Traditional slide-based presentations can be a relic of the past with creative new tools like Prezi.

I recently had the <sarcasm>immense pleasure</sarcasm> of reworking an old, classic PowerPoint presentation. It was about 25 slides, most of which were continuations on a single topic. There were four levels of nested bullets on most pages, and the background was what I like to call IBM blue.

I was saved that night by summoning the inspiration of Beyond Bullet Points. Beyond Bullet Points is an idea, a system, a website, and a book dedicated to helping people break out of the mind-numbing slide-based experience embodied in the presentation I had in my hands. I used PowerPoint’s new-ish array of “autoshapes” and diagrams to display information in shaded tables, relational wheels, and even interlocking gears.

The presentation was well-received, and I thought I had harnessed the anti-bullet revolution. That was, until I came across Prezi. Prezi is a Flash-based online presentation creation tool that eats slide-based, linear storytelling for breakfast. Prezi’s interface is extremely responsive and easy to use, and while it doesn’t offer the most customizable styles (unless you spring for a custom-branded look and feel, which is $450), it doesn’t need to because the default styles are lovely. I used it for about three hours straight recently, and it only froze up twice—not a problem since it auto-saves constantly and re-opens with a refresh of the browser.

Prezi is affordable. There’s a free version if you don’t mind the Prezi watermark on your show. Students and educators can use it for free. Even the highest-end account ($159 per year) costs only what you’d waste wrestling for a pretty short time with the old slideshow creation tools.

The drawbacks to using Prezi come primarily from the user’s preconceptions. It can be really hard to move away from bullets and slides if that’s how you’re used to conveying information. It is tough to release your creativity onto a blank canvas and envision the swirling, whirling beauty of your finished Prezi. Ok, that, and the fact that if you’re not very good at layout and design in the first place, there’s only so much this tool can do for you. Right-brain types, you’ve been warned.

Here’s a Prezi presentation that speaks for itself: it starts with a traditional slide-based show and morphs into a rather engaging amusement park ride of marketing strategy. Are you brave enough to try Prezi for your next presentation?