How to plan, present, & survive a Pecha Kucha style presentation
Pecha Kucha (PK) is Japanese (ペチャクチャ) for “chit-chat” and is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total).
The format keeps presentations concise and fast-paced. This in turn powers multiple-speaker events, while keeping the interest level up. The short format gives more people the chance to present. A close relative of the PK talk is the Ignite style talk in which presenters are given 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds, for a total of five minutes.
Review the video below to learn how to pronounce PK, and learn more about the style. To cut to the chase…click here to listen to recordings of the pronunciation.
I first learned how to pronounce PK from Kelly Chandler Olcott as she used the following video to illustrate the correct pronunciation. In future work, my own pronunciation will follow the video below, but while trying to flatten the tone each time. Regardless of how “correctly” you pronounce PK, you’ll most definitely have people look at you quizzically when you suggest it.
I’ve given countless PK style talks (example & example), facilitated sessions including PK talks, and include PK/Ignite talks as an assessment device in my classes. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in PK presentations. In this post I’ll share my tips, tricks, and lessons learned from these experiences. Keep in mind that for every rule for a PK talk, I see someone break the rules and do something magical.
Preparing your slide deck
As you develop your slides for a PK presentation, keep in mind that the format should utilize images more than words. As a result, I strive for primarily images with very little (or no) text on each slide. Large, dramatic images that will capture the attention of the audience are a great strategy as you create a narrative with your words. I recommend reviewing this post to learn more about the images that you choose and use in your PK slides, and general PPTs. You might also check out Unsplash, Flickr CC Search, Compfight, and CC Search as you search for Creative Commons licensed content to use.
If you do include text on the slide, keep in mind that the audience is also “on the edge of their seats” in your presentation. Allow them to focus on the words on the screen as opposed to the words coming out of your mouth. Alternatively, you can explain to them exactly what you want them to focus on in the text. Please also consider how to use presentations and PPT docs to get the most out of the audience…and hit your objectives.
Keep it simple. Don’t include transitions. Don’t include slide animations, or callouts. The more things you add in to make it fancy become the things that delay and derail your presentation.
The best way to prepare your slides is to use Microsoft Powerpoint. As a lover of Google Slides this pains me…but Slides will only let you automatically transition after 15 seconds. You can set up your Powerpoint slides to automatically advance by clicking on the “transitions” settings, and clicking the button to have your slides advance every 20 seconds. Make sure you don’t click that option to advance on the “mouse click.” There’s nothing more aggravating than getting rolling in your PK talk and realizing that the first slide isn’t advancing automatically…and then having to restart. I know from experience. :)
Preparing what to say…and how to say it
As I prepare for my sessions, I generally identify a story, or narrative across the slides and my time. For each slide, I identify a point, or key idea I want to make for that slide. In the development of the slide deck, I make sure there is a visual cue that will help me remember the point that I wanted to make on that slide. Between the intersection of the larger narrative of the presentation and the points per slide, I generally can map out the trajectory and guidepoints to keep me focused. If it’s not clear to me, I adjust the slides to make sure I’ll have those guidepoints in my head as I present.
I do not recommend writing a script for this presentation style. I definitely do not recommend bringing a script in to the session with you to present. In my own experience, I know the general story that I want to tell, and the specific words don’t matter. I’ve had colleagues bring in their script and stare down at the cue cards in the talk and it creates a disconnect with the audience. A script is also problematic if/when you have glitches with timing in your presentation. If you miss a transition…then you’re feverishly trying to read the cue cards to get caught up. Also…if you have a script and cue cards, it’s probably a sign that you’re trying to squeeze too much in to the format. :)
Last, but not least…practice. This is one of the common themes on this PK guide from USC. In my own preparation I run through the slides numerous times in my head as I’m developing…and then reviewing them. It’s also a good habit to let the slides run and advance in Powerpoint to see what the timing will look like.
Actually presenting it
When the day of reckoning comes…relax. Have fun. You’ve put in the work up to this point. You know your content. Now you just need to get up there and make it happen. There may/will be technology or glitches out of your control. Nothing will ever be perfect…and that is part of the art form. Remind yourself that is performance, and presentation.
In my experience the audience is as nervous as the presenters. The audience usually doesn’t know what to do (cognitively) with the presentations. There is so much information, so much to see/hear and consider that they don’t know where to focus. There is also usually a buzz in the air as this is something new that is unexpected. In larger sessions with multiple PK speakers, we usually direct the audience to “just take it all in.” We provide breaks in between sets or themes of speakers to give them a chance to debrief.
Practice for practice sake
If you want to play with the medium, and challenge yourself or your students, you can play with PK. Known as Powerpoint-Karaoke, or BattleDecks, these are PK sessions in which you do not know the slides that are coming up. The slide decks are chosen/compiled at random. The speaker may know the theme, or nothing at all before they begin. It’s the ultimate in thinking on your feet.
One tool that I love to use with colleagues and students is PechaFlickr by Alan Levine. This wonderful tool has you start by adding in a search term, and then scraping Flickr for images. These images are pulled into a presentation file that is set up to automatically advance for each slide. This tool is tons of fun, and it has you focus on the content and your cognitive flexibility. :)
Next slide please…
Now that you hopefully have a better idea of what PK is…get out there and do it. The best way to learn how to do it is to just get started. You can review the links in this post for more ideas of what you’re in store for. I also recommend this post by Catherine Cronin as you’re searching for more guidance.
Get out there and have fun. :)