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PowerPoint dominates the market for presentation tools, but Prezi, a Hungarian startup, is hoping to change that.
I can hardly count the number of times I’ve dozed off in front of a PowerPoint presentation. It’s pretty much an audience killer. So, it’s not surprising that attempts have been made to create fresher and less predictable presentation tools. Companies like Flypaper have created tools that incorporate interactivity and different media. And players like Slideshare are helping users share presentations. Apple’s Keynote provides nicer graphics compared to PowerPoint, while Sliderocket is taking those features to the web. But the basic storytelling concept is still linear, and as we all know, the world and many minds in it are non-linear.
However, Prezi’s new presentation tool, which launches April 5, is non-linear. It lets users tell a story freely, not from A to Z. Presenters can zoom in on pictures, call up videos, or read simple hand-written notes, making their presentations fun and flexible, and more interactive and responsive to an audience.
Prezi works a bit like brainstorming or using Post-it-Notes on a wall to get a subject overview. Toss up all the presentation ideas, then start organizing. Once you have the notes on the wall, you can add information, text, images, videos or files, then interconnect the notes, creating a storyline from the ideas generated in the brainstorming phase.
“We think most people don’t have a clear picture of what their presentation will look like. Prezi is more like work in progress, where you start with loose fragments and create order while you work,” says CEO Peter Arvai. “When presenting, you can jump between different notes and zoom into areas your audience shows interest in without clicking through multiple images to reach the one that addresses an audience question.”
The big question: Is this too arty to work for everyday presenters? I think it could be. Prezi claims that its target market is “people who care about the importance of their presentations,” says Arvai. I believe that’s an understatement. The Prezi tool is managed with an unorthodox toolbox that takes time to learn; the most challenging part is, in my opinion, reaching users willing to adapt to new ways of telling a story. Professional speakers who seek new ways to compete, or people who care a lot about the looks of their presentations, are probably the primary target group.
The product will be sold three different ways: Free (on-line only, all information shared), Enjoy ($57 per year, only works online) and Pro ($160/year, on-line and down-loadable).
Prezi, based in Budapest, has received a grant of $160,000 from T-Mobile in Hungary and is looking for a round of funding. It’s currently talking to Silicon Valley-based and international VCs.
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