Pecha Kucha is a format of presentation where you show 20 images which each advance automatically after 20 seconds which forces you to really understand the topic you present and to strip down a presentation to the core and what really matters. In this post, I share some of my experiences of working with PechaKucha’s as a method of presentation
Working in an industry were dreadful PowerPoint presentations is part of life, architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham felt that something had to be done. After analysing their own and presentations made by their colleagues, they concluded that a presentation is most effective and engaging the first ten minutes. After a period of experimentation, they came up with a presentational format where any topic or project, not matter how large, are allowed for no more time and space in a presentation, than twenty PowerPoint slides with a duration of twenty seconds each (Chikushi, 2007).
Starting to use this technique in their own work, it was quickly adopted by their colleagues and soon also by many of their firm’s clients. People were excited about the format which enforced discipline in presentations requiring any information not directly related and relevant to the topic to be stripped out.
The fact that each PowerPoint slide advanced automatically after twenty seconds and that the speaker was not allowed to stop any slide or reversing to a previous slide meant that presentations using this methodology had to be practised, resulting in speakers being more relaxed and presentations more engaging and fun to watch.
In February 2003 Klein and Dytham decided to take their new presentational format public. Working with Super Deluxe (2017), an experimental event space located in Tokyo where young designers meet, exchange ideas and showing their work; they invited creatives to come and present any idea or project with the only limitation that presentations had to be performed using their method of presentation which they now had given the name ‘PechaKucha’ which is a Japanese term for “chit chat.”
The evening was a success and soon PechaKucha events were held all over Tokyo. 2004 the concept of Pecha Kucha nights spread to Europe, and as of September 0217, PechaKucha events were held in over 1012 cities world wide (PechaKucha 20×20, 2017).
My personal experience of PechaKucha’s
My initial notion of the PechaKucha format as a presentational methodology was excitement. Like most designers, I’ve had my share of dreadful meetings with clients presenting their projects using monotonous, too long and anything but visually pleasing PowerPoints slides.
Having worked professionally for more than two decades and presenting hundreds of projects through the years, I also felt that I would have no problem adapting to this format. Soon, however, I learned that being used to frame a presentation in whatever format and period of time; being limited to only about seven minutes of presenting a topic and also not being allowed to stop or rewind if missing something was much more difficult than expected.
The first challenge with the time-limit was to figure out what could be left out and for my first presentation using this format, I failed miserably. I simply couldn’t figure out how to make the presentation shorter and fit within the total time limit. I also felt it was hopeless to adapt my presentation to a fixed duration of twenty seconds for each slide and in the end, I actually cheated.
Presented below you find this presentation and as can be seen, some of the slides are considerably longer than twenty seconds.
My second trial which I created with the objective to present it on a PechaKucha night in the city where I live went better. I took more time to plan the structure of the presentation and to write a script which I timed before starting to actually design and locating images. I also practised my presentation – a lot; first with a stop watch at my desk and after a few hours with my wife as an audience. By practising my presentation; for each round, I became more confident and by also presenting “live” for my wife, I got feedback on what was interesting and what could be left out. Slowly I stripped out more and more of the presentation which when I began was almost fifteen minutes long, and after a few days of late evenings practising after our daughter was put to bed, I was not only confident in the presentation but also was down to the magic time limit. Below you can view the final result.
As most PechaKucha practitioners note, the format is a very efficient method to keep discipline in presentations by forcing anything not essential to the topic to be stripped out. With the slides automatically advancing and not being able to stop or move backwards; to succeed one also have to practice as not doing so simply means the presentation most certainly will fail.
If you never tried the PechaKucha format I highly recommend you to do so. While the format does require more effort than a traditional presentation with no time limit, the returns of doing so are worth the extra effort. Not only will your presentations be more engaging, but maybe most importantly, by having to really think through what you intend to present and by having to practice your presentation so it fits within the twenty-slides-twenty-second-limit, you also gain new insights about the topic and will become a better speaker.
- Chikushi, U. (2007). Pecha Kucha night. [s.l.]: Klein Dytham Architecture.
- PechaKucha 20×20. (2017). PechaKucha 20×20. [online] Available at: http://www.pechakucha.org/global [Accessed 31 Aug. 2017].
- Super Deluxe. (2017). Super Deluxe. [online] Available at: https://super-deluxe.com/ [Accessed 31 Aug. 2017].