For about as long as it has been around (24 years, to be exact), Microsoft PowerPoint has been the go-to format for business and school presentations. Predictable and familiar, it’s likely that you have either sat through a PowerPoint presentation or made one yourself at least once in your career. However, PowerPoint has earned a reputation – deserving or not – of being dull and dated, with limited layouts and clip art seemingly not updated since the early 1990s.

Enter Prezi, a new web-based alternative to PowerPoint that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Debuting in 2009 and largely supported by a growing community of contributors, Prezi seems to be all that PowerPoint is not. Flashy, non-linear, and visually exciting, many companies are adopting it as their sole presentation format. Prezi provides its creator with a large blank canvas (or a pre-designed layout), which can be both inspiring and daunting for a beginner. With the use of animation and visually-appealing templates, Prezi presentations tend to elicit positive reactions from an audience. Clever graphics and transitions can strengthen the message you are trying to convey, and with a basic account being free, it is open to anyone interested in trying it.

PowerPoint has its own benefits – since it has been the most common program for presentation, many people are comfortable with how it works. There are pre-made templates that allow you to plug in text, images, audio clips, and videos for a simple creation process. If you want to encourage your audience to take notes along with your presentation, PowerPoint allows you to print your slides, something Prezi users cannot do.

While both programs have their positive aspects, they also have a few negatives – Prezi animation sequences can be nausea-inducing if used incorrectly, because some users can overdo it on the motion aspect (Prezi has even provided tutorials for avoiding such a design disaster). The animation can be distracting; if someone is too busy paying attention to the zoom-in effect on a graphic, they might miss the information you’re trying to share. It’s also not ADA-compliant, because as a flash-based program, screen readers will not work for the visually-impaired. There is, however, a transcript of your presentation on the launch page, but it might not show in the order in which you wish it to be presented.

As mentioned before, PowerPoint has a bad reputation for being boring and old-fashioned, and the graphics leave a lot to be desired. The linear design makes it difficult to jump anywhere other than forwards or backwards in your presentation, which can make for an awkward pause when you try to find the slide you’re looking for. Lastly, PowerPoint comes as part of the Microsoft Office software bundle, which can be cost-prohibitive (it generally is provided for free on business and school computers, however).

So, you might be asking yourself, which program do I want to use? Here are my recommendations:

PowerPoint is best for…
– simple business presentations that may feature charts and graphs
– presentations that require the audience to take notes
– presenters who are more comfortable with a familiar linear format
– an audience that is there for the cold, hard facts, not to be entertained

Prezi is best for…
– sales pitches or other presentations that should be exciting, flashy, and engaging
– audiences that tend to get distracted easily
– presenters who are more comfortable with a fluid and non-linear creating environment
– a presentation that can be shown on a loop to an on-the-move audience, such as at a tradeshow booth

If you’re an old pro at PowerPoint, I encourage you to check out Prezi and perhaps try to convert one of your presentations into the Prezi format. It can breathe life into what had otherwise been a dull PowerPoint. If you’re a Prezi fan who has turned up their nose at PowerPoint, I’d recommend checking out the program again and exploring deeper into the templates and design options – though we all are familiar with the ugly clip art and the boring text boxes, PowerPoint can be used to make some pretty attractive presentations when the right combinations of graphics, text, and format are used.

Constructive Communication, Inc. recently updated its most popular presentations into the Prezi format and we invite you to give them a look. If you want to explore the possibilities and try something new with your presentations, let us know. We are happy to review existing material, develop new content and guide you on the best medium for you to deliver your message.