Back in April 2010, the New York Times ran a piece called “We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint” – a story with a catchy headline and a lot of anecdotes on how the U.S. military had problems using Microsoft PowerPoint to explain strategies.

While that piece is a little dated, the principle still stands – presentations need to be able to easily convey information in a way that’s at least somewhat interesting. For Prezi Inc., which launched in 2009, one of the goals of the company is to allow people to give presentations without having to make every slide a list of bullet points – or worse, a series of convoluted diagrams. (Check out the New York Times piece for the perfect example).

Prezi’s cloud-based product uses Flash and Javascript to create 3D effects and zooming transitions between slides, allowing users to build more intriguing-looking presentations than what appears on a static slide. It’s currently available for the desktop through a Web browser, or for iPhones and iPads as an Apple iOS app. The company has made a name for itself at TED conferences, as TED was one of Prezi’s first investors and many of its speakers use the software. However, Prezi also serves students, academics, and people in business.

“If you present information in a spatial context … your audience is more likely to remember what you’ve presented. And that’s what you want as a presenter, whether you’re in business or education,” says Drew Banks, head of international at Prezi. He was in Toronto on Tuesday to talk about Prezi’s plans for expanding into Canada.

With about 45 million users worldwide, and 1.75 million of them based in Canada, Canada is Prezi’s third biggest market in terms of both the number of registered users and in the number of paid subscriptions. In April, Prezi launched its French version of its program to appeal to users in Quebec.

While Prezi is available free to consumers, or to anyone who doesn’t mind publicly displaying their presentations online, business users can get an annual license for about $60 per user. Some of Prezi’s Canadian business and education users have included an engineer at the City of Toronto’s energy efficiency office, the University of Toronto, the Centre des Sciences Montréal, the University of British Columbia, Parkland Fuel Corporation, and the town of Canmore in Alberta.

And while the company of more than 250 employees has no plans to set up an office in Canada thus far, Banks said Prezi works with consultants called Prezi Experts, who are certified in using Prezi’s interface and who can help other users create higher-level presentations.

So far, there are only two companies like this in Canada – Perfect Pitch Consulting in Calgary, and one other that is still working towards its certification in Toronto. However, Banks said he’d like to see another consultant in Vancouver and one more in Quebec.

“I see Canada becoming more and more important to us,” Banks says, adding that’s especially true as TED organizers have moved their conference to Vancouver this year. He also sees users continuing to create better content with visual pieces like infographics – something that’s well-suited to Prezi.

“People are going to see the Prezis and it’s just going to continue to grow,” he adds. “They’re all going to be visually immersive experiences, not just edited slides … That’s what presentations are going to look like in the future.”

 

Check out Banks’ Prezi presentation on the company’s Canadian customers here:

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