ULS is a section of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. The author of this blog post takes full responsibility for the exaggerated awfulness of this slide. In large part, the eye-glazing qualities of slideshow based instruction can be blamed on presentation style (i.e. Nonetheless, the linear style of a slide show, while suitable for most presentations, may not be the best model for instruction, where questions from and interaction with students may force you to deviate from your planned presentations. Prezi is a relatively new (2009) web-based presentation tool which does away with slides in favor of a large, editable white space commonly called an “infinite canvas”? (Although Prezi’s learning materials use the term “Prezi Canvas”? instead).
Prezi is an attractive instructional tool for a number of reasons, many of which also hold for library instruction in particular.
One big benefit of the canvas as opposed to the slides is that it is possible to get an overview of the entire presentation at once.  This, coupled with visual grouping of related items, can easily show how a presentation is structured, as well as being used in other contexts to show the relationships between different groups of items. Another nice thing about the canvas is that you can actually use Prezi to organize your ideas, as well as just creating a presentation.  Since you can see all your ideas on the same page, it can be easier to spot commonalities and differences, and structure your presentation accordingly.
Although Prezi’s canvas is a wonderful tool, it is best when supplemented by the system’s “presentation path”? tool.  This allows users to give each item placed on the canvas a numeric value, turning the disparate items placed on the canvas into an easily clickable moving presentation.
Once all items have been given a number on the path, users can navigate through the presentation with the click of a button–either the left or right arrow on the keyboard, or by clicking on the on-screen equivalent with a mouse.

Just because you’re using a path, however, doesn’t mean you’re limited to using it.  Unlike in a slideshow, in Prezi you can also freely zoom around the canvas of your presentation with the system’s “smart zoom”? functionality. What this allows you to do as a presenter is organize your talk in a sensible manner, and then deviate from your plan as circumstances dictate.  The combination of zooming and pathing represents a more dynamic, practical approach than the locked-in, static method of a slideshow, where the only way to move around within the presentation is through a cumbersome process of clicking the ‘stop’ button, scrolling around for the slide you want, discussing it, scrolling back to the slide you were on, and continuing your presentation.
Much like Powerpoint and other slideshow software, Prezi does include the option to change the text and background color of your presentation through the use of pre-set themes.  For more tech-savvy users, there’s also the option to modify the CSS directly, without use of a wizard.
Although you can’t modify the shapes of the frames much, almost everything else is easy to change with either of these tools.
Of course, if you do use custom colors or CSS, it’s important–as always–to make sure your presentation’s text is still legible! Insert images — If you’re artistically inclined, or have access to high-quality, usable images, the “canvas”? of Prezi really opens up.  You can interweave uploaded drawings with the textual content of Prezi in interesting, novel ways. 3D backgrounds — Instead of inserting a flat background image, you can include several, and layer them using Prezi’s theme tool.  Then, the software will implement a parallax effect when zooming which makes the background pop out as though it were 3-dimensional. One of the best things about Prezi is that it’s freely available to anybody with Internet access and the right software plugins–the latter of which should be included by default on almost all computers. Anybody can create a Prezi account at no cost, although free accounts include a “Prezi”? logo at the bottom of the screen and a limited amount of storage space, among a few other limitations. You can give presentations from the Prezi website, or (with an Edu account) by downloading a SWF file that you can run from any computer with or without Internet access.

Prezi’s zooming feature is very easy to over-use.  If you make a Prezi that’s too zoomy, or in which the items you’ve uploaded all face very different directions, you may end up making your audience sick–and you certainly won’t keep their focus. Prezi has a rather steep learning curve.  It’s not what we’re used to seeing in presentation software, and so it can take quite a while to get used to how things are organized and where to find all the options (although see the addendum at the bottom of this post for an update on that). While there may also be other drawbacks to the software as a presentation tool, overall its benefits seem to outweigh these costs.  Especially given that Prezi adds new features regularly, and is likely (at least for now) to be something students haven’t seen a whole lot of, Prezi should make any instruction session a more memorable experience. Hunger Games Readalike — This Prezi (also by Becky Canovan) breaks out of the path altogether, using Prezi as a way to show relationships between items.
The magical theory of relativity — This Prezi by Petra Marjai is an amazing example of what you can do with animation and extensive customization, as well as Prezi’s zoomable canvas features. If you’re new to Prezi, hopefully you won’t even notice, but if you’ve tried it before and got lost in the learning curve, now would be a great time to give the software another try. You can show a prezi to others on a computer through your prezi account, or you can link to them.

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