Jim Szafranski by no means actually wished to turn into a CEO; it was one thing that appeared to occur to him, quite than one thing he intentionally made occur. However because it seems, he has a knack for it.
Szafranski took over at visible communications firm Prezi roughly eighteen months in the past to preside over a change of path, changing founder Peter Arvai. Beforehand, the agency had specialised in design and presentation software, however has now turned its consideration to video shows.
Prezi had already begun to put the foundations for this shift earlier than the pandemic, however remote working noticed demand skyrocket for a service that might assist individuals create and ship skilled digital shows. The corporate put its foot on the gasoline and Prezi Video is now its flagship product.
As one of many important architects of the Prezi Video undertaking, and as somebody who had labored with the video conferencing titans (corresponding to Microsoft and Google) in a earlier life, Szafranski discovered himself subsequent in line for the throne.
The appropriate particular person for the job
Though he has now acclimatized to the extent and breadth of duty that falls on the shoulders of a chief govt, Szafranski instructed TechRadar Professional he typically discovered himself doubting his suitability for the position.
Whereas he had at all times been a pupil of each enterprise and expertise, and had racked up a few years of expertise at an govt degree, he was to some extent blindsided by the chance when it introduced itself.
“I like to study, so I at all times tried to place myself ready the place I may study from my atmosphere and the individuals round me. And I form of let the expansion deal with itself,” he defined.
“However after I joined Prezi, the plan wasn’t that I might sometime take over from Peter [Arvai] – that wasn’t even a dialogue. The main target was on scaling the enterprise and constructing out features like gross sales and advertising and marketing.”
After some consideration, Szafranski agreed to tackle the submit, giving himself and Arvai three months to place the mandatory measures in place. The most effective piece of recommendation Szafranski obtained throughout this time, he says, was merely to be himself, and to not emulate the archetypal CEO of the films.
“Clearly, the board of administrators and former CEO thought of this rigorously and selected to elect me for the position. This recommendation was an vital reminder to method conditions in the identical manner I’ve at all times performed; to do what felt pure.”
Mercifully, getting into the CEO position at Prezi has not required Szafranski to tear all of it up and begin once more, as a result of he had inherited the foundations of a wholesome enterprise. His activity is barely to steer in a barely completely different path.
Digital shows, however completely different
Szafranski is commonly quizzed about what makes Prezi Video completely different from common digital presentation companies. With phrases alone, this query generally is a little troublesome to reply, however the distinction turns into instantly obvious once you see the product in motion.
Prezi Video sits like a veneer on prime of video conferencing companies (Zoom, Teams, Meet and many others.), including a layer of gloss and interactivity that makes shows rather more engaging to the attention.
In contrast to with conventional screen-sharing, which conceals the presenter’s video feed, customers can convey content material onto the display alongside them within the type of a information anchor. In flip, the presenter is ready to see extra of the opposite attendees, which is meant to assist them learn the room in the identical manner they could in-person.
Prezi Video additionally permits customers to work together with on-screen content material in real-time, which makes shows really feel slick and polished. There’s no extra “subsequent slide, please”; the presenter turns into extra like a conductor.
In response to Szafranksi, these attributes go an extended solution to fixing the varied points staff have encountered for the reason that transition to distant working, from video conferencing fatigue to a sense of disconnect with coworkers.
“In the end, Prezi Video is about making a larger degree of engagement,” he instructed us. “Persons are speaking so much about Zoom fatigue for the time being, however will nonetheless sign off within the night to look at a few hours of Netflix. Prezi brings TV-like engagement into your small business.”
Szafranski additionally sees merchandise like Prezi Video enjoying a basic position as companies emerge from the pandemic, by making a stronger feeling of connection between assembly attendees unfold throughout a number of places.
“The workplace was the nice productiveness hack, as a result of it pressured everybody into the identical area on the similar time. However we’re not going again to that,” he mentioned.
“What has completely modified is that there can be any individual exterior the room always, and we’re all going to have to determine the right way to maintain efficient conferences underneath these situations.”
Additional down the road, Szafranksi envisions Prezi shifting into areas like virtual reality, which may open up a brand new realm of alternative for interactivity, in addition to bringing everybody into the identical enviornment as soon as once more.
Trying to the longer term
Because the world climbs out from beneath the pandemic, which caused a interval of maximum and sudden progress for Prezi, Szafranski is pondering carefully about how he can carry momentum ahead.
His first step, he defined, has been to encompass himself with an govt staff able to placing his imaginative and prescient into motion. For instance, his new CTO is an knowledgeable in content material ingestion, having minimize his enamel at picture library Shutterstock, and Szafranski not too long ago introduced onboard a brand new SVP for Product Administration to discover alternatives in immersive video and 3D.
These appointments have been designed to arrange the corporate for a shift in gear. Along with focusing on SMBs and design departments, Szafranski says the aim is now to take Prezi organization-wide at a number of the largest firms on the planet.
Nevertheless, an vital query hangs over these ambitions: why don’t the video conferencing giants, with all their cash and assets, exit and develop equivalent performance? The early warning indicators are there; Microsoft not too long ago rolled out a brand new reporter mode for Teams that permits customers to look in entrance of shared content material.
However Szafranksi says copying Prezi is much harder than it might sound. He describes the corporate’s mental property as rather more like a sport engine (corresponding to Unity) than a chunk of software program.
“What Prezi does that’s particular is serve up content material in very spacial methods, which creates rather more interactive and layered experiences. And these qualities are actually not trivial to recreate.”
The choice for the video conferencing giants, after all, could be an acquisition. Requested whether or not he thought Microsoft or Zoom may swoop in for Prezi, Szafranski performed it cool. It could be his duty to discipline all such presents, he instructed us, however for now his efforts are centered wholly on taking Prezi in the best path.