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Special Feature: Pecha Kucha: a solution to the presentation pandemic

We’ve all been there; falling asleep as a lecturer drones on, yawning as a fascinating life story is told as a monotonous forty minute speech with fully four slides, texting instead of concentrating when a speaker waxes lyrical about his pet project using more acronyms than exist in the United Nations… Poor presentation skills seem to be pandemic. Technology has the potential to make public speaking visual, dynamic, and powerful, but so often it is used ineffectively, even detrimentally.

Take a look at Time magazine’s Top 10 Greatest Speeches, all of which are examples of speechmakers who moved and motivated with words alone, none of this new-found animated photographic pie-chart malarkey. It is very easy to spend hours deliberating over how best to animate a PowerPoint presentation; an almost productive procrastination from thinking about what actually to say. But can you imagine Winston Churchill dithering between a fade and a bounce?

Today, we may have the option to illustrate our ideas, but should we? How can we ensure visuals aid rather than detract from our ideas?

The answer: Pecha Kucha.

One of the myriad Japanese onomatopoeic phrases, pecha kucha translates best as ‘chit chat’, but this is no casual natter. Pecha Kucha events are all about being clear, concise and captivating.

Invented in Tokyo in 2003 by Dutch architects Astrid Klein and Klein Dytham of Klein Dytham to prevent their contemporaries from prattling on, Pecha Kucha gives a very simple but rigid structure to oral presentations. A speaker has 20 images of 20 seconds each (changing automatically) to deliver their address. With just six minutes and forty seconds to play with, delivery must be slick and well-rehearsed.

The concept started small, with the first Pecha Kucha Night in Tokyo staged for young designers to present their projects and network. It has since taken off globally – with events organized in over 700 cities. IMG_3427In Kansai we are spoilt for choice with events in Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and our very own Nishinomiya. On Saturday 22nd February I attended my first Pecha Kucha Night in Osaka, where the organisers were celebrating their fourth event and their first year on the Pecha Kucha scene.

The event was held at Trois Dix, a macrobiotic and organic restaurant in Shinmachi, near Shinsaibashi station. We were treated to ten presentations on diverse topics, with about half in English and half in Japanese (some including subtitles). Highlights came in the form of an education in whisky, which included generous samples of a Glenmorangie and homemade chocolates to bring out the citrus notes, and an incredibly enthusiastic café owner who wants to Japan to dance, dance, dance – and not just in matsuri [visit Hiro Nakanishi in Nara at Café Wakakusa]. What was particularly impressive was how the balanced 20×20 format and passionate speakers facilitated communication even for those listening to a foreign language. Only one presentation, which had huge visual potential, did not take advantage of the slides, which was a shame for non-Japanese speakers.

At a Pecha Kucha Night mingling is just as important as the presentations themselves, and at Trois Dix this was made clear by the two “Beer Break!” intervals, both of which were used to make new friends and followed by the official post-presentation networking hour. With a largely bilingual gathering it was an excellent opportunity to meet other globally minded people in the region.

The Pecha Kucha format has huge potential to deliver a strong message, entertain your audience, or simply introduce people to your hobby. It encourages the speaker to think about how they use visual aids to facilitate communication. I think this is particularly important in Japan where PowerPoint slides can often simply be a text version of the speech itself. On the Pecha Kucha website you can find many presentations in over 20 languages. As a demonstration of how to use slides effectively, and thanks in particular to their length, these slideshows have the potential to be great teaching resources, or simply a way for you to learn something new.


Pecha Kucha Kansai

Coming up this month is an event in Kyoto on 16th March, and next month the established Nishinomiya branch will celebrate its 20th event on 8th April.* I highly recommend attending one to meet new people and discover new things, and if you find you aren’t interested in a topic, don’t worry, by the time you’re back from the bar the next presenter will be speaking.


Pecha Kucha, freeing us from boring presentations.


For more information and to get involved visit http://www.pechakucha.org/ .


Charlotte Griffiths

*Prices vary between events; the night in Osaka was 1500\ including two drinks. Check event details before attending.



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