Slides or dry-erase marker on an overhead projector – it matters little.

    What is interesting to me is what I’m seeing first hand as a parent – kids in high school and junior high are almost always turning to Prezi as their first tool for presentations followed distantly by Google Slides.

    Anyway, great trolling Scott. Two years on and it’s still working. Attaboy!

  20. Albert Vlug

    For a while I loved to use Prezi, but since they automatically charge me for over 100 euro after a free trial period, I hate Prezi.

  21. Wazza

    Speech note cards on Android
    Confident speech presentation with interactive note cards on your Android phone. I hate prezi and I used Powerpoint and controled the slides from this app as I used the note cards!


  22. Matt

    I think the review and many of the comments are unfair. I’m in physics, and I generally take pride in content over fluff, and I never gave a darn about transitions. I was reluctant to use prezi for the reason that it struck me as flash-bang and a distraction from content. But, I decided to give it a try and I changed my mind. I liked that I was able to make nested slides and switch between scales. Thinking hierarchically and and non-linearly, seeing my talk in a larger space, had an impact in how I organized content. The program made me view my talk more cinematically, which might sound superficial, but took a complicated idea and turned it into a clearly told story. The cool transitions came *without* wasting time – they’re automatic. And, being able to show relative scales was a great pedagogical tool. In short, I feel that making a prezi talk made me think about my content differently, and in a way that was substantively better. Content followed form.

  23. Beepbooboobeep

    I have to stand up for prezi! This guy just sounds bitter, maybe he couldnt firgure out how to use it with any finesse. Prezi (espcially if you combine it with adobe) can make information more exciting. Every little detail matters ,

  24. Lorie

    It’s not the presentation tool, it’s the presenter…just about always.

  25. LG

    I completely agree with Berkun. I have yet to see a Prezi that made any sense to me. I noticed that the examples they display on their site (that they are proud of and believe we “have to see”), are dizzying to watch and they break the rules of good presenting. It explains why the top presentation design firms don’t use Prezi!

  26. Andrew Kelly

    A quote from the second paragraph that I absolutely agree with: “Fundamentally I don’t care much about presentation tools as the tools are mostly irrelevant. You can make a good presentation with any tool and a bad one too. Like writing, the hard part isn’t which software you use, but how you use it.”

    Scott then spends the next six paragraphs demonstrating an inability to make this philosophy work for him. The above sentiment cancels out the rest of the article, whatever the specific pros and cons of Prezi might be.

    1. Scott Berkun

      The key word in that quote is mostly, not entirely. Some tools are highly specialized and hard to use for more general purposes. I mean, I could try to take down an oak tree with a swiss army knife, but that would be about as silly as trying to make a simple presentation slide deck with a tool centered on making complex transition-centric ones.

  27. Mueses

    At the end of the day a tool is only as good as the user. Remember, Prezi, PowerPoint, …, Visme are all tools. Not everyone can grab a brush and paint a Picasso. At the end of the day if you collect informatión on the best practices for a presentatión you can apply them all in any tool (minding the limitations).

    Note: Common sense is the least common of all the senses.

  28. Ryan

    I started using preferring prezi over power point after I was presenting cases that had way too much information. I was able to place all my data on a timeline I could slowly transition through while smoothly and noticeable zooming out to see part of the larger timeline before going back in to the next important detail. It shows perspective and it keeps the audience’s attention since they can see and understand the larger picture or topic you are presenting. Regular powerpoint only show a small moment in time “one slide” before moving on to the next. Powerpoint’s or Keynote are linear processes that can only go back and forward. You should focus on minimizing awkward transitions in Prezi since this is NOT the point of the program. Prezi brings up a lot of discussion at least regarding my topics. It is easy to zoom out and go to a different area of the project to prove a point or to reflect without distracting as long as you as the speaker are guiding the project and not the project guiding the speaker. If you are always too zoomed into the project you will make your audience and the presenter nauseated so be mindful. I disagree with the initial complaint about Prezi since I have had great success in my post-graduate program since the tools they offer are much easier to use and present for the visuospatial mind.

  29. Carole Alalouf

    Hi there, I read with fascination your post and the slew of comments that followed. How can anyone say that either Prezi or PowerPoint is always terrible or always the best choice?

    It entirely depends on the story you are trying to tell. The medium must support the message.

    As much as Prezi is often misused, I believe it can also be used very effectively. I’ve written my own post on the subject and would really love to know what you think: https://www.exaltus.ca/blog/presentation-stars-6-moments-of-greatness-for-prezi/

    Thank you,

  30. Evelyne Thomas

    Don’t use it. Unreliable. PowerPoint is much better. There are some major glitches in the program. I had a black screen error which made me unable to edit it the presentation. It wasn’t an immediate problem (of course, it started when I was almost finished with it). It destroyed the presentation formatting too when I shared it. They wouldn’t give me a refund. I actually got 3 hours of sleep one night because of these errors. I had to stay up and make a PowerPoint instead. 80 slides. And then go to work for 12 hours the next day. Thanks Prezi! Incidentally, PowerPoint is much more user friendly and has many more options for animation. I spent 2 weeks learning to use it but that was a waste of time unfortunately

  31. Timothy Driscoll

    Damn there are a lot of NPCs in this world



Leave a Reply to mandarine

* Required

Click here to cancel reply.