Prezi Business: Moving out of the Auditorium to the Meeting

I had a chance to chat last week with Peter Arvai, the founder and CEO of Prezi, the company behind the ‘infinite canvas’ presentation tool of the same name. He wanted to brief me on the company’s progress and plans, and give me a heads up on the company’s new offering, Prezi Business.
Prezi is an innovative break from the boxy, bulletpoint heavy style of presentations, allowing a more visual and storytelling-oriented approach to presentationology. By allowing a more free form way to cover the information in a presentation, the presenter can easily adjust to different audiences given the same presentation. As Arvai said, agility is becoming very important everywhere, even in the domain of presentations.
It’s hard to do Prezi justice in words, so maybe you should wander through this prezi I created a few years ago with Harold Jarche for Sibos. It’s by no means a wonderful presentation — especially without the words that Harold and I added to the presentation — but it’s one that I made with a small investment of time.

You can click on the arrow icons to walk through the prezi, or zoom in and out to see more details, in any order.
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The new Prezi Business — which I have not used fooled with — supports real-time cocreation (multiple authors, commenting, and so on), real-time shared presenting (in HD, without other third-party tools), as well as sharing of links to prezis.
Especially in that third use case, Prezi’s new analytics help understand who is viewing what in your shared prezis. This includes leaderboards, very helpful in sales organizations.
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The new offering has garnered some press, mostly focused on the per seat price ($50/user/month) or its adoption by millennials. These pieces don’t hit the most important aspects of what Prezi is doing: the science behind it.
Peter talked with me about the science of better presentations, like the factoid that presentations with compelling visuals are 43% more persuasive than those that lack them, for example.
The company’s grounding in the science behind presentations and storytelling has been effective. Nine months ago the company announced that there have been over one billion views of prezis, and that is now over 1.6 billion. Marketing is the fastest growing paid business segment at Prezi with 52% year over year growth (as of April 2015) and 199% increase in active use as measured by Prezi creation.
As part of this release, they’ve created a Slack integration so that team members can be informed in Slack about modifications made to prezis down to the object level.
And we started to range farther afield, talking about the possibilities for AI in presentation creating, where information from various sources could be combined into rich, navigable tableaux linked by semantic connections.
Prezi Business won’t be the last major release from Arvai and his people, that’s for sure, as they negotiate the transition from the auditorium to the meeting.

How to fix meetings: go long and short

People mostly hate meetings. They can be enormous time sinks and boring, especially if Powerpoints are involved, and as Farhad Manjoo observed last week, the technologists have built tools that have changed a great deal of what goes on in business, but they haven’t really fixed meetings. He spoke with some technologists, like Evernote CEO Phil Libin, who offered this,

The concentrated, beating heart of most stupidity in the world is in meetings. If we want to punch at stupidity in the most effective way possible, we’ve got to tackle making meetings less stupid.

Like Jeff Bezos, Libin has made the anti-Powerpoint vow, and meetings at Evernote have to be preceded by a long-form agenda, with complete sentences or paragraphs, all of course shared in Evernote. And during the meeting, people are taking notes, and later on those notes are distributed. Evernote has introduced a presentation mode (premium feature) where a folder of notes can be presented in full screen format, with slide show UX so you can jump from one note to the next, plus the ability to scroll down in the note:

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Personally, I am a fan of the Bezos approach to meetings, where each has to be preceded by a 6 page meeting narrative, in a prescribed format (see Flipped meetings: Learning from Amazon’s meeting policy). At the outset of an Amazon meeting, everyone reads the document — which is formatted like a dissertation defense — and then the points are discussed.

The other lesson to apply to meetingology — and just as important as long format writing to go deep on topics — comes from the lean manufacturing world, and that is the lean meeting. At companies like Toyota these are just in time, unplanned, and driven by the need to discuss an issue and come to a decision, and move onto execution. In the creative world, that might entail a designer and writer meeting to discuss content for a web page design — make changes in the mock-up together in real time — and then break up after 13 minutes.

So the trend to push for in your meeting hygiene is to go long and short.


Bunkr is an innovative small-and-simple social presentation solution

I was preparing for a presentation I will be giving later this week in NYC, and I decided it would be a good opportunity to try out Bunkr, the social presentation service. The company launched the product in May to widespread acclaim, after being accelerated by Rouen-based TheFamily,

The for-fee service ($6/user/month) provides bare bones presentation capabilities, leaving out the complexities like complex builds and slides transitions that most people have rejected anyway. Since the app is HTML5-based there is no flash, so no issues playing a deck on iPad or having to install an application.

Here’s my account now that I have created a single presentation [Note that all images can be clicked for a larger view]:

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Clicking on the presentation opens it in edit mode; alternatively, I could create a new one.

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The user experience is intuitive (although it took me a while to find a way to change the color of text). At the left, you can see various pieces of content — quotes, images, and the like — that are available to be pulled into a deck. At the footer you can see the slides in this deck, and at the upper right, the editing region.

There are no ‘themes’ per se, but some theme-feeling options exist, such as creating a background for a slide, and selecting among a short list of fonts for text. The capabilities for creating sophisticated elements from squares and arrows, for example, are limited, so if I am going to use this moving forward I would have to create that imagery elsewhere, for example, building a table in Pages and pasting it.

However, the application provides a very interesting advance over other tools I have used. In the image above, at the lower left is an ‘+ Add content’ button, which when clicked brings up this tableau of various types of content that can be added to the context gallery.

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This is a sneakily brilliant idea. It’s an extensible pallette of context types that can be easily created in the gallery, and then pulled into decks as needed. There are only six at present, but in the future I expect to see others, like charts, tables, drawings, and so on. But imagine that this could also include pulling more complex information from other applications, like an embedded chunk of my Workflowy information (see Small pieces, even more loosely joined), a Scrapple canvas, or a slider of multiple photos from Tumblr.

Here’s what a Quote looks like after being created:

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The designers also created a bookmarklet, so that content can be captured while browsing the web. Here I have snagged a photo of Paul Volker:

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They have also instrumented search of Flickr, Google images, and YouTube, and are planning to integrate Evernote, Dropbox, and all the other likely file sync-and-share candidates.

And lastly, the sharing side. I didn’t want to fork over the extra fee for a second account, but this image from Bunkr’s website shows how coworkers can use each others content. The user has clicked on his pal, Hans, and is pulling content from Han’s gallery. Very sweet.

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Publishing is a breeze, and the resulting URL can be posted or shared with others. There is also a provision for embedding a deck on a webpage, which I have yet to try.

Here’s the published deck, with controls:

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The Bottom Line

Bunkr is a well-designed, small and simple social presentation service that offers (almost) enough capabilities to displace larger and heavier-weight presentation mainstays, like Powerpoint and Keynote. The content gallery is a brilliant innovation, reminding me a bit of Tumblr’s typed blogging model.

I am going to try this for upcoming presentations, and see where it leads. I am looking forward to new types — especially tables and charts — but in the meantime I can create those elsewhere and import.

What I would like to see in presentation sharing is something over and above what Bunkr or others have provided. It’s a break with projectors: a movement away from the notion of displaying the presentation on a screen or a wall. Since most people have smart devices capable of browsing, and use them all the time, at home, at work, and at conferences and meetings, what I want to be able to do is direct people to (not the current page created by the publish command:, and then control the presentation on everyone’s tablets, along with an (optional) build-in chat capability. Then we could do without the projector, and people could direct questions and commentary in the chat.

This would mean that people participating in the room with me and those perhaps watching or hearing the presentation remotely would have a very similar experience, and would be able to participate in a similar fashion.

I will be watching this innovative disruptor closely.

Sales presentation app CrunchConnect adds sharing features

CrunchConnect, a web-based sales presentation and web conferencing platform that’s currently in private beta, has added some new features that provide managers with systems for sharing presentations among workgroups for evaluation and training purposes, and with new tools for tracking the effectiveness of presentations.

Vidpresso Wants to Sync Your Videos and Presentations Online

Video presentations on the web typically focus either on the speaker or the slides, but very few applications do a good job of displaying both. Vidpresso hopes to change that, by giving users a way to match up slide presentations with videos that are already online.

Add Interactive Features to Presentations With SlideRocket

The web-based presentation application SlideRocket has enhanced its tools for interactivity and collaboration. Users can now incorporate interactive elements — like real-time Twitter streams, widgets, commenting tools, polls and audio narration — into their presentations, in addition to traditional graphics and text.

Presentation Tip: The 200 Slide Solution

Presentations are all so samey — a few slides, four or five bullets per slide, some stock imagery, maybe some effects if you’re feeling fancy. How about trying something different? Marketing guru Seth Godin proposes shaking up the status quo with the “200 slide solution.”

iPad Keynote: A Better Mistress Than Wife

I don’t give a ton of presentations, but I’m something of a presentation junky — one of my favorite web sites is Presentation Zen, where the author gives lessons on design theory. Therefore, I’ve been looking forward to iPad Keynote since Phil Schiller gave his dog and pony show.

Zoho Show Update Adds Slide Transitions and Publishing Enhancements

Zoho recently launched an update to Zoho Show, its online presentations tool. This new update ups the game against SlideRocket, Google Docs, Presentations, and the soon-to-launch Microsoft PowerPoint Web App by adding 30 slide transitions, and improved import and export of PowerPoint presentations.

Black Tonic: Present Your Slides Live Online

Portland-based design consultancy Wolverine today launched Black Tonic, a web-based app that helps presenters deliver a presentation to their viewers — live and in real-time. Black Tonic is differentiated from existing services is a few ways: