A good presentation is interactive. However, many of you have probably had to suffer through someones overly ambitious presentation featuring scrolling marque, sound effects and flying headlines. It is easy to get caught up in the details and end up with a presentation that is too interactive. Keep this caveat in mind as I write to you about a presentation tool called Prezi, which can help add a little zip to your library instruction session or conference presentation.
Prezi is primarily a zooming presentation tool. Users can combine text, images, video and more to create a compelling big picture which is navigated by zooming in on various details. After signing up for an account, you can start with a blank slate or you can copy the presentations which are public and insert your own content. The simple ability to move into and back out of your presentation holds the potential to be eye catching as well as nauseating. Friendly help tips will pop up to show you how to use the Prezi controls and there are numerous videos and example Prezis which highlight various facets of Prezi and provide how-to instructions on simple to complex issues.
The key to making a good Prezi is to have a good presentation. The zooming capabilities should highlight your keypoints, take your audience through a story, keep them engaged and prime them for discussion. My favorite example of this is below (click to view the Prezi):
The overall goal of this Prezi is to present information on the connections between learning and playing. This is clear from the title and the initial large image of a game board. You then zoom into the board and follow through various key points on each square. Both the visual image and the content of the presentation are engaging. Of course, everyone is not going to have the time or the artistic ability to plan, implement and draw a graphic which epitomizes their learning outcome. However, Prezi will allow you to load powerpoint or keynote slides and you can simply use the zoom and path features to move between slides and emphasize various points. With a little more work however you can breakdown your presentation contents and build a memorable presentation that your audience members can come back to on their own time.
Practical application of a Prezi for a library can come in many ways. I have seen some “prezumes” aka Prezi Resumes as a way to showcase your work and could be a consideration for the librarians out there job hunting. However, as attention grabbing as a prezume might be among numerous applications, impractical organization of your information might be a turn off to a search committee. Prezi is best used as a presentation tool. Teaching a library information session with a Prezi can do more than guide students through your points. The ability to move and rotate your screen, side to side, up and down, in and out, etc allows you to express more than a linear relationship. For example, basic research cycles could be presented in Prezi as a large graphic, and as you teach the steps the Prezi can follow along, moving back and forth to emphasize how information is refined as we research. Because the presentation is available online, students can move through the presentation at their own pace, rather than being a passive observer they can interact with your presentation.
The downside of Prezi comes from the lack of certain features many of us have come to expect in presentation tools. For instance, you cannot hyperlink text in Prezi, instead you must type out an entire URL. Also, the freedom to zoom can hinder you as you are trying to make consistently sized points because there is no defined font size. Additionally, a certain time commitment is required if you are dedicated enough to make a Prezi worthwhile. It will take time to learn the new technology, and time to make the visual aspects appealing and effective.
In the end, you’ll hopefully have a presentation that takes you and your audience through a story, keeps everyone engaged, makes your content memorable and sparks a discussion. Keep an eye out for interesting presentations and start building your own ideas for what can improve your digital library display! Hopefully some of you will be catching quite a few soon at ALA 2011 in New Orleans!
Laksamee Putnam is a new Research & Instruction Librarian at Towson University, Albert S. Cook Library. She is specifically liaison to the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics. Laksamee holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. Her research interests focus on the use of emerging technologies and social media in science. Find out more about her here or follow her on Twitter!