Despite all its drawbacks (and there are plenty), we’ve always liked Prezi as a storytelling medium.
We like the way your entire story lives in a virtual space that the reader travels through.
We like the swoopy, zoomy, woozy transitions. (As kids, we also liked being swung around by our feet until dizzy-giddy).
We like the way they let you feed the reader one chunk of information at a time, like cocaine into a lab rat (only not as cruel).
We like that you can integrate animations, video, photos and illustrations that are invoked with one user click.
We’ve done five or six Prezis as B2B content marketing pieces for clients (and one for ourselves, the B2B Content Marketing Tutorial) and we get better and better at it every time.
But this time we (and by ‘we’ I mean Mel, Adam and Dave) have set a new bar. I think we’ve just made the best B2B content marketing Prezi in the Judeo-Christian world. And I wanted to show it to you and talk about how we (there’s that ‘we’ again) made it.
Dive in and I’ll meet you down below (Yes, it takes a while to load – we’re looking at that – but maybe you’re in too much of a rush all the time. Maybe you need to slow down, smell the roses and watch a few download progress bars once in a while.):
To me, this is state of the Prezi art. It’s sexy, bright, fun (thanks Mel Bartheidel) and well-written (by Adam Ketterer). The photos and videos are a tight set of on-brand little vignettes (shot by Analog Dave Leach).
So we thought we’d open up our flannel bathrobe (maroon, moth-eaten) and share what we’ve learned along our Prezi journey. Maybe it will help you produce a Prezi for your own content marketing program.
These lessons are all derived from an interview with Mel, so I’ll sprinkle it with quotes. Read them in a German accent and you’ll be close to the real thang (der vrei gethangen).
Six lessons for anyone thinking of producing a Prezi for B2B content marketing
“Prezi is easy to learn but hard to master,” says Mel, “If you know the Adobe creative suite, the Prezi tools are kind of annoying. And it’s a lot harder to control everything, edge to edge, the way you can with Adobe tools. So there are always compromises.”
Mel should know. And, because she’s very nice, she wants to save you some of the pain by sharing these handy tips:
1. Do a storyboard.
A Prezi is linear, like a video. So, as with video, it really, really helps to think through the entire flow and storyboard it up-front.
“I need to have a full Prezi path in mind before building,” says Mel, “If it’s going to be coherent, you need to plan it out and get everything ready first.
The Prezi building tool is easy enough to learn but it is a bit fiddly, so you’ll do lots of changing and iterating. A storyboard helps you keep that to a minimum.”
2. Design it frame by frame.
With video, you can often storyboard the key frames and let the animator worry about the transitions. With Prezi, it’s best to design every frame — every stopping point.
“For this piece, I created every frame as an image and loaded it in as a complete component. Prezi has a limited number of fonts and you can’t really detail the type. So if you want a piece that’s on-brand, you’re better off creating the text yourself and uploading it as an image. URLs, of course, need to be live text.”
This approach means the transcript that appears beneath every Prezi cannot be generated. So Mel hides the same text behind an image, letting the Prezi bot pick it up for transcript purposes.
The same is true for SEO of course. And for the site search on Prezi, to help you get discovered there. (The site search is woeful, though. Just saying.)
This Prezi is made from 53 images, each crafted before uploading. (Pain in the arse, if we’re honest. But it does give you more control than Prezi gives you).
3. Plan your start frame.
The start of a Prezi is a view of the entire Prezi landscape. So if you don’t think about your start frame, it will look like a weird, aerial photograph of the compound of a Texan survivalist cult. Like these:
In this one, Mel made the title of the piece the start frame.
That means the whole experience is hidden inside the ‘O’ in ‘YOUR’. This is what it looks like zoomed way in to expose the subtrefuge:
It’s a neat way to use Prezi’s infinitely zoomable interface and it creates a clean start frame. You never see the path you’ll be taking but that’s part of the fun.
For other Prezis, Mel created a grid and placed the text throughout, so the start frame is the entire universe of the piece — and example is the Anatomy of a Social-Powered Customer Service Win for Salesforce.
4. Use the transitions to drive the story.
In the Salesforce piece just mentioned, the movement was part of the story: it’s a round-the-world tour so each click takes you to a new place.
For this one, there are lots of arrows in the design that reflect the story flow, so Mel simply followed the arrows, using them as transition triggers.
New Prezi users tend to over-use the swooping transitions (my first one literally made me queasy). Mel says it’s important to avoid using the motion for its own sake.
I asked her if it’s important that the user/reader knows where they are in the Prezi space. She said, “In this case, no. As long as they keep clicking, it doesn’t really matter. For other pieces it might be important to know where you are in the journey.”
5. Think about rhythm.
The best Prezis parse their content into bite-size bits, feeding them to the reader one click at a time.
That means you need to maintain a kind of reading rhythm. Click, click, click.
You may want to vary that rhythm a bit — getting the reader to pause for a moment or two (as we do with the bulleted frames, like “#1: Not So Good”) but you don’t want people to have to stop and read too much, too often. That kills the beat, man.
This piece has four ‘fact breaks’ that are all treated in the same way, signalling that there’s a pause happening.
6. If you use video clips, do a test build.
This was the first time we embedded video into a Prezi. The effect is great but it was really fiddly.
“Prezi is quite temperamental about video,” says Mel, “I found that MP4 was the most reliable format. I spent a lot of time getting the speed right — how quickly the video starts and how long it runs — to keep that rhythm going. But the clip can’t be too short or Prezi just ignores it.”
So do a test build as soon as you’ve got your video clips produced. That way you can do run-throughs to make sure the videos work where you want them and the pace isn’t ruined.
This piece uses nine videos, shot in Velocity Castle by our Analog Dave (Digital Dave is the dev guy with the beard and headphones. On second thought, that’s both Daves. Anyhoo…)
Getting text over the video, as we did here takes a lot of faffing too. Mel had to upload a .png of the text, then try to layer it in exactly the right place over the video clip. Another fiddly bit.
Mels’ last video tip: “Use high-res videos to keep the clips sharp even when viewed full-screen (as all Prezis should be viewed).
7. Use animations, but avoid Flash.
We’ve used Flash animation in Prezis before and we don’t recommend it.
They will one day withdraw Flash support as they tried to do back in August 2014. We kicked up a fuss. So did lots of other users, so they backtracked. But now we avoid Flash entirely.
Flash was great for making the animations smaller but you don’t want your beautiful Prezi to bork when they change the player, so no .swf files.
Analog Dave did the animations in this one (brush strokes, the bouncing ‘Ouch!, etc). He used After Effects, then exported them as MP4s. That works well.
As with everything, use animations where they make sense, not just because you can. Don’t be that guy.
8. Allow plenty of time.
Good Prezis take time. Even when you really know your way around, as Mel does.
In this one, the storyboard took 2 days, the actual build went pretty fast — under a day — but getting the videos and animations right took over a week. The photo and video shoot took three days (done in parallel).
You can slap together a Prezi in a day. And if you keep it simple, it will be good.
But to really craft the experience, leave time.
Go forth and swoop.
I hope Mel’s 8 Prezi tips help you produce great Prezis with less pain.
If you do some good ones, do share them with us in the comments below.
Now get back to work.
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