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. Bob

    Why you gotta be hatin’ the Prezi?

    1. Scott Berkun

      I hope it’s clear I’m not much of a fan of any of these tools. But Prezi has gone in the exact opposite direction I hope these tools go in.

      1. Paul

        Why I hate Prezi is because its only halfway as good as it can be, but I love it because its way better than a slide show.
        BUT, I am using it to covey ideas without me being present, i.e. on the web, effectively trying to clone myself to each reader like we try to do here with our engineering students on certain topics: tinyurl.com/esteqonline

        I am using it as a visual tool to convey processes, alternatives etc. very much like a white board, but on a white board I can easily write or draw myself into a corner. In Prezi I can put all my ideas on the “board” and move them around to fit in properly.

        Where I have now unfortunately worked myself into a corner with Prezi, is that everything is visible at once and that makes it difficult to grow a tree (big idea) from a seed.

      2. Al2far

        I gave a presentation on Prezi. It was a super hit. Because 1) I was the first one to use it in my big organisation. 2) I presented my thoughts very well using this tool.

        But after the presentation, everyone was asking me questions not about the topic presented but How did you do it? The presentation was so famous that now my CEO wants me to design all corporate presentations Prezi style. But later I learned that not every person can do a prezi.

        I strongly believe that words make a big difference than pictures if said from the bottom of the heart.

    2. Any PresenterWorld

      I haven’t read your book (yet), only this post. To me, you must be a left-brainer. Otherwise you would clearly recognize how tools (like Prezi) help to communicate to an audience. No disrespect. I’ve never published a book. I teach my children that “hate” is word to use carefully. Regards, John

      1. Scott

        If you have an example of a presentation done in Prezi that wouldn’t be just as good if it were done using another tool, I’d be happy to list it.

        As I mentioned in the post there are some special cases where its features shine, but those situations are very rare.

  2. Carey

    I understand your point… and agree when Prezi is used purely on that level. But I have found a very valuable asset from Prezi that is beyond the “wow factor” and that is the ability to present things visually in a manner that actually represents the concept being presented. In other words, items/words can be placed in relationship to others in a way that shows their connections. It’s so helpful to “see” a concept as well as hear it… but presenters have to work extra, extra hard to make sure that’s what they are really doing instead of succumbing to the “wow” of the transitions, zooms, spins, etc.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Speakers are horribly biased, myself included, about how effective they are at doing anything.

      Prezi has every reason to prove that you are right by hiring a few veteran speakers to make 2 versions of the same talk, and give those talks to two different audiences, and measure the results (you’d need to properly design the study of course, and likely counterbalance the ordering). They haven’t done this as far as I know. The value of the tool should be measured on it’s value to the audience, not just the speaker.

      1. Carey

        I totally agree with you… and that’s my point. I think it helps the audience to connect things visually when they are connected conceptually. Seeing the relationships between concepts, as well as hearing it verbally helps it to “click” in their understanding. I’ve had many people who’ve seen my Prezi presentations of this nature say so.

        Having said all that, I agree with you that we speakers can be very biased (and our worst critics). I’m concerned with what is taken away from my presentations, just like you. I won’t die on the “prezi” hill… I have just found it to benefit my audience (from what THEY have said).

      2. lajthabalazs

        I think that Prezi is not only a tool for presenting but also for designing presentations (not just the visual stuff but also the “speach”). With that in mind there is not much difference between a PowerPoint and a Prezi once the speaker has gone through the steps of creating a great presentation. If you take an experienced speaker with a great idea, then as you said whatever tool he uses he will get through his audience.
        On the other end of the range if the idea is not well thought out, the speaker is unexperienced, not motivated or disabled in any other way, than there is no tool in the world that will help his audience stay awake.
        Prezi helps those in the middle. Giving a tool to lay out ideas, arrange and connect them until a clear path emerges, that the audience can follow to understand.

        And another important part of the Prezi ecosystem: the offline presentation. Going through a Prezi designed for offline use is often an engaging experience. Flipping through slides on SlideShare is self torture.

    2. Sonja Kruse - the UBUNTU girl

      The way we communicate on a person-person level, is being shaped by the way we communicate virtually (social media, e-mail, blogs etc). Just as we have a number of windows/tabs open at any given moment whilst we are online, we are seeking stimulation on more than one level when opening ourselves up to new information. Prezi offers this depth to an audience, allowing them to become co-explorers
      Thank you

  3. Antonio Rodriguez

    I’ve given what was a technical-person-to-non-technical audience talk about Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem. In my view, it allowed for improved understanding by the audience based on their questions afterwards, and allowed me to pace my speech to the time limits provided. I doubt I could have drawn what I needed in real-time as I was talking, even if I were competent enough at drawing.

    In the interest of disclosure, this was a speech for Toastmasters. Not sure what your view on them as an organization is, but I’ve gotten over my stage fright pretty well with them.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Toastmasters is a great way to build confidence. But as I stated in response to a different comment, your sense of what worked for you as a speaker may have little bearing no what worked for the audience.

      I admit for specific cases a tool like Prezi, or the fancy animation features in Powerpoint, can be a great way to make a specific kind of point. But as a general tool for most presentations / speeches / talks they all suffer from the same type of flaw, which is they don’t help speakers prepare in a way to nail the basics.

  4. Jacob

    If a software tool existed to make people better speakers, I could stop teaching my public speaking classes and instead fill my days with more interesting classes that don’t require me to sit through hours of terrible speeches each semester. That said, Prezi>Powerpoint precisely because it disrupts the notion of slides without totally discarding it. I can have more dynamic presentations by zooming in and out of something and the transition itself communicates something about the information. I can use the transitions in Prezi to show some text that describes a concept, then zoom in to show an example of that content. On top of that, Prezi handles video better than Powerpoint does, expanding the tools I have available as a presenter.

    But, of course, the slides-first approach is wrong. It’s terrible and leads to terribleness. What I’m using Prezi for these days is flipping my classroom. I create a Prezi, download it, record a screencast of the presentation with my lecture over it, and then post that video for my students to watch. I can now spend in-class time on skill-building and practice rather than chalk-n-talk. The gap between Prezi and Powerpoint is never clearer than when the visual element of the presentation is primary. Yeah, Prezi doesn’t make bad speakers good, but it is a better tool than Powerpoint for making presentations better.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Your a Prezi fan, and you’re entitled to your opinion.

      I don’t buy your claims only because I’ve never seen you speak :) If you post a link to one of the videos you mentioned I could maybe be convinced, but having people tell me they present better with X or Y is entirely unconvincing, as I can find people who say that about nearly any popular tool.

    2. Carey

      I agree… the way the concepts being presented in the presentation can be presented in the same type of relationship visually (sometimes). That helps people to “get it.”

  5. Sherrilynn

    You would probably like a technique borrowed from the elementary classroom, a pictorial input chart. In preparation for the the “sit n git” portion of a lesson, a teacher takes e.g. butcher paper and lightly sketches out pertinent, helpful drawings ahead of time. As the teacher talks, s/he “draws” the (pre-sketched) picture with brightly markers or similar, labeling as s/he goes, addition additional information as necessary, thus making the very lightly sketched image and notes visible to the audience for the first time. This can also be done on a smaller piece of paper with a document camera. The advantage is that one need not be an artist if the major drawing components are pre-sketched and thus visible to the teacher as s/he talks and writes/draws.

    1. Scott Berkun

      I know exactly the technique you are talking about, but hadn’t thought about using it in presentations. Fantastic comment. Thank you.

      You sound like a teacher, yes? Do you have a link to good examples of pictoral input charts?

  6. Serge Zenin

    I agree about the shortcoming of Prezi, but I think that the dependence on that program speaks to a much deeper problem. Dynamic and interesting speakers like yourself don’t need Prezi–or any other tools for that matter–to effectively present information. You’re objective as a speaker is to get people to evaluate something and to be interested in your presentation, and that makes you more authentic and more effective. But most people are not this way, and use Prezi not because they want to speak publicly, but because they have an obligation to do so. Their boss said “make a presentation,” or they feel that their department needs to be “updated” on some topic. An external pressure to “create a presentation” makes Prezi more appealing because, unfortunately, people don’t like to think deeply about their speech and prefer easy, cookie-cutter solution. And that’s what Prezi is–it effectively serves that target group of non-dynamic, unmotivated speakers who WANT to hide behind a screen.

    A person who depends on Prezi or Powerpoint merely has different goals. No one really listens to their presentation while their at it, and here and there, they may be wowed by an unusual transition or a clever sound effect. Prezi emphasizes form over substance, and the unfortunate truth is that, for some people, form is all that matters to them. They want to “give a presentation” and hind behind the slides because that’s the easy way out, and it requires less effort on their part. And this obsession people have of depending on external programs to do their work for them is really the heart of the problem, in my opinion.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Hi Serge. Thanks for the complement.

      I think we agree that for some speakers form matters over content. I promise that is not true of anyone in the audience.

      To be clear I use powerpoint, or keynote, most of the time I speak. I use it differently than many speakers do, but I do use something. I do buy some of the argument that we are visual creatures and there is power in using large screens to make points and keep attention.

      I often do speaker coaching. There are other ways to solve the desire to hide than slides. I’ve written about overcoming speaking fears before. Hiding behind a slide deck as the only way to feel safe is a tragic, but common, mistake. There are other ways and approaches that work much better for both the speaker and the audience.

  7. Alex

    Yes, I agree with you, on Prezi specifically and software for presentations in general. And, to be frank, most of us present in rather small-scale outlets (<100) most of the time, and the time put into making that presentation is wasted in making it look good. However, the less technology-inclined the person is, the more time is spent of that instead of the message.

    I've done them all myself (including the big +500 ones), and I must say that doing a Prezi was pretty cool, but as much as I think I dazzled them more than informed them, I kept thinking of the whole point of presentations; how do we make concepts and ideas stick with our audience?

    That's just the thing, isn't it? Why aren't these tools helping us on the message, rather than on the presentation of those ideas? All of these tools take it for granted that you've got some clear way of telling your story, and that from now on in it's just a matter of drawing it on a digital surface for all to see.

    But we mostly don't. Even if we've got a clear idea in our heads – a model of thought- there is no automatic conversion of our minds model to our audiences', and certainly not by jotting down words in a certain order, rotating, zooming or jumping about. To make the audience understand – and connect! – with our models of thought, you need to make sure you understand how others perceive your ideas, or at least find models that others understand better. Prezi, Powerpoint and the rest of these tools do no such thing.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Good comment. Thanks.

      I agree with your goals and that’s what provoked this post. Prezi goes in nearly the opposite direction from where I think the problem is. It turns out it’s much harder to make a tool that helps with the hard stuff, than a tool that helps with the easy stuff. This explains most of the tools we have for creating things.

      As someone who has made software, the easy first step is a wizard that asks basic questions (such as the ones I mention in the post), you type in answers, and then helps you build a deck that’s aimed in the right direction. Technologically it wouldn’t be hard to do – but I’ve yet to see anyone even try.

      1. Alex

        I’ve been in software development for over 20 years, and I can certainly see where the challenge of creating software that actually help you, but I’ve been thinking a lot about mixing a presentation app with a mindmapping tool, similar to iMindMap and NovaMind but without the clutter, direction focus on knowing how to draw things, and working with it as a tool of sorts;

        Ideas and concepts needs to be explained in context, and often it is communicating context which is the hard bit, as well as having an interface into the tool that is as close to the way you normally would think and organise thought as possible. *That* is surely the hard bit and why everyone is making drawing tools instead, hoping the complexity of the task forgives their simple and often unusable (or, at best, clumsy) solution.

        I think the graphical tree/graph structure with labels is the wrong way to do these things. If I could write a concise paragraph of text of what my idea is, I see a kind of notation layer that can generate a computer model of it, and that can be further used to present the idea. Hmm. Have to give this a bit more thought, because I think that just might be it. Hmm, indeed.

        1. Michael Gowin

          Alex & Scott–

          This is an interesting thread in the comment discussion.

          While software tools exist to help writers with story development (Mariner makes a few, as do others), I don’t know of anything that would help a person develop a good presentation. Not just the slides, of course, but the whole thing: analyzing the audience, purpose of the message, the preso’s main idea, how to develop the narrative arc (tension/resolution), as well as coaching/guidance on the visuals and perhaps rehearsal as well.

          This would be a big project but, given the important role that presentations play in our societies, it seems there could be a good market for such a product.




  8. Benjol

    I’m not a super user of Prezi, but there’s one use case you haven’t mentioned, which is using Prezi without a speaker. I’ve done a couple of ‘slide shows’ of this type. Not sure how effective they are, but they’re less sleep-inducing than bullet lists…


  9. Sumanth

    These are interesting thoughts – would you mind sharing what sort of features/facets you would like to ideally like to see in a presentation tool? Your whiteboard idea might work in a few situations where the narrative is key but suspect that it won’t fit well in instances where graphics or numbers need to be presented to bolster your case.

  10. Craig


    I have a prezi which I have been using this year which I think is a good use of the tool.

    Details here

    The bulk of the prezi takes about 20-30 minutes from a 90 minute workshop. Perhaps it’s a case of any tool would have been sufficient, but I like the ability to flick forward and backward between points and the way video is handled.

  11. Ned Potter

    Scott, I like Prezi and use it for around half the presentations I do. I like presentation software generally – I enjoy making the materials look good to help make my messages stick because, like the majority of people, I’m not the kind of natural communicator who can boldly declare himself free of slides of any kind. I need the props – my presentations would be poorer without them, and that matters more than ideals about presenting.

    For me, the choice between slides or Prezi is dictated by the content – if I’m talking about one idea with an obvious narrative running through it, slides work well. If I’m talking about lots of ideas that are quite separate, the non-linear nature of Prezi suits that better. Also, you can create an interactive map using Prezi, which you can’t do with slides – and you can be led by the audience in a way which is more tricky to do with slides.

    I think it’s easy to make a number of assumptions – that it’s always a straight fight between Prezi and slides when actually they’re different tools for different circumstances; that because Prezi is whizzy that is what people will focus on; and that presentations are created only for the talk they’re given at.

    I’ve written a lot of online guides to Prezi and I always, always stress that you should downplay its wilder capabilities and focus on a fairly normal presentation with the occasional ‘wow’ moment. People who go nuts with the ability to rotate etc give Prezi a bad name, but we’re not all like that. :-) And as Carey mentions below, you can visually represent your concepts, which is nice. You can dictate the hierarchy of information, rather than having it forced upon you by slides.

    I rarely if ever give huge talks – around 100 people is the most that will be in the room. But if I post a presentation online it should reach a few thousand more. For that reason, I feel it’s worth putting effort into making my presentation tools work as stand-alone objects – Prezi often makes this easy. With no speaker, the presentation materials themselves have to be visually arresting. Prezi allows the user to dictate their own path through the material – they can ‘join’ at any point and just take what they need, if that’s how you set it up, whereas slides normally have to just be read in a rigid order. (I know you can hyperlink to go straight to slide 18 or whatever, but people rarely do this well.)

    As with so many of these sorts of things, it’s how you use the tool rather than the tool itself. The advice on presentations I put in this slidedeck – http://www.slideshare.net/thewikiman/good-presentations-matter – is more important than the platform itself. When used sensibly, Prezi has an element of freshness which can win over a jaded audience or give you bonus marks from an already engaged one – as someone who is not a brilliant public speaker but still ends up doing a bit of it, I’ll take every advantage I can get. :-)

    1. Drew Banks

      Presentation tools–be they whiteboards, flip charts, or digital presentation software–serve many purposes. As an artist/architect who often presents at conferences on his large urban installations, Adam Somlai-Fischer originally developed Prezi so that he could show the audience a big-picture overview of his work and then zoom into the details. Certainly a whiteboard can be also used for this, unless you want to use complex graphics, photos, or videos to help present your ideas; or you’re not a great artist; or–in my case–your handwriting is illegible.

      Yes, like any tool–even the whiteboard, Prezi’s features can be overused, but in my opinion (biased though it may be), Prezi is the only presentation tool out there that seamlessly connects the non-linear ideation process with the linear storytelling process. There’s much more I could add about why I think slides are artificially limiting, how Prezi Meeting enables collaboration, how Prezi’s multi-platfrom focus (Cloud, Desktop, iPad) enables ultimate presentation mobility, but since I’m supposed to be on vacation, I think I’ll head to the beach.

      Drew Banks
      Prezi, Head of Marketing

      1. Scott Berkun

        Hi Drew. Thanks much for leaving a thoughtful comment.

        As another commenter pointed out, it’s weird (for me) to hate a tool. And I agree.

        It’d be more accurate to say I hate the presentations people who tend to use your product make. To be fair, I hate many of the presentations I see. I also agree you folks have made a tool that solves specific problems better than other presentation tools. The thrust of my hate is that the vast majority of people have very general problems with their presentations. And some of those people with general problems seem to have put greatly misplaced faith that the specific things Prezi does will eliminate their general incompetence.

        Is that their problem or Prezi’s problem? I’m not sure I care. As a member of the audience I couldn’t care less what tools a speaker uses, provided the end result is they did a good job.

        Many of the comments in defense of Prezi so far center on the theory “I as the speaker prefer it, therefore it’s better” which is a sad argument, as presentations are for the benefit of the audience, not for the benefit of the speaker. Users of Powerpoint and Keynote make the same fatal mistake, so this is not isolated to Prezi, but I can’t see how Prezi fairs any better in helping speakers put the audience first, Which is why I wrote the post.

        1. Ned Potter

          “Many of the comments in defense of Prezi so far center on the theory “I as the speaker prefer it, therefore it’s better” which is a sad argument, as presentations are for the benefit of the audience, not for the benefit of the speaker.”

          I think most people mean implicitly that it’s better for the speaker BECAUSE it’s better for the audience. That’s what I meant about organising concepts in a linear way or a broken up way – it’s better for the audience to have content presented in certain ways, which is why I choose those ways.

  12. Patrick McCarthy

    I have always been a whiteboard guy. I sometimes use Powerpoint to help me organize my thoughts and edit what I want to say. I use the slides for rehearsal. Then I pick out the few graphics that I’ve designed that I think are impressive and put them on a little handout (along with contact info etc.). Then when I do the talk I draw things live. Then on their way out the audience can pick up one of the “tied-in” handouts from a pile. When the handouts are gone I know I’ve gotten through to my audience. Or they just needed some paper to wad up their chewing gum.

  13. J. B. Rainsberger

    I have used Prezi once for a brief webinar-style presentation. I didn’t mind it. For a 5-minute talk, it might work well, but I couldn’t imagine sitting through 45 minutes of barrel rolls.

    I, too, prefer drawing as I go. I prefer physical flipcharts/whiteboards, but I’ve used tablets for larger audiences (200+) where it’s hard to see the flipchart. This has always felt most natural to me.

  14. Paul Higgins

    Hi Scott

    I agree with most of what you say and I abandoned PowerPoint to use Prezi. I have used some of the principles in your book to improve my public speaking and certainly agree with the approach to mapping out a narrative first and then moving towards a presentation. I recommend other people to read your book and use it to improve their presentation skills. I also think that some of the latest additions to Prezi such as fade in are leading it back too much towards a PowerPoint sort of approach. However I still use it and intend to keep using it in the future for the following reasons (which I think are mainly audience focused but I would not mind some comment):

    1/Prezi allows me to present a summary of the whole narrative outline to people in the audience and then zoom in and out of it to give people context.

    2/Prezi is particularly good at presenting complex frameworks and models that you can zoom in and out of to give people detail and overall strategic views.

    Beyond that I like to use a presentation tool (and it could be a different one ) because:

    1/ I think that pictures can really help in helping an audience understand the story better (and some people are more visual that auditory). We try to minimise words and use mainly pictures.

    2/I like to have a presentation that we can share afterwards with links to stories and reports that we have used. We tend to prepare the narrative first and have all the links in the first version, then produce a presentation version without the links because they get in the way when presenting, and then share the version with the links with the audience afterwards. Of course we could still do that and present without the visuals.

    3/Having access to a visual presentation helps me to present seamlessly without notes (which is still only possible with lots of practice) which I think helps the audience with being engaged and understanding what I am trying to say. Maybe that is a weakness on my part.

    I have found the Prezi viewer on the iPad very useful for practice, practice ,practice. I load it up after I have finalised the presentation and use it to do run through practice runs several times in taxis, waiting for planes, etc.

    I do think that lots of people over use Prezi and particular rotation and transition stuff.

    In the end it is a matter of trying to adapt the tool to the purpose which is I think what you are trying to say.

    I hope that I have not gone on too much but I wanted to put down my thoughts because you have helped me so much in my presentation work and I wanted to make a contribution back to your community.

    We are just in the process of putting together videos for the website which include Prezi presentation material but you can see the actual Prezi presentations I use at our website if you want to have a look and look.

    Keep up the good work.


      1. Paul Higgins

        Hi Drew tried to do that but has not come up as far as I can see – you can click on my name to see the website


  15. Rutger

    One of the biggest wins for any presentation you give; is when it reaches beyond the audience that ‘sat there’. Especially in business presentations your direct audience rarely is your target audience. I’m in the technical part of advertising; either explaining/pitching our ideas that are quite schematic/mathematic to key users that influence management, or management that will do a sanity check at key users.

    So while I’m probably one of the most software reliant persons in the world; writing down storylines and tweaking them until everything is in order before even touching any tool has been my ‘cross-over’ to ‘when that guy talks, I get it.’. (simply inspired by Confessions of a public speaker / presentation zen / resonate)

    And after seeing heaps of Prezi’s, I genuinely feel Prezi has given people an even more tempting shortcut to start drawing up ideas that simply aren’t clear enough yet. Ending up with something you might get across using animations (basically showing a movie instead of presenting), but you’ll leave with a story that won’t ever spread since noeone will be able to share what you’ve shown. (and you thought people asked ‘is the presentation share online?’ because they loved the smooth transitions ;) )

  16. Danielle

    I am new to Prezi and just created my first. It was to support my Mum who was required, for an assignment, to create a concept map and then present it. They actively encouraged Prezi and gave marks for creativity.

    The result? Weeks of discussing how it could look like this ard arc over here all while being a metaphor for growing and succeeding. Each time I met with her, I’d say “ok we can do the fancy stuff, first let’s focus on the content. What are your main points? We can group them and that will tell us how to create the structure for the map.”

    No. We’ve finished now, there’s a whole lot of zooming, inserted graphics and powerpoint slides. Not sure what marks she’ll get for the content. Personally, I hope I never see it again.

    1. Munch

      So, you’re blaming the tool for the lack of discipline between yourself and your mother, and in part, also her instructor for encouraging this mess?

      1. Scott

        Well, I blamed the tool so you can blame me for that.

        In how Prezi is designed and marketed it emphasizes movement, non-linearity and animations. It’s not neutral. As I mention in passing in the article there are specific situations where Prezi is better than the alternatives but those are special cases and require more skill to pull off.

        Even if you love Prezi, and disagree with me about it, I hope you agree that tools are not necessarily neutral.

  17. Zen Faulkes

    Dang! I’m trying to remember the first talk I saw with Prezi, because

    I don’t know that I would call some of the talks I’ve done with Prezi “great,” but I think they were at least good. The trick, for me, was I used Prezi in talks where I wanted to show relationships between a whole and its parts. For example, when my story goes around the world, the map of the globe is my background, then I can go to a particular location at an appropriate scale. Sometimes I want to go to a continent, sometimes a city.

    A map is an easy one, but I also teach biology, and there are plenty of places where I want to show a part in context. I could do things like show a whole skeleton, then focus on single bones, one at a time. You can do this with single slides, but the transition between slides makes it harder to see the context. This, to me, is where Prezi shines.

    More thoughts on Prezi are here: http://neurodojo.blogspot.com/2010/09/zen-of-presentations-part-36-prezi.html

    Prezi used in these TED talks from a couple of years back; the first, by Chris Anderson, is probably the best use of the three. The software has changed so much that I am not sure these are good examples, though:


    1. Scott Berkun

      Thanks Zen.

      I should have mentioned in the post my general aversion to slides at all. I use them in most of the talks I give as there are big advantages. But since I give a lot of talks, and I want to keep learning, I want the cost (in time) of creating my slides to be relatively low. I don’t want to feel much loss at rewriting half a talk. I always want to learn as much from *this* talk as possible so my next one is better.

      The more time I put into making perfect slides, the harder it is to move on. I’d say I have decent to good slides, but give excellent talks. Part of why I’m able to do that is the fact I have merely decent to good slides :)

  18. Smaranda

    Oh man, I witnessed a total Prezi frenzy around 2 years ago when studying design. Creative people afraid of anything with a structure (such as a beginning and en end or trivial stuff like a schedule) jumping up and down over how amazing Prezi is as opposed to PowerPoint which they “hate”. All I could see watching their presentations was the damn transitions that made me feel like I was in a carousel. I really didn’t get it.

    1. Smaranda

      Not that there would be anything wrong with creative people. I’m half of one myself. On the contrary. But… yeah… they have their issues too.

  19. curtrice

    saw a prezi presentation last week.
    it made me dizzy.
    but what i couldn’t decide: was it the form or the content?

    http://curt-rice.com, thoughts on university leadership

  20. Karyn Zuidinga

    Aren’t you really talking about bad presentations and not so much bad tools? Isn’t the poor use of the tool really the presenter’s problem, not the tool itself?

    I agree, it’s best to at least plan to speak without anything, to be the rockstar, and don’t make the tool central. BUT if you’re going to have a visual aid Prezi can offer you one bit of flexibility the others can’t: you can use the whole 2D area as an infographic and then zoom in on the relevant bits as you speak. Yes, this does mean that you have to have great graphics and images, but isn’t that true anyway?

    Also, the value of using a presentation tool is the artifact you can link to on the web. Not every presentation you make has a worthwhile video you can use, and getting a good video shot is expensive, but if you have the slides (or prezi) and appropriately annotate them, then you have something people can view on their own time.

    Not sure if you’ll think this a great presentation, but when I’ve given it I have received great feedback. http://prezi.com/jfx7byaorx3e/from-insight-to-innovation-the-search-for-unconventional-wisdom/

    1. Scott Berkun

      All tools emphasize certain choices over others. Prezi emphasizes animations and transitions, which are at best secondary components of a good presentation.

      Of course the greatest burden is on the speaker, not the tool, but I have not seen any evidence that people who use Prezi make better presentations, but I have anecdotal evidence, of my own experience, that they tend to make worse presentations.

  21. Rowan Manahan

    Great conversation Scott, thanks for starting it. I would echo all of your reasons for disliking Prezi, and every instance of it being used that I have seen so far, and when I’m conducting presentation training, I refer to Prezi as “The Vomit Express”

    Chris Anderson’s use of it in a TED Global talk was … okay. Reasonably nice visual analogy, carried through with some restraint. http://preview.tinyurl.com/7jpyp78 But I can’t see how using Prezi was in any way a contributing factor to the success of this talk.

    As a rule of thumb, I think transitions between slides in a presentation should be seamless and un-noticed. It is not the editing that makes for a great film. Where the transitions are appreciable, it should be (1) rare and (2) for a very good reason that moves the thought process (for the audience!) forwards and advances the conversation.

    I have racked my brains trying to find a use for Prezi in which it will be the most appropriate and best tool for the slideware job, and the only one I have been able to come up with is if you were presenting a huge engineering schematic and wanted to be able to pan back and forth across it and zoom in and out to show the audience details in context.

    It is not the editing that makes for a great film and if it is an important factor, it will not be the editing that you recall as you leave the cinema – think of any Oscar-winner. However, lousy editing can very much contribute to the destruction of a good film – especially when it is obtrusive and distracting.

    1. Scott Berkun

      The title of the post makes this harder to believe, but Prezi can certainly solve certain communication problems better than other tools. It’s just that those specific kinds of problems are rare and require more skill to realize.

      The film and editing analogy is apt – I like that. Like film, there are many different skills/elements required to make a good presentation. Prezi and Powerpoint both emphasize special effects more than any other element.

      1. Rowan Manahan

        I look forward to reading your thoughts on when/where using Prezi made the difference!


  22. Anna Kelles

    First, this was a great thread to stumble upon. Thank you to you all for your thoughtfulness. I find myself, as I most often do, standing somewhere in the middle and seeing that everyone here has a valid point to some aspect of presentations and presentation tools. I too find Prezi difficult if not impossible for many people to use effectively but I find the same for all presentation tools (though I don’t equate this with “thus tools are bad”). Being a ‘good’ presenter is hard enough. Being a good presenter AND a good presentation creator is not at all for the faint-hearted. I agree with Alex and Scott and a few others that the real key to a good presentation is whether you have successfully captured the larger contextual concept and big picture idea through all of your slides, details etc…

    One thing that I do like about Prezi is that I can SHOW the interconnectedness of my ideas (I avoid spinning and unnecessary zooming). I can start my presentation with a big tree image (figuratively), get into the branches and even the leaves, but always come back out to the full tree image. You can do this using any tool, its just easier in Prezi with the infinite zoom canvas. I admit that I rarely use Prezi, but when I do it is for this visual purpose.

    I have yet to discover any Prezi that actually improved with text placed at different angles. Why spin at all? I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could find a concept that might be more successfully conveyed by text boxes being placed on tangents to each other but I have yet to identify them. How to get around this? Don’t use this feature.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned… I am legally blind. I can’t use notes for the simple reason that I can’t see the paper in my hands. I create presentations as a guide. Capture the big picture, go into detail, discuss how it connects back to the big picture and so on… Even if I could see my notes, I have found that a presentation tool as a guide is a good thing for myself and my audience (empirical evidence only of course). I don’t believe that any amount of content (as long as it is clearly organized) will distract a good speaker from reaching the audience, tying concepts to the big pictures, sharing added details and in general making the info come alive.

    I always have a myriad of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners in my classes. I have found that having visual aids as well as striving to deliver material dynamically and engaging my audience are all important.

    I guess at the end of the day I believe that everyone should shoot for being a great presenter and avoid using any tools that would become crutches or stunt the development of skills that attain audience engagement and learning. I think if we did this we would all end up with very different styles and using unique combinations of tools.

  23. Christie Fine

    How would you feel about utilizing a tool like Power Message? My fiance has helped create this software that essentially makes a PowerPoint run like a webpage. Their company’s biggest strengths is that they focus on what you are trying to say and the best way to organize it to get out the message you want to deliver. It’s really a neat program that does not focus on cheesy transitions, but rather, a though out way to organize your content. It is a PowerPoint add in, so if you need to send something to a client they do not have to download a special program. It is easy to present with. I gave several presentations during my time in nursing school with this program and all were received extremely well. They did a study at DePaul University and retention was 8 times higher than that of a normal PowerPoint presentation. Check it out and let them know their thoughts. They’d love to hear from you.

  24. Purag


    Notice here that it isn’t transitions you’re looking at–it’s moving from one concept to another.

    Prezi doesn’t do transitions. It’s motion. It’s all about coherence and tying ideas together, and relating them in a unique way visually. This is what the motion in Prezis represent. Here’s the idea I want to start with, and I want people thinking about that. Now I’ll zip over to this other idea, and there’s an arrow drawn to it from the previous one.

    You continue, and in the end you have this mosaic of interconnected ideas and concepts that unite into your overarching theme–the idea you started with.

    What’s interesting about Prezi to me is that it does a lot of the talking so that you don’t have to. And I don’t mean making people read stuff, that’s just stupid. When you visually represent the connection between one idea and the other, it stops you from having to draw that connection through words.

    These connections don’t even have to be linear, and shouldn’t–Prezi is for provoking thought through motion, and you can do this with loosely related ideas that form a collage, like separate elements rather than chronological or sequential steps that build up.

    And finally, when done right, Prezi keeps the audience engaged. I hate sitting through slides, so when something is zipping about this collage, this mural of concepts, they find themselves more willing to pay attention. This I know from experience.

  25. Lisa

    I never heard of Prezi until now, and it took me 20 seconds to decide I hate it. All that zooming in and out, transitions from one area of the screen to the other…truly, it was making me dizzy.

    One of the best seminars I ever went to was by Edward Tufte. There was a hilarious segment on the evils of Powerpoint, but mostly, it was his speaking that did it. Great message, dry sense of humor, and no whizzy flying text or animations.

  26. Nicole

    I just used Prezi this morning for a presentation in my Art class. I was feeling confident that I figured out the tricks (took 6 hours) to make my Prezi presentable. I was wrong. For some reason my pictures were bunched up and was not able to show each of them in full view. While making my presentation on Prezi, it kept freezing up my laptop. Also, I could not paste a youtube link.

    I learned my lesson to not make the focus on what is on the screen but what I am speaking about and how well I am doing it. Because the Prezi slideshow did not go as I thought, it made me nervous and was noticeable. This was the first and will be the last time I use Prezi. lol.

  27. Lidia

    First, sorry for my English is poor, but I’m from Barcelona (Spain) and maybe I’ll write somthing wrong.
    Second, thanks for you opinon it’s very interesting, I’m thinking about yours points and I’m agree with you in this part: 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,
    I think it’s totally true, but I like prezi. In my opinon this tool is clear and clean, and can enhance creativity. White page and your options, your ideas, imagination, no templates.
    But, I write you because you say: “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.” And I have created a my “resume” with prezi. (You can see here, sorry it’s in spanish http://prezi.com/xdziagwspnhv/presentacion/?kw=view-xdziagwspnhv&rc=ref-3332206 )
    It is not for a speech, it’s only for read, but I think prezi is a good tool in this case, better than another. Do you like? Do you think is a good choice in this case? I hope so ;)

  28. Brad

    You are right. Prezi gets transitioning wrong. Prezi could be beneficial in some instances–particularly in history lectures when speaking about geography using a map as a base template. Unfortunately, Prezi software can’t handle the data of detailed maps and the program has no built in path or speed transfer setting.

    This semester I used Prezi for my freshman United States history class. For the most part, it went well. At the end of the semester when I asked the students if they preferred Prezi or Powerpoint presentations, the vast majority said Prezi. Their main reasoning was that my map templates gave them a sense of geography. If a battle took place in New York State, I could zoom to New York, then zoom to a picture of the battle. I could then zoom back out to my template United States map and go to a different area of the country.

    Here are the problems. I couldn’t use detailed maps because Prezi would freeze or not save if I used a map over 5mbs with a few pictures on it. This forced me to use low resolution maps, which looked awful when zoomed in. Or I would have to make my sub-pictures very large, resulting in a confusing, jumbled map.

    A second issue is that Prezi does not include speed or path setting for slide transfers. Transferring from one location on a map to another is jarring. I’ve put multiple stops between slides to ease the transfer, but this causes other problems. It either overloads the program–causing the data issues I previously mentioned–or I’d have to look back to my projector screen to see if I’ve pressed forward the right amount of times to get to the proper location/slide.

    If there were a path and speed settings, I could follow Lewis and Clark exact route across the North American Plains, I could methodically move with Lee’s army into Pennsylvania, or I could simply transition from a diatribe on Florida to talk about Oregon without a jarring transfer. With these features, Prezi would easily become the preferred presentation medium for history teachers.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Pictures and paintings help students get a sense of the past. I think they’re needed to make history come alive. You can’t draw Washington crossing the Deleware on a white board and have the students get a sense of the moment. Because of this, some visual presentation software is needed. Right now, Prezi isn’t meeting that demand. Hopefully, the designers will fix these problems or another program will come along that can do what Prezi can’t.

  29. Rod the mod

    I cannot agree more.

    Bravo for your article.

  30. Gaf

    I think the issue with things like Prezi or PowerPoint is that they can’t make your speech for you. But, of course, what can? I found this article in a search for suggestions for using Prezi because I was trying it out for a training session I’m doing at work on new software we just implemented. If I had used it before, it might work well for what I’m doing, but I’m just finding it frustrating, so I’m going to take another route. I wanted to get away from the PowerPoint slide show because I know everyone is tired of looking at them. I will say, though, that if a speaker has planned well, graphic representations of some sort will do wonders for some of the audience, and this is especially important in educational contexts. Psychologists and educators have studied different ways of framing instruction quite extensively, and the research shows that a great deal of people respond well to some sort of visual aid. A visual representation of information will, without question, help some people better understand and remember it. I don’t think anyone has researched the advantages of Prezi over Power Point. I doubt there really are many, except that the format is a bit new still and so might not yet produce a room full of rolling eyes like a Power Point with its accompanying print out. Your problems with these types of presentations are probably the same complaints we all have. The over-zealous use of transitions is not only a mark of inexperience, but also an annoyance to people who see similar presentations on a regular basis. I think a simple, subtle Power Point or Prezi will definitely be helpful to some people, but as you’ve pointed out, it needs to come with a good speech or discussion to have any value, and the visual needs to be well connected to the concept or information it represents.

  31. Noble Prezi

    Sounds like you are just having a cry because you didn’t come up with the idea first.

    Go buy a box of tissues and cry somewhere else.

  32. Randy

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking after looking over Prezi. I think it works great as an online/remote/webcast/recorded presentation to get broacast around an organization, but I couldn’t imagine having all this animation going on behind me when I talk.

    I’ve heard so many people talk about death-by-power-point but what I think they really mean is death-by-poor-presenters. I try and keep my slides as clean as possible with maybe a chart or a significant figure I can speak on and discuss as an aid to me talking. I want to be looking at my audience and I want them looking back at me for most of the discussion. We’ll look at the slides together to reference a figure or some thing, but I don’t want them fixated on the slides.

    In one of the college classes I’m taking my group gives a 30-min talk every other week. I was thinking about using Prezi for it but I was worried how it might look. After reading your blog and a few other presenters it seems like my initial hesitations were merited.

  33. John Newell

    It’s obvious really. But not common sense.
    Your perspective is rightly at odds with the majority of speakers who reverse engineer the most effective approach which is :
    “What needs to be answered – and how is that best done?”
    ….and when delivered personally, it should never involve “distractions” from the primary objective.

    You don’t build a website, starting with a great slider or widget.- or a slick piece of javascript.
    You don’t sell your wares by presenting them without first investigating what the potential buyer wants it to do.

    I ran a team of several speakers and trainers. One day I stumbled upon an approach that resonated with them long term.

    All trainers and speakers start by simply getting the information across. Knowing the Content. It may make then OK at their role.

    The next stage, once the content is second nature, is to spice it up, To illuminate and excite. To motivate and inspire. To bring life to the content. That makes for a competent speaker.

    Hopefully the third stage is invoked and internalised. Adjusting the delivery in accordance with the needs of the recipients. Professionalism and real engagement is only achieved with this approached.

    These are the real speakers and trainers tools. These provide the real connection between inquiring mind and prompted solutions.

    The transition involved shouldn’t be that of slides or objects.

  34. Geoff Schaadt

    Didn’t have time to read all the comments on this, so apologies if I’m repeating – but thought I’d throw in my 2 cents…

    Prezi serves a couple of purposes for me:
    a) It’s well documented that information presented in a visual format has far greater retention than speech alone – so use visuals. The key is to use appropriate visuals. Is prezi better than PowerPoint for this purpose? Nope.
    b) Human brains are wired to notice motion – so use motion to activate attention. Prezi provides a method to do this that is a bit more polished and professional than the old guard tools. The problem is that many users are incapable of incorporating subtle motion and feel like they have to zoom all over the place like a bumblebee on meth.

  35. John Newell

    Having owned a training company, I was reminded of something I re-enforced with my trainers constantly.:

    “The visual tools ( / slideshow ) are there to support YOU – to validate or punctuate your message. Never the reverse. As a professional trainer you lead the class. You maintain their attention.”

    Your article validates why Prezi can be an enemy of the primary objective!

  36. Geoff Schaadt

    Yes, Tiger, I know that you would have a better score if you used all 14 of the clubs when and where each is the best choice, but really it’s up to you to make the perfect swing every time.

    Just stick with the 5 iron – maybe we’ll let you use the putter on the green – and continue to work on making the perfect swing.

    Ignore all of the advances in club and ball technology, those are just gimmicks that will distract you. Only hackers use those.

    You just stay focused on making perfect contact with that forged blade and this wound balata.

    You are the #1 golfer in the world – if you keep making perfect swings, you will win every tournament no matter what club you use…

  37. Robin Lobb

    As someone with a learning disability I’ve had an opportunity to assess a number of modalities for presenting/teaching/learning/communicating and consider this Prezi format to have some value that was overlooked by Scott. I’m a fan of Scott’s work. And not necessarily a fan of Prezis. But I do think it’s worth noting the value I recognize from Prezis’ approach. I think the way it flows really helps me in terms of smoothing out the cognitive difficulties I have. Anyway, just a thought.

  38. roxana

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

    Aren’t we being judgemental…

    1. Scott

      The post is titled “Why I hate Prezi” – it should not be a surprise that it’s judgmental.

      1. Roxana

        Yes, I expected it to be judgemental but towarads,not towards people you’ve never met..How can you know that people who use Prezi are more interested in style rather than in substance? You don’t. I don’t care that you dislike Prezi but I dislike it when people can’t just say they hate something and they thow shit at people who unlike them, like that something.That kind of ruins all your well presented arguments against Prezi.

        1. Scott

          Hi Roxanne. I certainly don’t know what’s on the mind of every Prezi user. I’ll also grant that the difference between style and substance is subjective.

          But just as I could reasonably assume someone who chose to drive a Porsche is interested in speed and style, or if they drove a simple minivan I might assume they were interested in in function and utility, the choice of a any tool, software or otherwise, does imply the priorities of the person who chose it.

  39. Carlos Pacheco

    I think that if you look prezi just as a visual tool for presenters and speakers you just looking for a little part of it. It can be use in a more educative way, in classroom we use it to make maps of the class that constantly evolves, prezi gets everyone involve on it not just the teacher or speaker. And is very good to present history on a time line graphic, it gives you more perspective about the dates and the geography.

  40. Sky

    Most Actors do not like being upstaged! A professional “Raconteur” is in essence similar to the art of being a Thespian; you want your audience to connect with you and only “you”, not the props, effects, nor stage on which you are perched. “Yes” is not a panacea to effective communication as belaboured in your May 2013 performance. You are using a visual medium ” blog” to continue a discussion for almost a year, which when placed within context of your original “rant”, do you really “hate” Prezi, or is this an experiment to see how long your persona can engage a captive audience? Hmmm, I wonder.

  41. Kevin

    I recently had to teach a presentation course to a class of new employees at Mitsubishi Elevator company in Japan. The students had 3 days to prepare a presentation on the topic of their choice and on the 4th day 8 classes of 8 students each were all to give their presentations in a main hall in front of senior staff and teachers. The first presentations were all done on power point in a very professional and copy book style following all the rules for creating good slides with each student taking it in turn to read their part of the presentation. I was nervous because I had spent my time training the students in gestures, voice inflection, posture, eye contact, interaction with the audience and to work together to act out examples of what they were trying to express.

    They were supposed to have made their own power point presentation but due to a misunderstanding I threw a quick Prezi together with visuals to just key points in their presentation. They were the 5th group to give a presentation and the only one not to read from notes. There were roars of laughter and excitement as they performed their skits and interacted with the audience. They received a standing ovation and the bosses wanted a copy of the video I took as it had broken the mould of what they considered a presentation should be. As you said, the expression ‘Death by Power Point’ really applied to the rest of the day. Prezi was great because it was new to the audience and not overused during the presentation so I guess what I’m trying to say is that ‘balance’ is the key word with emphasis on the speakers ability to captivate an audience with our without the aid of visuals.

  42. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities

    Scott, I agree about Prezi. All the motion draws attention to what happens between the slides, yet it’s the slides themselves that hold the visual content. So attention’s drawn to exactly the wrong place.

    You asked about great talks done with Prezi. Here’s an example that (although designed for online use with a music track instead of F2F with a speaker) works pretty well:

    I think it works because the motion between slides is around a single drawing. So it’s far more cinematic than just panning between a set of slides on a plain white background (as seems to be done in most Prezis). And of course cinema’s great at telling stories. So to me, this style of Prezi manages to convert the motion into scene-setting, which the audience is happy to go along with. Like in a well-shot movie, the camera work at times becomes almost transparent.

    Maybe I’ve been too generous on the cinematic analogy. See what you think.

    (P.S. Makers of the clip work on Ignite here in Sydney, but having presented there myself, I tried not to let that influence me!)

    1. Scott

      In this video there is no speaker. It’s not being used as a tool for aiding a speaker at all.



  1. […] Actually, much of Prezi can be considered gimmicky. It runs Flash software, so it’s automatically leaning toward the all-form-no-function side of information technologies. Those early adopters who binned PowerPoint in favour of Prezi most probably impressed their audiences with their shiny new Flash-based presentations, but the sceptics of the education world quickly deemed Prezi pretty but pretentious, and it has since received mixed reviews. It seems that Prezi’s Flash focus on the zooming, transitioning and moving aspects of visuals in presentations even has some educators stating that they hate it. […]

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