The New GeoPro Superpower: non-linear, visual, real-time collaboration

By Shannon H. White

Have you ever had a great idea that started on a napkin in a meeting and then another person grabbed a napkin and added to the idea, and then you were rearranging them to show the amazingly creative solution to the problem (and you took a picture before someone spilled water on it?) Or maybe you were in a planning team meeting, using a white board or post-its, with everyone "spit balling" ideas and they turned into a brilliant creative solution, and then someone had to decipher all the handwritten ideas and try to put them to into a standard organizational chart or into presentation software?

Collaboration is an expectation of the geospatial workforce.

Our work is not the silos of vertical solutions of generations past, it is an interconnected web of information, contexts, locations and needs.

 This is not only true within our own businesses and organizations, but also in communications with our clients. We know clients do not speak the language of spatial analysis, but they do have an idea of what they want their map and analysis to look like. After all, we are immersed in a visual world of technology in everyday life outside of work, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, for example, and their expectations are visual. If we, as geospatial professionals, need to collaborate, then why aren't we doing it visually and spatially without the restrictions of the temporal conference call or webinar?  

We can use images, multimedia, text and, of course, maps to begin to design and brainstorm for our internal geospatial needs and for our client's needs. As planning iterates through the processes of concept to reality, we can build the collaboration into a branded, corporate shared vision and presentation tool that is not PowerPoint, but something more flexible, with the ability to move clients through their needs without saying, "wait, I have that a little later in the presentation."

 If I asked you to name 5 objects in your office, you could quickly name them and it wouldn't be in a bulleted, alphabetized list. It might be random, but then you might also have a way of connecting each of them. We connect space and place through maps (imagens), with connecting conceptual frameworks and text (logogens). Our collaborative work in the geospatial business world should be the same as our creative mapmaking.

In a recent phone conversation with Prezi co-founder and CEO, Peter Arvai, I found that he understands this need even though he doesn't necessarily know our geospatial businesses. The Prezi Business solution his company has recently released is a tool to add to our visually spatial toolbox. It allows teams to explore concepts non-linearly and to create the web of connectivity around a model we want to create, or a complex organizational structure we want to plan for, or change, in our workplace.

Have you seen a Prezi? It can be your conversation starter, it can be your collaboration tool, it can be a marketing tool that allows non-linear navigation by your clients —and with Prezi Business you get analytics on the backend that reveal how and what clients are seeking in your product or solution.

Imagine you are trying to get community input from a high-risk population with low literacy rates: how will you engage them?

Imagine you only have a moment to hand something to someone on a plane or train —someone that you know could use your expertise, business model or partnership —and you provide them with a link to a non-bulleted, non-wordy navigational entry point to your geospatial work.  

Or, imagine you are working with different divisions within your own organization and everyone needs a way to voice their contribution to the solution.  

This is how Prezi Business becomes a vital tool in your business toolbox.

To fully disclose, I have been a Prezi user for years, and was an early adopter because I saw its usefulness in educational settings, so as Arvai and I were talking, several things resonated with me.

First, every tool has its place; there are times when someone might want to use a product like PowerPoint, and others when you need Prezi to take things to a very different level of presentation and collaboration. As we discussed these differences, Arvai pointed out, "the importance that conversations happen at a table. Whereas on a stage, school or an all-hands meeting you're essentially talking at people...when you are at your desk with someone, actually, the conversations take precedence."

Second, I was reminded that my personal experiences with the Prezi tool have allowed me to interact with my colleagues and workshop participants in ways that met their needs to understand and interact with the subject matter, rather than my need for a specific order —a way that made sense, perhaps, only to me.

Prezi allows you to create a truly non-linear, flowing, spatially-oriented presentation. "People are adopting Prezi simply because both presenters and audiences understand and retain information better in the form of Prezi," Arvai said. It's based on neuroscience, behavioral and storytelling principles. Don't believe me? Take a look at the Prezi gallery on an array of topics or, even better, try out the two-week trial as an individual at prezi.com.

"...One of the benefits of laying out all your ideas on this large canvas and revealing the connections between the ideas, [is] you are much freer to navigate around this canvas, and [it allows] the conversation to direct the attention of people," Arvai told me.

Think about the traditional business meeting in days of old: the business and marketing team come to a boardroom and present the history of the company and why you should partner with them. Today, all of that research has been done on the internet in advance of the meeting. Now you have to step it up and be able to brainstorm solutions, new ideas and fill-in the gaps that are key to your geospatial work. Prezi Business solution was developed to help with this new way of building partnerships with clients or engaging within an organization across vertical infrastructures.

Arvai shared the ways Prezi Business is building value for companies using the Prezi Business environment during our discussion. I have to admit, it was amazing to witness the capabilities of Remote HD Presenting. There was no pixilation as the presentation was zooming in and out, or while there was movement around the canvas. It was better than any of the off-the shelf remote presentation tools I have been asked to use during learning opportunities or long-distance collaborative meetings.

According to Arvai, Prezi Business builds value in these three ways:

  • It helps people to engage through meaningful conversationsand easily access information across platforms. Prezi works on mobile devices, tablets and laptops.
  • It makes it easy toevolve ideas through broad collaboration. Prezi Business is replacing email conversation with interaction through the messaging capability of Slack. Users collaborate, comment and create within productivity spaces that are asynchronous or synchronous based on the business need.
  • Businesses need a tool to evaluate, measure and track ideas and how they perform.If you send out your Prezi to someone, or several someones, you can see real-time aspects of what those people are seeing and the ideas and topics that are evolving. Prezi's Business solution allows you to analyze the topics that are resonating with clients, based on what your team members may be creating from the back side, with visual bar charts. Across large companies, this can help share successful ideas easily.

Now you may be thinking "No, not another tool!" or "Why this tool, now?" As geospatial professionals, we are spatial thinkers and therefore we should be spatial presenters. We are not an industry that exists separate from our communities, industries and world. We are an interconnected tribe of data creators, data consumers, GIS users, geostatistical analyzers and visual communication experts. Why not use tools like Prezi Business to help us communicate better within our own operations and plan our geospatial work? Why not use spatial presentation tools to display our concepts to our clients before we create their geospatial solutions?


Published Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

Written by Shannon H. White


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