PechaKucha is a special style of presentation that privileges short, powerful messages. I’ve been experimenting with this style of presentation for almost 5 years. In 2013, I along with a few colleagues were the first to bring this presentation style to student affairs in a session entitled, “The Future of Student Affairs in Six Minutes and Forty Seconds.” The next year, ACPA adopted an entire evening session to PechaKucha… and this year they’re back!
Whether you’re in student affairs or not, the following guide will help you learn what PechaKuchas are, see some examples of the style, give you some tips for creating your own, allow an opportunity to practice the style, and finally it will leave you with some additional resources to help you create the best PechaKucha you can!
How to pronounce PechaKucha:
There is a lot of disagreement about how to pronounce PechaKucha in English. Because it is a Japanese word, it is difficult to translate. The following are two examples of the pronunciation:
What is a PechaKucha?
PechaKucha is a specific style of presentation that originated in Japan that entails presentations of 20 slides, displayed for 20 seconds each, for a total presentation time of 6 minutes and forty seconds. Check out PechaKucha.org. They’re the “keepers” of the format. You might also check out Ignite! which is a related style, but with 20 slides of 15 seconds each.
Examples of PechaKuchas
The following is an EXCELLENT PechaKucha about PechaKuchas. (How meta!)
Below you will find a playlist of PechaKucha examples from the 2014 International Convention of ACPA-College Student Educators International. (Note that the slides were added to the video after-the-fact in editing. Therefore, the timing isn’t perfect. The editor had to guess what slide was up when it was placed in the video.)
Tips for Designing & Presenting a PechaKucha
Before you begin…
You are more likely to be able to talk at length and off the top of your head if you choose a topic that you think about a lot and on which you have expertise. Your passion will shine through when you present. It will be infectious.
Try to pick an angle that no one is talking about. Think about what will surprise people. Take a divergent or novel approach to a traditional topic.
PechaKucha talks are short. You don’t have a lot of time to cover a lot of topics. Pick a topic that is narrow enough, that you can address it in six minutes and forty seconds, but broad enough that you can really dig into it.
Once you settle on the topic, think about the main points you want to make about it. These will likely guide what your slides will be. Consider doing a 3×3 presentation. Three main points, each with three examples and/or sub-points.
Design your presentation…
Good PechaKuchas tell a story. Figure out what the arc of your presentation will be. Does it have a clear beginning, middle and end?
Experienced presenters will tell you that telling a compelling story is a great way to draw in your audience. You may want to start with a personal anecdote or incorporate it into your presentation. Doing this will make your presentation more personal.
Make 20 slides and outline your presentation visually. Don’t worry about images yet, just go in and add some text so you can see how your slides flow. You may discover that some slides are really two points in one. Think about what you need to combine and what can stand on its own.
Don’t have a lot of complex visuals in your slides. Having one image fill the screen is better than having multiple images that make your slides “busy.” Your audience can only process so much in twenty seconds and the focus should be primarily on you. The other benefit of using image-only slides is that if your timing is off, no one will know. Using images, as opposed to text, doesn’t lock you into a specific point. Looking for free high quality images? Do a creative commons image search.
Design your slides such that they flow together. Sometimes slides can act as reminders to you as to what will slide come next. When you are presenting and talking over a certain slide, it helps if you can anticipate what comes next.
Practice your presentation…
After, or even during your presentation slide design process, try practicing your talk. You may notice that you have 30 seconds worth of talking on one slide and only 10 seconds worth of talking on another. Readjust your slides accordingly. Split up the a slide, or incorporate it into another as appropriate.
PechaKuchas require impeccable timing. In order to get your timing right, you need to practice it, in real-time. Keep practicing it over and over again. You want to be able to speak with ease and get used to the timing.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It is the chips in your computer that act like your short-term memory. As opposed to files stored on your hard drive, information stored here can be more quickly recalled when necessary. Reviewing your slides immediately before presenting can help load your talk into your brain’s “RAM.”
When on stage…
Don’t be overly reliant on the way you practiced. If the slides happen to be displayed differently than what you prepared, it shouldn’t throw you off. Additionally, know that timing is not created equal on all computers. Given the way PowerPoint calculates time, you may find that 20 seconds is faster on some computers than others. This is determined in part by the processor speed of the computer.
Learn how to slow down your speech or speed it up as necessary. Rather than getting stuck on a slide with 5 seconds left to go, slowing down can add emphasis and make it seem like a natural pause.
Similar to adjusting your cadence, remember to pause to breathe. Stop on an important point to increase its effect. Silence isn’t necessarily bad.
I wouldn’t suggest reading your way through a PechaKucha. (What fun is that!?) But if you need a few notecards to remind you what to say. That’s okay. If you become too reliant on reading, however, it can often throw off your timing.
Given the event, you may not have control over this, but Presenter View allows the presenter to see the current slide and the next slide on a second monitor. Using this view can help you anticipate what’s coming next.
Once a PechaKucha starts, it doesn’t stop. It’s like a roller coaster. Get ready for the ride, put your hands in the air, and go. If you flub your words, keep going. Don’t stop.
Take a practice run…
Do you want to take a low stakes stab at giving a PechaKucha? The following is an outline of how one of these presentations may be structured. Grab a scrap piece of paper (or download and print this worksheet) and sketch out your topic according to the outline below. The 3×3 structure is common to presentations. Three main points, each supported by three sub points, sandwiched between an introduction and conclusion.
Write some simple key words and phases next to each of these bullets. Then, when you’re finished, start the video embedded below. This video is timed to follow the PechaKucha style. Try talking over the slides as if you were giving an actual PechaKucha. Mess up? Just keep going. This is a good simulation as to what presenting a PechaKucha is like.
- Your Passion/Topic Introduction:
- Why Does This Matter:
- Outline The Three Main Points You Will Discuss:
- Point 1:
- Point 1:Sub Point 1:
- Point 2:Sub Point 2:
- Point 3:Sub Point 3:
- Point 2:
- Point 2:Sub Point 1:
- Point 2:Sub Point 2:
- Point 2:Sub Point 3:
- Point 3:
- Point 3:Sub Point 1:
- Point 3:Sub Point 2:
- Point 3:Sub Point 3:
- Review Your Three Main Points:
- Takeaway/Putting It In Practice 1:
- Takeaway/Putting It In Practice 2:
- Takeaway/Putting It In Practice 3:
- Final Thought:
I post a semi-regular series of presentation tips that you may find helpful in designing your PechaKucha slides. Some applicable ones include:
- Excellent books you can buy to become a better presenter/designer
- Where to find high quality free images
- How to use fonts in your presentation
- A HigherEdLive session on the topic of designing slides
A few tools you may want to use to create your presentation or to get some inspiration:
- HaikuDeck (presentation software that can export to PowerPoint)
- SlideShare (for inspiration)
- Speaker Deck (for inspiration)
Check out Garr Reynold’s TEDxKyoto 2012 Talk, “Story, Imagery, & the Art of 21st Century”
Check out Nancy Duarte’s TEDxEast 2010 Talk, “The Common Structure of the Greatest Commicators”