Pecha Kucha is a global presentation phenomenon started in 2003 by Tokyo-based expatriate architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein. (Pecha kucha is Japanese for "chatter.") Pecha Kucha is an example of the changing attitudes toward presentation and a wonderfully creative and unconventional way to “do PowerPoint.” The Pecha Kucha method of presentation design and delivery is very simple. You must use 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds, as you tell your story in sync with the visuals. That’s 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Slides advance automatically, and when you’re done you’re done. That’s it. Sit down. The objective of these simple but tight restraints is to keep the presentations brief and focused and to give more people a chance to present in a single night.
PechaKucha Nights are held in more than 80 cities from Amsterdam and Auckland to Venice and Vienna. The PechaKucha Nights in Tokyo are hosted in a hip multimedia space, and the atmosphere on the night I attended was a cross between a cool user group meeting and a popular night club.
20 slides. 20 seconds of commentary per slide. That’s it. Simple. Engaging. Spurring authentic connections.
If nothing else, the Pecha Kucha method is good training and good practice. Everyone should try Pecha Kucha—it’s a good exercise for getting your story down even if you do not use this exact method for your own live talk. It doesn’t matter whether you can replicate the Pecha Kucha 20 x 20 6:40 method in your own company or school; the spirit behind it and the concept of “restrictions as liberators” can be applied to almost any presentation situation.
This method makes going deep difficult. But if a good discussion arises from a Pecha Kucha type of presentation, then it may work well even inside an organization. I can envision having college students give this kind of presentation about their research followed by deeper questioning and probing by the instructor and class. Which would be more difficult for a student and a better indication of their knowledge: a 45-minute recycled and typical PowerPoint presentation, or a tight 6:40 presentation followed by 30 minutes of probing questions and discussion? On the other hand, if you can’t tell the essence of your story in less than seven minutes, then you probably shouldn’t be presenting anyway.