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Arranging Topics in Prezi

Apr 7, 2023 | Prezi

Prezi gives us the flex­i­bility to arrange our topics visu­ally as we like. There are graph­ical com­po­si­tions that require exactly this kind of freedom. But unfor­tu­nately, some­times these dynamic lay­outs can lead to some unin­tended side effects.

The danger: Losing our audi­ence! Why does it matter where I place my topics, and how can I coun­teract any side effects? Let us zoom into this topic and take a closer look!

Left to right and top to bottom

Which direc­tion are your eyes cur­rently scan­ning this text? Left to right, and top to bottom! This is the reading behav­iour in our western cul­ture. It isn’t a uni­versal law, but some­thing that devel­oped over time. And it also has an impact on the impres­sion of visual pro­gres­sion. A move­ment from left to right usu­ally implies going for­ward in time, and from right to left backwards.

In pre­sen­ta­tions, the most common way to tran­si­tion from one slide to the next is a hard cut. We click, and the next slide appears. The tran­si­tion itself does not tell us whether the new slide is actu­ally the slide prior to or after the cur­rent slide. There are many tran­si­tion effects that can help us to give our audi­ence visual guid­ance. In Pow­er­Point, we can set a tran­si­tion effect for each slide indi­vid­u­ally. A push from the right tran­si­tion imi­tates a vir­tual camera moving to the right.

The great thing is that when we go back to a slide it does the same push effect, just in the oppo­site direc­tion. In Prezi, on the other hand, we cannot define a unique tran­si­tion between slides. It cre­ates a tran­si­tion auto­mat­i­cally based on the posi­tion of our topics. This can be both a blessing and a curse.

You have lost me

Prezi lets us place our subtopics at any posi­tion on the slide. By default, when you move into a subtopic, Prezi zooms roughly at its loca­tion. Click, and the vir­tual camera moves from the cur­rent spot to one of the next subtopics. The move­ment is based on the direc­tion and dis­tance between the subtopics on their parent slide. Okay, that was a bit complicated!

Let’s try it this way: You have two papers lying around on your desk. One is left of your key­board and mouse and one on the right. (These are your subtopics on the parent slide, which is your desk.) Now you move your head (the Prezi camera) so close to the left paper that it fills out your entire view. What do you have to do to now fill your view with the right paper? Right, you move your head from the left paper all across the key­board and mouse to posi­tion it on top of the right paper. This is exactly what Prezi does.

Let’s take a look at a prac­tical example:

In this Prezi demo, I placed some topics on the indices of a watch. Even though the camera tran­si­tions change direc­tions after 2 pm, it still gives the impres­sion of a for­ward pro­gres­sion. The con­text of moving on top of a watch face gives the audi­ence visual guidance.

With a recent update, Prezi got a fea­ture called path set­tings. By default, Prezi now zooms out to the main topic before going into the next subtopic. This set­ting was added to give the audi­ence more ori­en­ta­tion throughout the pre­sen­ta­tion. Whether you let the vir­tual camera directly zoom to the next subtopic is up to you. When you do not want this addi­tional click in between your slides, you might adjust the set­tings to fit your need. Just make sure your audi­ence does not get lost on your journey.

Bottom line

In order for our audi­ence to reject their tra­di­tional under­standing of visual pro­gres­sion, we need to give them con­text. Like in the watch example, it has to be clear why sud­denly we move left to the next slide instead of right. Zoom out from time to time and show the overview once again. Give your audi­ence visual con­text, espe­cially when sig­nif­i­cant turning points click in. It isn’t a uni­versal law to just have your camera move from left to right and top to bottom. You can do things dif­fer­ently, but you should be aware of the poten­tial danger of losing your audience.

Happy arranging!

Thank you for reading.

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