Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pecha Kucha, an alternative format for presentations

My students and I have been exploring an interesting format for presentations, called Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-cha ku-cha...but said really fast). The basic format is 20 slides/images, 20 seconds per slide/image (so, just under 7 minutes per presentation). Developed by two architects (see the Wikipedia entry for more background and links to useful resources) as a way to structure presentations of architectural designs in an efficient and non-detrimental-to-the-message way, Pecha Kucha is gaining in popularity. So, what is it exactly? For a few online examples of Pecha Kucha, see Daniel Pink's YouTube video on the topic of emotionally intelligent signage, Ginny Brady's Vimeo video on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and Dean Shareski's example for his students. Dean's stands out for me because I like that he is asking students follow the Pecha Kucha format for their reflections at the end of the course (his example serves as a model for the students). For examples of live, on-stage Pecha Kucha presentations, see Jeremy Fuksa's Facebook presentation at a Pecha Kucha Night in Kansas City, and Glasgow's Pecha Kucha Night (Note: adult content, view at your own risk).

For examples of the format in action during face-to-face sessions, search YouTube...there are several examples, although not really one that stands out for me as an exemplar. Why? Because there seems to be a tendency with the format for presenters to simply talk faster in order to say as much as possible in 20 seconds...instead of allowing the image up on the screen to speak for itself with limited commentary. It doesn't seem that folks use silence to their advantage (or music, for that matter), to allow the audience to process, reflect on, and explore an intellectual and emotional connection with the image (and this seems like a big loss because I perceive the format as a way to encourage us to present stronger visual images, instead of relying on our spoken words...). And, it seems a useful structure for storytelling...and I don't see a lot of great examples of its use in that arena (not that they're not out there). Another thing I have noticed is that it seems that the structure discourages presenters from more actively engaging the audience, and discourages them from using the physical space (many examples simply show the presenter standing rigid to the side of the screen, talking quickly). My final observation has been that given the intentional informality of a Pecha Kucha session, presenters seem to stutter, utter many "ummms" and "ands" and run out of time. Informality shouldn't replace the need for preparation...or the presenter's message is fuddled or lost.

My students and I are exploring all of these aspects, and are in the process of creating some examples that might end up inspiring others to check out Pecha Kucha. Once we have something to share, I will be sure to post them in this blog. [Also, another instructional use I am considering -- so will keep you posted -- is providing students with a set of 20 images. Then, having each of them do their own Pecha Kucha presentation with that set of images. They can change the image order, say what they want, add a soundtrack, etc. (And, may I could allow them to change out up to five of the 20 images with something else, or add elements to the existing images.) I think it would be fascinating to see how different -- or similar -- each student's presentation ends up.]

A suggestion if this post has encouraged you to look into Pecha Kucha. Instead of only relying on online videos of Pecha Kucha in action, see if there is a Pecha Kucha Night in your area. I recently attended Pecha Kucha Night in Denver, and found the experience insightful in terms of understanding how the format plays out. I also enjoyed connecting in a live, physical space with like-minded practitioners...all interested in design and creative expression.

Note: Also see my short article in PerformanceXpress on the topic.

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