Wednesday, June 9, 2010

20X20: Can you PechaKucha?

We can thank Japan for many things – sushi, karaoke and a PowerPoint revolution. While the Takahashi method strips slide-decks down to their black-and-white barebones, PechaKucha (pronounced pe-chak-cha) presentations invite inspiring visuals and compelling stories that produced a new art form, now taking the world by storm.

Created by two Tokyo-based architects in 2003, PechaKucha initially allowed designers and architects to meet and show their work at “PechaKucha Nights.” In order to prevent extreme elaboration, the organizers allowed presenters to create 20 slides, showing each slide for only 20 seconds – providing 6 minutes and 40 seconds for each presentation. Its success of is unmatched. Today you can attend a PechaKucha night in 307 cities world-wide.

Ilan Guest, a South African Urban Planner, presented one of my favorite examples of PechaKucha at an event in Johannesburg. Guest illustrated the grand challenge of re-planning urban South Africa in a post-apartheid world, while still displaying engineering issues and highly technical maps.

Even though traditional PechaKucha presentations revolve around a specific event, this style will allow you to quickly express your messages and keep your audience interested. I find it most useful for shorter presentations that are highly visual and usually discuss experiential or “big picture” topics.

I think there are two, rather obvious and important, keys to becoming presenter comfortable with PechaKucha.

1. Watch PechaKucha examplesObserving how others use this method around the world will allow you to see the magnificent visuals and rhythm of PechaKucha. It will also inspire you with future presentation topics.

2. Practice creating and presenting – Once you have a topic in mind draft an outline and create a highly visual presentation. With little to no text, choosing the right images is an important part of PechaKucha. You could start by giving a presentation on your family vacation. From there all it takes is practice.

In a PowerPoint world filled with bullets and graphs, PechaKucha releases presenters and their audiences from the doldrums and introduces them to compelling topics, beautiful places and though-provoking questions. Even if PechaKucha doesn’t apply to every presentation you have to give, your slide-decks and communication skills will certainly get an upgrade.

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