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PowerPoint vs. Prezi | What’s The Difference?

by Adam Noar

So, you need to put together an exciting presentation and are trying to decide between the traditional Microsoft PowerPoint, and Prezi, the newer, non-linear software tool.

Which software should you use for the job? Which presentation tool works better to motivate an audience to take action?

While each program has its benefits, both have come under criticism at some point.

In this post I’m going to break down both tools and discuss the pros and cons of each. Then, it’s up to you to decide which is best for your particular project.

Microsoft PowerPoint

PowerPoint has long been used for presentations and has become the standard “go to” software when putting together presentations. In fact, there are more than 500 million users of PowerPoint, and it holds an estimated 95% of the presentation software market. PowerPoint is great tool if you are looking to tell a LINEAR story (a story that begins at point A, progresses through events which build towards a climax, and then finally reaches point B).

PowerPoint Advantages

1)    User friendly – technically PowerPoint is very simple to use. Microsoft office programs (PowerPoint, Word, and Excel) are taught in school, so most people have at least some familiarity of how the software works.

2)    Control – PowerPoint provides seemingly endless possibilities when it comes to slide design. You can choose from an endless amount of colors, fonts, graphics, and backgrounds.

3)    Builds, transitions, and animations – you can use these visual enhancements to add to the explanatory power of the presentation and also enhance your visuals.

4)    Hyperlinks – allows you to click on a link and be taken directly to the links location on the web or somewhere else in the presentation.

5)    Syncs with SlideShare – lets you upload your presentation to the web so anyone can view your presentation online.

6)    Can print handouts of the slides – allows people to follow along without having to focus on writing notes on the presentation.

7)    Charts and Tables – helps you present various sets of data.

PowerPoint Disadvantages

1)    Linear format – some people complain how PowerPoint follows a script (linear) format, and is not easily adaptable to an audience when needed. Getting to a specific slide, once the presentation has begun, can sometimes be difficult.

2)    Large file size – PowerPoint can create really large files, especially when images, audio, and video are added. This can sometimes make emailing a pain. However, users can easily use cloud storage websites such as Dropbox to share larger file sizes.


Prezi is a whole new concept on the take of visual aids. Prezi is a newer flash-based application that allows the user to create a presentation using a large, blank page instead of traditional slides. The main differentiation with Prezi is that, unlike PowerPoint, a Prezi presentation is NON LINEAR (a story presented to the audience with multiple paths from point A to point B). Instead of slides, Prezi gives you an unlimited canvas on which to layout your ideas.

Like PowerPoint, Prezi lets you seamlessly integrate images, text, videos, animations, and sounds. However, there aren’t the same integrated tools that PowerPoint has such as graphs and flowcharts. Other images have to be created outside of Prezi and brought in.

Prezi Advantages

1)    Zoom – Prezi’s unique differentiation is it’s zoom function. This allows the presenter to simply click the background with the mouse and the presentation zooms out to an overview, then the presenter can zoom into the area they please. This allows you to explore ideas smoothly and naturally. In other words, if you want to “zoom in” for emphasis you can. If you want more detail you can zoom in again and then once you’re in a specific area you can “pan” to expand on that idea or gain more detail.

2)    Non-linear – allows the presenter to choose his/her own paths. In other words, users can jump in and out ideas and are given more flexibility when presenting ideas.

3)    Sharing – can share presentations online with up to 10 audience members which make collaborating on projects easy.

Prezi Disadvantages

1)    Limited design options – limited backgrounds to choose from and each has pre-chosen fonts and colors that can’t be changed.

2)    Cost – for an offline version to use on a desktop, one would have to pay $159/year! While there is a student discount version provided online, it still offers limited file space and storage.

3)    Dizziness – often times Prezi users can over use the zoom function which can ultimately take away from the message of the presentation. Too much zooming and too much panning can ultimately make users feel sick.

4)    Learning curve – while Prezi is fairly simple in nature, it does take some time getting used to. Many people like to stay within their comfort zone, and Prezi is outside that zone for many non-designers. However, the software is fairly easy to learn if you’re willing to put in the practice.

So, Which Presentation Software Should You Choose? … PowerPoint Or Prezi?

Whether you select PowerPoint or Prezi, you need to continuously practice your presentation skills for best results. PowerPoint and Prezi both have their place. PowerPoint has some great advantages for the average business presenter, while Prezi has a few great benefits if you want to create a more interactive presentation.

Whatever tool you select, take the time to master and use it to create dazzling, rather than dull, presentations. The other important point to make is that if your story is poor, neither tool with help you! At the end of the day both of these programs are just tools. Whichever tool you choose, it will only add value to your presentation if it helps you to tell YOUR STORY. If you have a strong story and want to express complex ideas simply linked to your message with a memorable visual they will help you.

My Recommendation …

If you have limited time and need to display ideas, facts, and figures in a simple way I most often recommend sticking with PowerPoint. However, if you have the time to learn a new software and really want to create an interactive experience for your audience that has a strong “wow” factor you MIGHT want to consider using Prezi.

I personally prefer to use PowerPoint for my presentations because most of my clients know how to use PowerPoint and can make minor changes themselves if they want later on. The biggest problem I see with PowerPoint is that most people really don’t understand how to create a fun and dynamic presentation. In other words, it’s not PowerPoint that is the problem, but instead the presenter creating the PowerPoint.

Most people equate PowerPoint with tired bullet points and cheesy clipart because that is all they are used to. This BORING format is what people have been taught in school, and most people don’t understand the full potential of PowerPoint.

The good thing is that the secrets to designing can easily be learned. If you want to unlock the true potential of PowerPoint and learn how to design exciting slides, that will get any audience PUMPED and ready for action, you should check out my personally written eBook, Slides Made Simple. This book will teach you everything you need to know in order to create exciting presentations, stand out from the crowd, and get your audience to say “YES!” It’s full of HUNDREDS of tips and resources that will get you creating exciting persuasive presentations in PowerPoint or Keynote. Click here to get your copy of this game changing eBook now!

Here’s my question for you …

After reading this article, do you think you will more likely to use PowerPoint or Prezi in the future? What are your reasons for choosing one versus the other? Please be specific as possible.

Hungry for more tips? Here are a few articles you might like:

5 Presentation Tools That Will Make Your Slides Stand Out

7 Presentation Design Trends You Need To Know About

10 Professional Presentation Templates That Don’t Suck

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  • Joe

    This is interesting. However, PowerPoint is not strictly linear. It is possible to do a recursive (or non-linear) PowerPoint. http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~ytao/module1.htm

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  • Great post Adam. Engaging your audience is the penulitmate objective of a presentation. We have all been in presentations where we just listen and answer questions whilst twitching our fingers and tapping our feet. 3D animations are a useful tool. However with the increasing surge or smart phone and tablet users, presentations can be shared on those devices. Thus, enabling presenters to have an endless amount of ways the presenter can interact with the audience through votes, questions, keyword search in real time.

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  • Mandy

    This inspires me to give Prezi a try. I’ve never been that taken with PowerPoint, so I seldom use it. I like the idea of a presentation existing more as the parts and the whole, rather than something linear. I would think that the non-linear format helps people avoid the trap of simply reading their PowerPoint slides when they give a presentation, too–well, I hope so anyway.

    I agree with what you’re saying about PowerPoint being the standard: people know it, recognize it, and are able to use it. It’s cool you’ve dedicated a blog to encourage people to use it in creative ways. Sounds like the best thing to happen to PowerPoint since David Byrne took it up as an art form. :)

    • Thanks Mandy. Glad you found this information useful. Please let me know if you need any help along the way :)

  • Sh Nomaan

    I think Prezi worth giving a try. But last time I checked it was a bit expensive. Anyways, I love to use new inventions. Thanks for giving the overview on Prezi.

    • Prezi is actually FREE if you don’t care about keeping your presentations private. If privacy is important they also have a tiered pricing structure starting at $5

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  • shelly mayer

    I share the same thoughts. See an interesting post about the issue – one example may be familiar to you

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  • Phred

    I have the opposite issue from a lot of people here. I like the idea of having presentations available online through a browser, but I prefer the strictly linear format available using Powerpoint (or, rather, openoffice.org Impress). I’ve tried to use Prezi, but it seems entirely incompatible with generating linear presentations. Has anyone found tricks to do a more Powerpoint-like presentation using Prezi?

  • hammerman

    Our company tried Prezi but because they don’t make our branding font (Frutiger) available to create content in our company cannot use it.

    It appears Prezi just has free open source fonts that look less than perfect. I would assume they do not license the fonts to be used with their software thus the limited free fonts.

    Also there is nothing outside the Latin language coverage and all open source Chinese fonts are horrid at anything smaller than point size 18

  • Alan

    I really liked you review of the two… especially the point you made about how people make terrible PowerPoint presentations because that is what they commonly see.

    I used prezi recently and it was super fun and loved the zooming through the slides but I won’t uninstall PowerPoint. Especially at school as more people switch to prezi and more mediocre presentation get presented in Prezi a well made PowerPoint will have a really direct punch.

    Also the new PowerPoint has presenter view to help the presenter navigate more easily through slides without the audience seeing

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  • AlertInMinneapolis

    The first sentence of the article starts with “when you need a need”.

    If you’re publishing for professionals, please proof your content.

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  • Ena

    Well put, structured and very useful! :)

  • Nathan

    Awesome post. Although PowerPoint is now available online via office 365. I use it all the time and store my PowerPoint’s on my one drive. What I like, is I get 1TB of storage and a offline copy of office with PowerPoint, but also have the advantage of using PowerPoint online through 365.

    You can Share your PowerPoint from your OneDrive without having to send a huge file via email. You can also give someone edit access to a PowerPoint online. Making it available online, will allow both of you (the person your sharing with) to make changes at the same time, further you can see who’s changing what live (I thought that was cool). Sill because I love technology I have to give Prezi a try.

    Thanks again,

  • Bethany Bradford

    Just so that you and the other readers are aware, you can change a lot about a Prezi, yes it has fewer fonts to pick from, but they are all capable of any presentation. You can change the colors, fonts, and paths. In addition to the blank sheet that you can start with, there are many different premade templates you can use and edit to your liking.

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  • Krystal

    I think it is important for readers to know that PowerPoint is not free. Most schools and offices will have it but that does not mean that everyone with have it in their homes. One other positive for Prezi that is negative for PowerPoint is that putting videos in PowerPoints is not easy. I am seeing a growing trend of people just putting links to Youtube in power points that just waste time. On Prezi you can add any video picture or sound clip with a button on the top of the screen. With Prezi you are able to add pictures from google without downloading them to your computer which is not so easy on PowerPoint

    • Hi Krystal. I would have to respectfully disagree and say that inserting videos in PowerPoint is pretty simple. All someone has to do is click the Video drop-down arrow and then select “Video on My PC”. It’s basically a one step process

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  • I would like to introduce Academic Presenter that I built for my PhD presentation. Now, it is freely available.

    Academic Presenter combines the potency of slide-based presentation software products with canvas-based. Users can switch between two common presentation trends based on the level of details; for introducing general topics, they can employ a nonlinear flow and switch to a conventional linear presentation for exhibiting details.You may want to learn more by looking at my YouTube channel where I uploaded tutorial videos.
    Download Link: danialesm.wix.com/academic
    YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxB7byx-3rdqbLdCP9CAyww

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