Learn How To Get Over Your Fear Of Pecha Kucha

by drjim on January 17, 2012

Don't let the strange name keep you away from this presentation style…

Don’t let the strange name keep you away from this presentation style…

So how hip and cool are you? If you are both hip and cool, then I don’t even have to tell you what “Pecha Kucha” is because you already know. If, however, you are like the rest of us, then you might be scratching your head right about now and saying something like “I’ve never heard of it and, by the way, how do you even pronounce that?” I’ll answer your questions in reverse order. It’s pronounced “Paw-Chalk-Ahh-Cha”. Now what it is will take just a bit longer to explain…

Live Life Fast – Say Hello To Pecha Kucha

So here’s an interesting question for you: how did the last meeting that you attended in which the presenter used PowerPoint (or KeyNote for the Mac users out there) go? I’m willing to bet that it didn’t go all that well: boring slides, boring delivery, and it was probably just waaay too long. There are no clever presentation tips that are going to change this around.

The world has been dealing with this situation for quite some time now. What seems to have happened is the arrival of the ability to project a slide onto a wall has allowed “slide abuse” or perhaps I should say “audience abuse” to run rampant. Despite the importance of public speaking , the number of slides that presenters use in a vain attempt to get their point across has grown almost out of control.

The problem isn’t with the presentation software that they are using. Rather, the problem is with how it’s being used – or really overused. What we all need to do here is to take a step back and try to recapture the benefits of public speaking – we need to see if we can come up with a better way of doing this stuff.

I think that we can all agree that when we are giving presentations, less is truly more. The real question is, how much less? One slide? Two slides? 100 slides? Oh, and then there is the issue of how long we should be talking for. Some of us could go on for hours even if we only had a single slide. Hmm, if only there was some way to standardize all of this stuff. Perhaps Pecha Kucha can show us the way…

How You Can Use Pecha Kucha To Become A Better Speaker

Good news! There is, sorta, a standard for how we can improve our presentations. Now right off the bat, I need to tell you that this novel approach is not right for every presentation; however, it’s at least worth a consideration when you are asked to give your next short presentation.

The presentation technique is called Pecha Kucha. It’s designed to allow a fair amount of information to be delivered quickly. There are only two rules involved when you are giving a presentation using the Pecha Kucha technique: you can only use 20 slides and you can only spend 20 seconds on each slide. Do the math and you’ll realize that your presentation is only going to last 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

I can already hear some of you starting to complain: “No way, my material is too important to fit into that time period.” Hmm, maybe it is. However, the real question is what are people taking away from your presentations? If they aren’t getting out of your presentation what they need to be, then perhaps it’s time to consider making a change in how you are delivering the information.

What Pecha Kucha can do is to turn any presentation into a dynamic flow of information. 20 seconds is not a very long period of time. You are going to be unable to use slides stuffed with lots of words. You are going to have to trim your speech down so that you can get one point across per slide. You’ll only have 20 slides to work with so you are going to have to be crystal clear about what the point that you’re trying to make is.

Using the Pecha Kucha presentation format is not an easy thing for those of us who are used to taking our time to get our point across. It’s sorta like changing over from jogging to running a 1 mile race. Sure you can do it, it’s just that it’s so different that it’s going to cause you some getting started problems. Take the time to use this new way of presenting once and then you’ll be able to make the determination as to if Pecha Kucha is a presentation style that you should start to use more often.

What All Of This Means For You

If you liked the world the way that it used to be, sorry about that. Things change and we all have to change along with them. The Pecha Kucha presentation style has arrived and things will never be the same.

This presentation style is not right for every presentation that you might be asked to give (thank goodness!) However, its popularity should be sending all of us a clear message: our audiences are tired of having to use their listening skills and still ending up being bored. They want us to get up there, tell them what we have to tell them, and then move on.

Use this message to speed up both the flow of your speech as well as any multimedia that you use in it. Next time you have a chance to give a presentation, consider bringing Pecha Kucha to the meeting!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: What types of presentations do you think that Pecha Kucha would not be appropriate for?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When somebody asks you to give a speech do you start thinking about the PowerPoint (or Keynote for you Mac users) slides that you’ll have to create? Do you ask the person how long the speech needs to be just in order to determine how many slides that you’ll need to make? Stop! Maybe it’s time that we all take a step back from the keyboard and those books about PowerPoint presentation tips and instead spend a moment thinking about when it’s appropriate to use PowerPoint – and when it’s not!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard I. Garber January 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Jim:

An excellent post. There’s nothing sacred either about the total time of 400 seconds, the time per slide or the number of slides. The 300 second, 20-slide version with 15 seconds per slide is an Ignite talk. Scott Berkun has an excellent video on how to give one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRa1IPkBFbg

The 200-second, 10 slide version is called a Presto: http://joyfulpublicspeaking.blogspot.com/2011/05/presto-200-second-presentation-with-10.html

Richard

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Dr. Jim Anderson January 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Richard: thanks for providing the extra information. Clearly there’s a real need for “Pecha Kucha” like presentations and we shouldn’t get too hung up on the various time limits — pick the version that works best for your presentation.

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