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Q + A with Drew Banks of Prezi

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We caught up with Drew Banks (@drewbanks), Head of International at Prezi. He was kind enough to give us some fantastic insights on creating effective presentations, the future of presenting and more.


What’s the most exciting part about influencing the ways people present ideas?

It may sound clichéd, but ideas change the world—from the wheel to penicillin to Facebook. In the not-so-distant past, ideas were severely constrained. You not only needed to come up with a groundbreaking idea, but you needed to be in the right place at the right time with the right credentials in order to make an impact. With online presentation software, ideation has been democratized. You can have an aha moment in your high school science class one day and share it with global thought leaders at TED the next. See Jenny Wang and Miranda Yao below.

What are the most commonly overlooked elements of an effective presentation?  

One: A narrative. Great presenters tell a great story. They do not have slides full of bulleted text.

Two: Practice. It may not be “an element” of a presentation, but you certainly know when it’s overlooked.


What is the biggest value in making presentations hyper-visual?

Audience engagement / memory. The human brain is wired for visual-spatial communication.   To survive as a species, we’ve had to navigate and remember the spatial world in which we live. Our semantic memory, which is enables us to read text, is not nearly as well developed.  When you present text on a slide, you force the audience to divide their attention between reading the text and listening to your presentation. They lose focus, their attention wanes, and they remember less.  When you communicate visually, your audience is much more likely to remain engaged and remember what you say.

What role does animation play in a great presentation?

Animated stats that show growth over time: good. Dancing zebra to jar your audience awake: bad.  Seriously, animation (including animated slide transitions) is best if used sparingly and when it implies meaning.  Too much movement can cause sensory overload.  For example, many of our users love Prezi’s zooming feature, but we recommend they save this feature for meaningful transitions (e.g. zooming in to a detail or out to show the big picture).


What do you see as the future of presentation design?

I predict presentation design will follow a similar evolution as that of cinema and gaming. The design process will be more collaborative and cross-platform, and the result will be more visually immersive. This does not mean over-designed.  Consider the new Slow TV movement coming out of Norway. Very Presentation Zen / Pecha Kucha.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Be sure your presentation medium best communicates your core message. It’s hard to persuade someone of an exciting future using a boring communication tool from the past. In the immortal words of the communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, “The medium is the message.”  

We noticed that Microsoft just launched a product called Sway and it looks eerily similar to Prezi. Do you have any personal thoughts on the move?

It appears Microsoft might be finally acknowledging the new era of collaborative, cross-platform visual communications. As they say, ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’