I didn’t know what Prezi was at the beginning of the year. I first heard about it at LegalTech New York in February. Since then, I’ve seen it all over the place and heard of lawyers using it in trial. I have since used it a couple of times, so I am going to explain the benefits and the drawbacks and how to use it effectively.
What Is Prezi?
When you start a Prezi presentation, you begin with a big blank slate. You place pictures and text boxes on your blank slate and pan and zoom into them. Instead of going from slide to slide, you pan from focal point to focal point on your big canvas. The cool part about it is the zooming. You can zoom way into something. So, say you are doing a case about blood clotting and you want to show what it looks like on a cellular level, you would do it like this:
So, that’s Prezi. Also, it’s free, kind of.
How To Make An Awesome Prezi
First, if you are going to be ultra zooming in on things, you need to make sure your graphics are a good resolution. Use files that are at least 300 dpi resolution. That image of the hand above was 72 dpi and you could see how blurry it got when you zoomed in. Use the shapes tool and the text tool in Prezi when you can because they are vector graphics, meaning they don’t get the jagged edges when you zoom in.
Don’t make your audience seasick. Just because you can zoom in and out and make things spin doesn’t mean you should go crazy with it.
Prezi has online tutorials on how to use the 5 or 6 buttons in its editor and they have a great library of examples. Check out the library for ideas. It took me only about 15 minutes to go from having no idea what any of the buttons are to making presentations for court.
If you want to be able to download your presentations and use the offline viewer, you have to pay. The other thing I don’t like is that there are no animations. None of the elements you place move or fade in or out. So, if you want to show something, but not have the text there when you first show the image, you can’t do that. I’m not a huge fan of PowerPoint transitions, but sometimes they can be helpful.
How To Use Prezi Effectively
You probably do not want to do your whole trial in Prezi. The novelty of the zooming and panning could get old pretty quickly if you did. Use it for opening or closing, but not for examining witnesses. Be creative about how you can present your evidence using metaphors that involve zooming. I did an MCLE presentation where I did a mock closing in Prezi. I explained that during the trial, we got a bunch of pieces of evidence and those pieces come together like a puzzle to form the bigger picture. Then I panned and zoomed to each piece of evidence, and ended with a full screen shot of the big picture. Think about maybe doing a forest-view versus a tree-view metaphor.
Since you can control the focus of your viewers to certain parts of a page, Prezi is good to present timelines that might not fit on one page. I’m always careful to not make my timelines look too busy, but you have a little more freedom with that in Prezi because a packed timeline where you control the focus does not assault the retinas like it would if it were all on one page and readers had to take everything in at once.
So far, I have been pleasantly surprised by Prezi. They have been coming out with regular updates and I’m sure this program will only get better.
Ed. note: This column has been brought to you by our friends at MyCase, web-based practice management software for lawyers. Please note, however, that the views expressed in the column are those of the writer alone.
Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner from San Diego. When not handling his own cases, he’s consulting lawyers on how to use technology to not be boring in trial or managing e-discovery projects in mass torts/complex litigation cases. If you want to be disappointed in a lack of posts, you can follow him on twitter or on Facebook. If you have any ideas of things you want him to cover, email Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.