Linear vs. Non-Linear Presentations

Presentations are used in a variety of settings, whether academic, professional, or extracurricular. While most people rely on PowerPoint, Prezi has been growing in popularity for a decade. In a recent consultation at the digital studio, a student group sought advice for choosing a platform for their class project, and I acknowledge that many people are unsure which platform will ensure the best digital presentation. The best way to choose your presentation platform is by deciding whether your information is categorized chronologically or non-chronologically. Below, I explain the difference in thought processes, offer suggestions for which platforms to use, and address “the Prezi effect.”

Linear Organization

Linear or chronological organization might imply a couple things. If you were giving a presentation on one historical figure from birth to death or from the beginning of their career to the end, your presentation would be literally chronological. However, when I say linear organization, I’m actually referring to the thought process required to follow the presentation. In an essay, you present a thesis and spend the paper supporting/defending it. If your presentation follows the same train of logic, where each idea flows into the next one and builds to the end, your presentation is linear. Most presentations are linear because most presentations wouldn’t make sense if they were rearranged. PowerPoint (or another version, Google Slides) works best for linear presentations, as PowerPoint presentations are simple yet effective.

Non-Linear Organization

Non-linear or non-chronological organization indicates that information could be rearranged to some degree. Examples of non-linear presentations might include the contributions of three great figures from a certain field, the benefits of doing X, the key components of X, etc. Prezi is useful for non-linear topics because, if you compare PowerPoint to a stack of index cards, Prezi is a bubble map. Because you essentially draw a presentation on Prezi, you are free to arrange information in imaginative ways. Using an example from above, if I put “the key components of X” inside a bubble or “topic” (Prezi’s version of PowerPoint slides) in the center, I can create a presentation where the other topics–component 1, component 2, component 3–each branch off the first topic.

Zoom Animations

Prezi’s most appealing factor is its animation capabilities. I’ve used Prezi for linear presentations simply for the benefit of sub-topics, which are zoom-ins from the main topics. For example, when I once gave a presentation about Lady Mary Wroth, I used Prezi because the zoom effects allowed me to introduce Wroth’s character Pamphilia in the main topic, then examine the two works Wroth wrote about Pamphilia in sub-topics within the main topic. In other words, whether your presentation is linear or non-linear, zoom effects enable the presenter to add levels to their information and highlight smaller details within bigger concepts. However, the same zoom effects can be accomplished in PowerPoint with the aid of a tutorial. Considering that “the Prezi effect” is possible in PowerPoint, there’s little advantage to using Prezi for linear presentations. I assert that PowerPoint looks more clean and professional overall because the slides use the whole computer screen (whereas Prezi topics are circular), but Prezi still has an edge in magnifying “the wow factor” due to the presentation-drawing capabilities.


2 responses to “Linear vs. Non-Linear Presentations”

  1. […] topics still go from 1 to 2 to 3, but the appearance of the physical template can be manipulated. My recent post contains advice on how you should determine which platform to use in different scenarios, but the […]


  2. […] by Robert Frost” because each poem can branch off from an intro slide about Robert Frost. In Linear vs. Non-Linear Presentations, I noted that Powerpoint presentations look more professional on a big screen than Prezi […]


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