Prezi Interview

This is the interview of  Andrew Davis , chief strategy officer and co-founder of Tippingpoint Labs, who creates and implements digital content strategies for consumer brands. He is a writer and an internationally acclaimed speaker. He shares his unique media insights in an informative, engaging, critical and entertaining way. His presentations are creatively crafted by the new tool he uses called Prezi.

Andrew’s company, Tippingpoint Labs , is a branded media company that help brands reorient their marketing; develop strategic distribution and execution in the digital world to market, reach audience and meet goals.

Prezi is a non-linear tool that Andrew uses in his presentations. He conducts intensive workshops for this. He has 10 Tips to Help Master Prezi. To know more about this Prezi presentation, just visit their website or inquire Andrew Davis speaking availability.

Below is the interview of Andrew Davis conducted by Martin Metzmacher regarding Prezi presentation:

Martin: Thanks for listening to me. It is nice to have an opportunity to ask you some questions. I saw your video where you gave a Prezi presentation. Let me first remark that I love your energy. I do not know how many coffee you drink per day to get to that speed of talking, but it is really inspiring to see how you use the Prezi in your presentation. It is not just how the Prezi is built for, I think that it can only work if the presenter is at least as great as the presentation.

Andrew: Yes. You cannot rely on your presentation tool as a crutch. I actually think Prezi helps you with that. There aren’t too many features that get you overwhelmed with designing your Prezi from a features standpoint. So, you end up having to focus on making sure how your presentations go, which i think is good for everyone.

Martin: I have a couple of questions; we will go through it quickly. I read your program for the 2 day Prezi workshop. What I am actually trying to achieve is to have a workshop for four hours, but maybe that is too short. Can i really give all the information that I want? I took the stuff that you are doing, trying to chop out stuff. Basically, what i wanted to know is why did you choose for a two day workshop?

Andrew: I guess it depends on how many attendees you are expecting. I think Prezi is one of those tools that the features and functions are easy to teach, but the application of the features and functions in the right way is not that hard to teach. You have to experiment for yourself and use one of your own presentations to get the most value out of it. I have done shorter Prezi workshops, but i think what you have to allow the workshop attendees to do is experiment on their own to get the most value out of it. During the first day of the Prezi workshop, the first half is how you do actually use the tools and the features and functions in it. The second half of the day is usually about how you do design a good presentation. What are the key tips to make it work? The second day was focused on building your own presentation and reviewing what works and what does not and where you could enhance your presentation. It depends how hands on your workshop’s going to be I would say.

Martin: Do you get right on it or do you have a somewhat longer phase where you explain about Prezi, explain what is the difference between PowerPoint to stuff like these?

Andrew: I get on it and i try not to relate it to PowerPoint at all, because i think what PowerPoint’s has done is to put people in a mindset initially of what a presentation should be, and i think what you have to do in Prezi is actually unlearn a bunch of bad habits that PowerPoint has created. So what I tried to do is to tell people at the very beginning, to forget about PowerPoint, forget everything you know about presentations, and try not to think about what you would do in a PowerPoint presentation. Try to learn the tool for the tool’s sake, and then build the best presentation possible given the tools that you have in front of you. A lot of times, I get questions like, in PowerPoint, I like to do transitions, how do i get this to show up in my presentation? What you have to do to help people start thinking through is that when you want to reveal something, use a zoom, or use a move to show the next piece of the puzzle, and that is only helpful if you stop thinking about what PowerPoint can do and how you would do it in PowerPoint. Start thinking about what you can do in Prezi and how to best use it.

Martin: That already answered my next question which is, “how much time do you spend on getting people into the Prezi mode and away from slide by slide mode?”

Andrew: That is the biggest challenge because, for some people it can take months and no workshop can do it, while other people pick it up right away. I think the best thing you can do for your workshop attendees is say, this is not PowerPoint, and it is never going to be PowerPoint. What we are talking about is a new presentation tool and methodology. Let us talk about the key concepts that make Prezi successful. It is all about revealing data in a bigger landscape, and actually painting a picture of what you are trying to tell, and using your elements to that vein. Easy things like taking a screenshot. Usually in a workshop, there are people who just constantly think in slides in a square, and what you say is, look, take a screenshot of a whole web page, and then zoom in on elements of the web page. They start to see that one element can become thirty slides, instead of taking thirty screenshots to create thirty slides.

Martin: That would be one good example you found to have an application which shows them how to get out of the slide mode.

Andrew: What I’ve done in the past that is helpful is, I have taken PowerPoint presentations just off of slide share, and I have rebuilt them in Prezi, and use only like a tenth of the elements. When people see that you can just take ten elements instead of a hundred elements, it makes a really good presentation, and it is all about how you organize those pieces, it is much more compelling.

Martin: I see that when you market your workshop, you have three distinct groups which are the executives – elevate your stature, sales people – make your pitch part, marketing professionals – make music of your messaging. Did you actually research those groups, or is it just what popped up, or is that your experience that made you talks to those specific groups?

Andrew: That is a good question because I do not think I have found the right audience. Each time I have done the workshop, I tried different audiences. I think the best potential audience for this is actually professional speakers, but it seems we are too early in the curve for those people. Every time I’ve tried to market it to professional speakers, they actually say what you said at the beginning, which is, I do not want use my presentation as a crutch, my presentation is about me, not the tool that I am using. I do not think they get it, but that was an audience that did not work. Marketers and sales people tend to be an easy sell because they are always looking for something to differentiate their presentations in their business environment, and I think Prezi’s very well at that. If you think of an option of going to two sales meetings: sales meeting 1 is going to be a boring PowerPoint, and sales meeting 2 is going to be something you have never seen before. Even as a presentation tool, people immediately sit up in sales and marketing meetings when they see something different. I have had much more success with the business crowd in getting them excited about it.

Martin: That is very useful information for me as well. I guess you are a Mac evangelist. Is that why you were mentioning Skitch and Screenflow and not Camtasia Studio?

Andrew: I’m not necessarily a Mac evangelist I would say. I’ve worked in corporate environments most of my life where PC is the preferred platform. I think the quality of the visual tools available to me on the Mac platform for a lower cost, where the reasons that I choose to build all of my Prezis on a Mac. Skitch and Screenflow are two really helpful tools. I use Acorn – taking screenshots on a Mac is very efficient for me, and I think that was probably the deciding factor rather than it being a kind of PC vs. Mac. Did you say the adobe studio is the alternative suite?

Martin: No. I was thinking about Camtasia studio on Windows.

Andrew: For screencast.

Martin: Yes. Like that.

Andrew: They all do similar things. One of the reasons I like screen flow is, we actually have a video studio across the street, and we do a lot of video editing, but because I am on my laptop and on the road a lot, I like to be able to have all my tools in one place. Screenflow has a screen casting tool that actually allows me to speed up the video very easily.

Martin: So, you can talk even faster on the video?

Andrew: No. Just for the picture. I have been told I need to slow down. I wanted to be able to do lower cost kind of animation that was compelling, so I have started doing this kind of thing that for me was really easy. I just use Skitch to draw basically, then I screen capture it in real time, and then speed it up to match my voice over. A lot of the other packages I looked at of tools did not allow me to do that, but i would say Martin that I think being platform agnostic is definitely better than being platform centric, and there are people that have attended the Prezi workshops that are PC people, and one of the problems is that even the method of getting a Screenshot into a PC or a Mac application is different. It slows down the flow of the workshop. If I was going to help people, I think the best thing would be to have two separate sessions, one that is for Mac people, and one that is for windows people. Then you are always speaking their language.

Martin: I will try to make more questions a little bit faster. There are some easy ones here I think. Do you think it is really necessary to teach shortcuts in the first Prezi workshop?

Andrew: I think the best way to learn shortcuts is to learn them from the ‘get go’ instead of learning ‘what’ the buttons do, because then you rely on the buttons instead of the quick keys. I think shortcuts are the most efficient way to work in Prezi, and so I like to teach those from the beginning and I usually drill people, and even by the second day of the workshop, usually people are yelling them out. Somebody will say, how do i find my home, and somebody will say control space.

Martin: You make a quiz or you hang up posters or something like this.

Andrew: Exactly. That really does help people move faster. If they learn them from the start, it is much more efficient.

Martin: You have a maximum of 10 persons on your workshops, and that is because that is the maximum amount of people you can actually help. Do you do that alone, or do you have someone else’s who comes in who knows something about Prezi?

Andrew: I usually have someone in the group who is at least more advanced to help out. The reason that I keep it small is for the one-on-one time. What I found in the first workshops I did was when you have a large audience there are a lot of people that have specific questions about their needs, and they do not get much out of that session unless they can have some time to talk about what they are trying to do. The one-on-one time becomes very valuable. That is what I think people really get a lot out of. The 10 person maximum helps me make sure that I can spend time with each person and help them think through it. By the second day it is not about the tool anymore, usually they understand what the tool can do. It is about saying, you know I have these ten graphics, and here is the story I want to tell but I cannot figure out how to organize these on my stage, can you help me with that?

Martin: What I am actually thinking is to give them the basics in four hours, and have them start like a really short presentation. Then, invite them to continue Prezi in one-on-one sessions. I had really good experience with people just sitting down 2 to 3 hours and actually go through them and help them make one specific presentation they actually need for their work, or for their sales meeting or for any other purpose.

Andrew: Yes. That is exactly the right kind of structure – inviting people to spend some time with you. They usually get more out of that than even the workshop.

Martin: I see from 10 to 11 am you are doing Prezi fundamentals, using bubble navigation quickies in the infinite canvas. I think this is basically covered in about 10 minutes, given the speed of talking you employ. Do you spend lots of time on how Prezi is completely different from PowerPoint? Do you explain things about mind mapping in the brain and how this works and stuff?

Andrew: I do not usually, because I am trying to be very practical about the approach. What I do usually is make sure it is a working workshop, so I have a set of resources that I give to everybody as a zip file that they just download and bring to their desktop. When we are teaching the quick keys in that first fundamentals, it is all about, you have this infinite stage, let us import an image and let me show you how you can manipulate the image using the bubble menus and now let us add some text. Within an hour they have built a slide, and they have already learned how to move around it, and they have this immediate feeling of productivity. I think showcasing it as different is one of the reasons it is hard to adopt, and what I am trying to tell people is, forget about this as different. Let us just talk about the fact that it is better, and let us work in it so that you see what is better. When I tell you that it is good for mind mapping, is not helpful. If you want to mind map, let us think about how we would do that, because all of those things actually help you learn the tool while you are learning it, instead of, you know, learning why it is different then trying to apply the differences. Does that make sense?

Martin: Yes. I think that there are actually so many uses for Prezi. Maybe it is not a good idea to confuse the presentation part with the creative part when you get people do the first run on it.

Andrew: What are some of the other uses you would want to talk about?

Martin: I think, it is definitely a great mind mapping tool. It is also a great collaboration tool. I talk to people on Skype, and while we are talking one of us is doing a Prezi. We have the shared mode on so we can see where the talk is developing and especially where we might have left out an important part that we need to talk about.

Andrew: Yes, I think at both of those cases, you need to already feel like the tool is second nature, so for example on the second day of my workshop, I usually talk about the collaboration mode, and we all collaborate on working on someone’s presentation. In a ten person workshop, when somebody is having a problem, we all get invited to that presentation and we all work on it together. When they actually have a problem to solve, this person’s having trouble making this point with these ten elements, let us work together on it, even in the same room but on our own machines. Because they are tasked with the challenge, they immediately understand the application and have to figure out how to use it, now that they understand the tool basics. I am a big application learner even in my own life. Somebody says here is a new piece of software. The first thing I do is download the software, install it and goof around with it. I do not read the manual. It is probably a factor of the way I learn, but I find that the most helpful. I have not taught mind mapping as a part of this, but I think it is a similar type of application. If I was going to do it in the workshop, I would say, let us come up with ten great ideas for presentation, and let us use Prezi to map these ideas as they are thought out. People then are invited to collaborate on it even as a second step from collaboration and then see how mind mapping can work; it becomes a very powerful application for them.

Martin: You already said that you have a zip file ready with PDF’s and text and stuff in them for people to have training on with the basic Prezi skills. What else do people need to bring to your workshop, because I have figured out you have people come with a pro account?

Andrew: One of the big benefits to the pro account is the desktop version, especially now that it has drag and drop importing. To be honest I use the pro version when I am on the road almost exclusively now. Now that the functionality in the pro version is pretty much there, I focus on the desktop version. It is a lot faster, and I think the commitment to using Prezi understands where the desktop is useful and where the online version is useful. I will also say that a lot of the initial questions I get if we are not using the pro version, anytime I have done this and people are creating their account for the first time on, they have a lot of security issues because they are working on company documents. So I just take that off the table and say, you are comfortable with desktop applications, which are saved on your desktop, it is not going to the server yet. When we get there, it is the point which we want to upload it and we will talk about what this means. What I want to do is overcome all the objections early.

Martin: That is a good point. I think a lot of people just do not feel really safe saying that you cannot hide your presentation online, you can just make it not shareable, but it does not really help for your customer data you put in there.

Andrew: Exactly. I would like to just say, let us not worry about that; we will talk about that later when you would want to share your presentation. That is when I talk about things like; can you embed a Prezi on a webpage and use it as a customer education tool? There are a lot of opportunities to create presentations that are not sensitive. That you do want people to share or comment on or embed on their websites. Those are different kinds of presentations than your financial report that you are going to do on Prezi for the board.

Martin: What are the three most important things that you think people need to take out of a Prezi workshop, even if it is a shorter one than you are doing? If it is a short one, what would you think people should be able to do one, two and three?

Andrew: That is a tough one. Number one I think should really be committed to using the quick keys. Otherwise Prezi can be very painful, and I have seen users have a hard time adapting. Quick keys I think are essential really to being successful. Number two I would say is avoiding unnecessary moves. Stop just spinning in space; it does not help you keep intact. That is the biggest violation I have seen of using Prezi. I can never figure out where they are going and they zoom halfway across space to something else, I think it is a disservice to the tool. The final one would be to think outside of the square or the 4 by 3 presentation mode and really think about a big story that you are trying to tell, and make sure it has a beginning, middle and end would be my key piece.

Martin:Yes.I always show people different setups like I use the star, cross setup if I have something that has four different sides to it. I often use why, what, how or what if, in order to make an idea clear from those different perspectives, or whenever there is a timeline concerned then it becomes really easy. I try to show people how they can use the locality information in Prezi to mimic time information or logic information. What are your favorite kinds of setup styles to bring that logic into location information in Prezi?

Andrew: I would not say I have a favorite. I think you are right, timelines are very effective. I am trying to think of my most used kind of tools. I do use a lot of circles as frames, because I do think they help you get outside of the square architecture. I am not sure if I have any specific information architecture tips that I would say. I think what you are getting at is the key point which is let the information take the visual form that you are looking to express. A timeline’s probably the best example of that. I use a lot of Venn diagrams actually. Showing where even the concepts overlap is very helpful. I cannot think of any other key elements. I would say my biggest tool is probably using text elements, so like if I was going to draw four boxes the concept you were talking about, I would not even use the drawing tool, I would use the pound sign, the number hash sign, then I make it really big and put my elements inside that. I do not see a lot of people using even things like parenthesis or the squiggly bracket or the square brackets, even straight lines as elements. Think of text as a graphic element.

Martin: Yes. What I also love is to have a presentation which is just like one word, and then for every aspect of the presentation zoom in into one letter, and have a heading which starts with that letter.

Andrew: If you can send me a good example of that, it would be great, because I have not seen a lot of those that I think are actually that effective. I think it is always a cool concept that I have tried some on my own, but I have never really found the right implementation of it, the one big word and all the pieces as part of it. I would love to use your stuff as an example. If it works great then I would like to show people and even learn from what I cannot figure out.

Martin: Thank you. It is probably not the best one ever, but I think it shows that you can actually do a lot with just text.

Andrew: Yes, absolutely. A lot of people say I want to import this and I need a big one. I think that is another great option. Also, transparent png are another great element that I think people do not know how to create necessarily but Skitch does very well. If you need a shape you just cannot find, creating a transparent version of it and bringing it in, all of a sudden you have a new shape that you can work with. I do that with triangles a lot.

Martin: So you use transparent png for that, you do not use a svg for it?

Andrew: A lot of the svg’s I have imported are too big. I do not know why. I do a lot of 90 minute or two hour presentations with a lot of graphic elements. I think one of the problems is, I lose that smooth booze zooming motion to the bigger elements, and for some reason, svg’s really kind of eat that up when you start using too many of them. But you are right svg is a great tool as well. Just the transparent concept in general is the right way to approach it.

Martin: Thank you very much. You answered all of my questions and even more. From the business side of it, being a successful Prezi trainer. What would be your number one tip for me, starting to give Prezi workshops and marketing those to a somewhat more expensive crowd?

Andrew: I think my biggest tip would be helping your audience accomplish what they want to accomplish is going to be more successful than teaching with pre-determined elements and a vision of where you want to go. When I did the first one of these, I basically put together a big Prezi and said, we are going to build this Prezi in the next two hours. It always went well, the audience seems to get it and they were able to copy what I did, but they did not have to think when they do it. I think it was not that helpful because the only reason I realized this was when it came time for them to work on their own Prezi’s, they were not able to think through. Why was this circle intersected with that circle? I would say what you should focus on are the key concepts, and get the tools, mechanics worked out fast, and help people think through their problems even as a group and i think they will get a ton out of it and will be really successful with it.

Martin: Thank you very much.

Andrew: Yes sure. Keep in touch Martin. Let me know how yours go over there in Europe. I hope you have a lot of success with this. Send me the invites and keep me on your mailing list so I know what is going on.

Martin: Yes and I will forward my presentation about Word press SEO to you where I use the bubble word things. It will be in German though but you will see the effect.

Andrew: I also know WordPress, so maybe I will be able to figure out. I do not know any German.

Martin: Most of the German is English anyway, I guess.

Andrew: Next time I am in Germany, I will look for you and we will go grab a beer and talk Prezi. Have you done Prezi karaoke out there before?

Martin: No. Actually, I am so wondering what it is because I have no idea, but I read it on your blog.

Andrew: It is so fun, like I want to do it more often. I have only done it twice, but basically, the concept I use all the shared Prezis on, and I usually go through it and find ten or twenty that are pretty decent, because you get a lot of tests. What you do is give people in the room do not know what Prezi they are going to get, and they get three minutes to basically present the presentation in the funniest way as if it was their Prezi, that they made it. There is a version of it that is called PowerPoint karaoke, and there is some YouTube video on it somewhere but I think if you give it a shot, people will love it and it was so much fun every time we have done it, everybody’s just rolling on the floor laughing. You need a couple of beers to get warmed up but it is great.

Martin: I will have a look at it.

Andrew: Yes, it is so much fun. Thanks for getting in touch and please stay in touch.

Martin: Thank you very much. I will keep you updated about what is happening.

Andrew: Please do and yeah have a good night over there.

Martin: Okay bye.

Andrew: bye.

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