Pecha Kucha is a presentation format that gives you 20 slides that display for 20 seconds each. So the entire presentation is 6 minutes and 40 seconds. You have no control over the timing; it is all set up automatically in advance. I explain more about pecha kucha and how to set it up here.
Someone in my small hometown (actually he was a student of mine who took one of my workshops) organized it. You can read more about the Fairfield, Iowa Pecha Kucha group and about the International organization here.
Our town has a monthly Friday Art Walk and the Pecha Kucha event was part of it. I was invited to be the first speaker at the first event. My talk was called “Slide Design for the Artistically Challenged.” Pecha Kucha’s history has lead it to be favored by artists and I wanted to give the audience the confidence that although they would see some awe-inspiring slides, they could also design great slides — even if they felt they were artistically challenged. About 30% of the audience raised their hands when I asked if they felt they were artistically challenged.
Here are the 20 slides that I used.
Tips for a successful Pecha Kucha event
Because the format is so tightly structured, you need to plan in advance what you’re going to say for each slide. Then, you need to practice! I probably practiced my presentation about 15 times before I felt comfortable. You don’t want to get ahead or behind because those slides just keep coming every 20 seconds!
From my own experience and watching the other speakers, here are my best tips:
- In the Notes page, write what you want to say for each slide, then create the slide. In 20 seconds, you can say 2-4 sentences.
- When your slides are done, run through them in Normal view so you can see the Notes pane or use Presenter view to read the notes. As you speak, quickly note which slides have too much or too little text. If it’s too little, you’ll be finished before the slide changes and have too much silence. If you have too much text, the slide will change before you finish speaking. In some cases, silence is good. If you’re showing your art, you want people to have some silent time to look at it.
- Adjust each slide’s text until it’s all the right length.
- For each slide, come up with an additional optional comment — a few words — that you can add if you speak too quickly. In other words, build some flexibility into your talk.
- One speaker showed a series of slides, usually 3-4, that related to one topic and spoke throughout that time without regard to when the slides changed. This gave him more flexibility. These were snapshots of people and as the slides changed, he told the story of those people. This worked well.
- Most people weren’t experienced presenters and they stood behind a lectern (I think it was actually a music stand) and read their notes. Having something between you and the audience is really an obstacle to communication. This is a small town where so many people know each other and the audience was very favorably inclined to all of the speakers. But in general, you should come out from behind the lectern and speak without notes. After all, the presentation is just 6 minutes, 40 seconds long!
- To get it right, you have to practice many times. There isn’t much room for error. My arc of feelings went from “I’ll never get this right” after 5 practices to “It’s getting there; maybe it will be OK” after 10 practices to “I’m starting to feel good about this” after 15 practices.
In the end, it went without a hitch!
Have you done a Pecha Kucha presentation or its sister, Ignite? What was your experience?
I’ve done it twice now, different presentations each time. Practice, practice, practice is definitely rule number 1. Write yourself a script and stick to it. And, while some may disagree with this, I built animations into many of my slides, not only to add variety and motion, but also to signal me as to when my 20 seconds were almost up.
Dick, it’s a good exercise, isn’t it? I wanted to add animation, but the organizer checked with “headquarters” and they said no. It was the first event here in Fairfield, and he didn’t want to go against the rules. Perhaps later, they can be more flexible.
It’s a terrific exercise. If I were a teacher, I would definitely make creating a PK a class assignment. It’s a great way to force people to think about how to chunk big topics into little ones, and then edit like crazy. As far as the “no animations” thing goes, I never saw it here. As long as there were 20 slides when the show is displayed in slide sorter mode, and each slide has a 0:20 next to it, the requirements were met.
I’ve done one PK presentation. It was, as you said, unnerving at first to have no control over the slide transitions. But after I actually did it, I thought it was fun. My topic was tips from the book “Made to Stick” by Chip & Dan Heath. Practice is definitely the key to success!
Dick, you are right–what an outstanding assignment for students to get them to KNOW their material and learn efficient presentation strategies! I love that idea!
Thanks for the tips Ellen! I am preparing topics and thinking about what to submit for the next time Ignite comes to MPLS. I hope to be able to give it a try myself.
Also, i had originally subscribed to your e mail newsletter on my work e mail just in case i didn’t like it, but i have since subscribed to your e mail newsletter on my personal e mail because i have really enjoyed and learned from your tips and articles. Thanks
Thanks for sharing your slides and tips, Ellen. A couple of years ago I did an Ignite talk, which is very similar (20 slides for 15 seconds each, so 5 mins in all). To practice, I found a tip from your blog extremely helpful: Display a quarter-size slide show view. So then, rather than writing my script in the Notes pane, I wrote it in Word so I could see the whole script at once while I was running my slideshow (on the other half of the screen). That made it much easier to keep practising repeatedly, and to smooth… Read more »
Craig, I’m glad that helped — I hadn’t thought of using it that way!