Editor’s note: Steve Wishman is a presentation designer at Prezi. Known for creating rich cinematic presentations for TED presenters and Silicon Valley leaders, engineers, startups, and more, Steve comes to Prezi with a lofty but simple goal: to create breathtaking visual stories that help change the world.
The foundation of every great presentation is a compelling story. You can simply pile a bunch of images onto the canvas and zoom around them, but thinking cinematically means thoughtful use of camera moves and a focus on the emotional impact of each scene. Beautiful images and stunning animations alone can grab an audience's attention, but it's the story that will inspire them to take action or reduce them to tears.
So let’s consider your story. Who is the protagonist? What are the hurdles they face? What are the emotional qualities of each phase of their journey? As a presenter, it’s also important to consider what YOUR role is in all of this. Are YOU the protagonist? Or are you cheering for someone or something else? Figuring out these points early on will help you find the appropriate tone for each moment on stage.
Create an outline first
Once you have a clear vision for your story, it’s time to create an outline. Avoid writing a full transcript of your talk. The goal here is to see a high-level overview of your story so you can begin to plan your visuals. Use your trusty pen and paper, or save time by dropping your notes directly into your prezi. Doing it in prezi allows you to add photos and placeholder images so that you can quickly get a feel for the mood of your presentation.
Keep it clear
You may have a lot of photos or video clips already in mind, but it's important to be selective about the ones you want to show. Too many images on-screen at once require your audience to glance around the canvas to piece together your story. Instead, tell your story clearly by only showing one image per frame.
By the same token, less is almost always more when it comes to text blocks. Think "caption" instead of "teleprompter." Audiences tend to have a hard time choosing between reading and listening, and might end up not doing either properly. Too much text also increases the risk of you simply reading your presentation to your audience, much to everyone's dismay.
Now for the fun part--camera moves. At their best, Prezi camera moves can be used to highlight connections and enhance insight. Try to think about your presentation cinematically and consider how Prezi camera moves can enhance the emotional connection in each step of your journey. A slight zoom in can attenuate and focus an audience’s attention. A big zoom out speaks to scale and demonstrates the magnitude of a situation. A small pan to the left (after a series of pans to the right) has a retrospective quality. A sudden dive downward can transport your audience to a "behind the scenes" moment. And a big leap across the canvas has the potential to say "meanwhile, over here..."
These are only suggestions, not set-in-stone rules, for crafting the perfect prezi. The first step should always be to hone your story. The second is to plan plan plan. You will find that the more you prepare, the more in touch you will be with your own message, and that can only make your delivery more powerful. Best of all, the act of designing your prezi will become a joyous journey. Your presentations can only benefit from each and every camera movement being imbued with meaning and power.
Without overstating my point, I believe that your INTENT can be transferred into your artwork. And when you connect with your own presentation, it has the ability to serve as an emotional conduit between you and your audience. At the very least, you should get a more cohesive prezi that will engage your audience in a more meaningful and engaging way. You will know when this has been achieved, because your presentation will become more than the sum of its parts, and you will find yourself crossing that mysterious threshold between public speaking and performance art.
See more of Steve's work at cinematicpresentation.com