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The Pecha Kucha format has restrictions: namely, 20 slides, on display for 20 seconds each. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. Because of this constraint every single Pecha Kucha presentation, regardless of speaker or topic, is exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds in length.
As per Felix Jung:
My Philosophy on Pecha Kucha TalksIn my opinion, Pecha Kucha isn’t the same as any regular speech or reading. To me, it’s a different animal, and falls closer on the side of performance.
While I’ve seen presenters read their talks from a piece of paper, rarely do I feel that these “readings” hold the same energy as someone who’s speaking and looking directly at the audience. I think Pecha Kucha talks should be memorized, and that the goal should be to walk up on the stage with nothing but your voice and your slides.
Ultimately, Pecha Kucha provides a place where speakers can share their passions and attendees can become inspired. But I’ll also argue that an unspoken goal of Pecha Kucha is one of entertainment. If you’re taking the stage to read from a piece of paper or a predefined script, that takes some of the fire out, I feel. That to me seems more like mere recitation than presentation – my two cents.
(practice makes perfect)
Practicing and Refining Your TalkWhile there are many ways to go about practicing, these here are the ones I found most useful. Your style may be quite different from mine, so use what makes sense to you. Use what you like.
The main mantra I hear when it comes to talks/speeches is: be comfortable/familiar with the material. So long as you’re familiar with what you’re going to say, you won’t be nervous.
I didn’t start practicing and doing dry runs until maybe 3 or 4 days before the event. In hindsight, I’d recommend starting to practice a full week before you hit the stage. I did pretty well, but feel confident that I’d have done a killer job had I only started practicing a little earlier.
Practice against a timed version. Depending on the venue, some folks may end up using Powerpoint, others may use Keynote. It’s pretty easy to import slides into either program and set a default transition time to 20 seconds.
If you don’t have a copy of Powerpoint or Keynote, consider downloadingOpen Office (which is free).
It’s essential that you practice your talk against an actual, timed version of your slides. In fact, I can’t imagine a scenario where you wouldn’t want to do this.
Practice standing up. While your initial test runs may be done sitting in front of your computer screen, as the event date nears… you’ll want to practice while actually standing up.
Position yourself next to the computer in the same way you’ll be presenting (either to the left or right of the monitor). Check with your event organizer to see whether you’ll be facing the screen, or if you’ll be facing the audience.
The closer your practice runs mirror the final event site, the more comfortable you’ll be when you take the stage.
If possible, hook up your computer/laptop to a projector or your television. Having your presentation on a larger screen also helps get you closer to the same setup as the actual event.
Look at various points in the room, when talking. A good speaker is able to make listeners feel included by making eye contact with audience members. While this may or may not be possible (depending on your comfort level), consider at least practice scanning the room as you talk.
Add in silence, remove “filler” noises. I say “uhm” all the time, particularly in everyday conversations. But I remember vividly how many of us (in high school speech class) would say “uh” or “uhm” or “like” as a silence filler, something that happened between sentences or thoughts.
Try to fight this tendency, as you practice. Making a sound like “uhm” is our way of signaling to others that we’re thinking, that we’re processing information. We do it so we don’t look like dumb-asses just staring off into space. It’s an audio cue to others that our brain is, in fact, working away.
But in a talk or speech, it’s disruptive and sounds a little clumsy. The more you can edit out these “uhms” and replace them with pauses or silence… the better your talk will sound. I promise you – they’ll make your transitions seem that much cleaner, that much more professional.
Let your slides do some of the work. One of the most important things I learned when practicing was that I didn’t need to fill in all the details. I didn’t need to give all the backstory – just enough to establish context, and enough to be able to make my point.
Remember that your slides can do a lot of your talking for you. As an example, let’s say you wanted to talk about your younger self, and your slide is a photo of you as a kid.
Instead of saying “This is a photograph of me when I was a child,” jump immediately to the point you want to make. When the image appears, assume that people will pick up much of what’s already in the photograph.
Compare a line like “This is a photo of me when I was younger” to something like:
“The third grade was the worst year of my life.”
“I fell in love for the first time when I was eight.”
“As a kid, I loved ice cream sandwiches more than my parents.”
Stronger, right? By letting your slides do some of the storytelling, you save a bit of time and can get to the heart of your topic/idea that much faster.
Leaping between slides. With only twenty seconds per slide, that’s not a lot of time to work with. One of the things I realized during my practice runs was that I spent a lot of time talking about how each slide related to the other. I felt compelled to fill in the space between slides, and felt like I needed to describe the transition from slide to slide.
Totally unnecessary. One of the greatest things here is that you’ve got the ability to make HUGE leaps, between slides. Realize that you actually have to do less work than you think. When you put two images next to one another, people will automatically connect them together.
A link will exist, without you having to outline why the two images are related. I encourage you to experiment with slide and image juxtapositions, to see what works and what you can get away with. Coupled with pauses, a big leap between slides can be very effective, and makes for a great transition.
Break your talk down into “sets.” If trying to do an entire practice run seems too daunting at first, try breaking down your slides into different sets. Instead of thinking of your presentation as a large chunk, you can likely see where there’s a start, middle and an end, and practice each segment separately until you’re ready to combine them.
Practice your talk while you have your iPod/headphones on. Ok, this suggestion is a little looney tunes. But if you want to really test how well you know your material and how ready you are… put in some headphones and play some music (very softly) as you try going through your talk.
With the music providing a bit of a distraction, you’ll be forced to concentrate even harder on your talk as you practice. If you can pull this off, and can go through your talk while having headphones on… you’re in great shape.
Run through your talk, first thing in the morning. If you want another really good test to see how prepared you are? Start up your computer or laptop right when you wake up. First thing in the morning, see if you can run through your talk, cold. If you can do that and are comfortable with how it turned out – you are definitely set.
Ultimately, how well you do with your presentation has everything to do with how much you practice beforehand. Many of you out there are way better at winging things than me, but I know that I need a lot of trial runs, a lot of rehearsals before I can get up on stage.
To me, practicing helps iron out all the technical things – the pacing, the delivery, the timing. And the more you practice, the closer you’ll get to just getting up on stage and talking with the audience. The more you practice, the less it becomes about mechanics… and the more it becomes about substance: your ideas, your passion, the things that inspire and energize you.
I’ll leave with this final thought: you can never practice too much. But you can definitely not practice enough. When in doubt, run through your presentation one more time.
Pecha Kucha, the Japanese term for the sound of conversation (“chit chat”) began in Tokyo, back in 2003. Conceived by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, their original goal was to create a space where designers could share their ideas/passions with others.
In order to prevent speakers from droning on and on, the Pecha Kucha format has restrictions: namely, 20 slides, on display for 20 seconds each. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. Because of this constraint every single Pecha Kucha presentation, regardless of speaker or topic, is exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds in length.
Examples of Peha Kucha presentations: http://www.pechakucha.org/watch
As per Felix Jung:
While portfolios are oftentimes a common topic of many Pecha Kucha talks, you shouldn’t feel like you need one in order to participate. People have chosen to share stories, hobbies, focused on an individual person or location, a particular creative project… it doesn’t really matter what your topic is at Pecha Kucha, so long as it’s something that’s of deep and sincere interest to you.
Remember that this is a fun project, and that you’re volunteering your time. If you’re not into the subject matter to begin with, you’ve just gone and made your job much, much harder, and unnecessarily so. If it’s not of interest to you, preparing for your talk will begin to resemble work – and nobody wants that.
In picking your subject matter, you should feel that you’ve got too much to say. If you find yourself struggling for material or trying to “make up” content to fill the void… well, you’re probably focusing on the wrong topic.
Here’s a good litmus test. Is the subject matter something you’ve argued passionately about with friends or colleagues? Have you stayed up late talking or thinking about it? If you were at a noisy bar, would you raise your voice to make a point on this topic? If you’ve answered yes, then you’re on the right track.
In the words of Pecha Kucha Chicago organizer Peter Exley, Pecha Kucha should be about “passion, not portfolio.” I think that’s a great insight, and a great rule for any talk.
Let me open by saying that I love computers, I love technology. But my recommendation to you, when starting your prep work, is to first look to low-tech tools: paper and pencil, notecards and paperclips.
The typical impulse will be to sit down at the computer and start designing out your slides. While this is definitely a fun portion of the process, I recommend that you fight this urge. The slides come after you’ve got an outline down. Know that if you start designing immediately, you risk wasting a great deal of time creating slides that may not end up in your presentation.
Me? I burned a lot of time at the computer, fiddling and tweaking. It was like spending time looking at paint samples when I hadn’t even figured out what kind of a house I wanted to build. It may feel good to just noodle around, but what you’re really doing is procrastinating the necessary first steps: getting an actual outline put together.
Maybe you’re more comfortable with capturing notes on a computer than I am. If that’s so, well then… more power to you. For me, I found that shifting to old school notecards and paperclips helped tremendously. I made a few attempts creating lists with text files and all that… and found that with actual notecards, I got an outline together pretty quickly.
I’d recommend working at a large table. The more room you have to spread out, the better. Having some music and a glass of water nearby doesn’t hurt, either.
For five minutes, sit down with your notecards and try to capture everything that comes to mind. Write down any topic or keyword, one per notecard. This can take any shape you want – a concept, a phrase, a particular photo or image that you’re thinking about.
Don’t bother counting your cards. Just concentrate on capturing every idea, and jot everything down. Write as much as you want, and just go until you run out of words. Don’t worry about organization (we’ll tackle that next), as this is the “brain dump” portion of the process. The goal here is to get as many ideas out of your head, and onto paper, as possible.
Now that you’ve got a large set of cards, you can easily do some organizing. First step? Group similar cards together. Break out some paper clips or rubber bands at this point, and match up similar cards that touch on the same idea or theme.
After you group your cards together, see if any group or set stand out. The more cards you have in a stack, the more you may have to say on that particular topic. If you’ve got an individual stack of 20 or more… you’re in luck! Maybe your entire presentation is somewhere inside that one stack.
After your cards are grouped, look through each one. As you examine them individually… are there doubles? Can you get rid of this card? With each one, ask yourself: Do I want to spend time talking about this particular idea/example? If you pause or are unsure, put that card in a “discard” pile.
The final goal here is to have 20 separate cards or groups of cards (one for each slide you’ll design). Once you have a group of 20, start moving them around and see if a particular sequence arises.
As you shift the cards around, you’ll start to see some underlying themes emerge. Certain groups of cards will make more sense next to others, and ever so slowly… a narrative will reveal itself.
I found that if I used three slides to touch on a particular idea, I had to be going at a pretty brisk pace. If I used five or more slides, it started to feel like a bit much (remember that 5 slides is technically 1/4 of your entire presentation).
Four slides felt, to me, just right. Enough to get into a particular story or idea, without feeling too rushed or too verbose.
Working on Pecha Kucha talks is a strange process. For most of us, the kinds of talks or presentations we do tend to revolve around gathering and organizing information we don’t have at hand. Think of an Economics class in high school, where you had to prepare a 5 minute speech on Supply and Demand. Lots of research, and a lot of information you needed to learn and memorize.
With your Pecha Kucha talk, the topic you’re discussing is something you already know, something you care about and have thought about a fair amount. The thing you’ll discover with prepping for Pecha Kucha is that it’s more about editing and deleting things, as opposed to coming up with new stuff.
Because the majority of your talk will be about things you know, revisions will actually be a synonym for deletion. As your organization process continues, you’ll start to see that there’s not all that much room after all. And as a result, only the good stuff should stay in.
I’ll touch on this during the Practicing phase, but I wanted to emphasize this point early on: just because your slides are in sequence, it doesn’t mean they have to be linear.
In fact, I would encourage you to leave gaps between your slides. Don’t worry so much about what you’ll say to transition from one slide to the next – time for that later on in the process. As you’ll see in the next sections, having places to pause in your talk, as well as having “jumps” between slides will actually work to your benefit.
Remember that we’re still in the notes and organization phase here. No need to stress yourself out trying to plan out the entire talk right now. At most, you should be looking for the loose threads that connect your cards together… and organize things accordingly. So long as those threads are there, you have a path (which you’ll better define later on).
as described by Felix Jung
Large images work best. I’m a fan of filling the entire workable space with an image. Assuming that there will be a large crowd in attendance, imagine being someone way in the back. It’s better that everyone sees the image on your slide, versus someone not being able to see it. For my money, an image can’t be too large… but it can most definitely be too small.Use as little text as possible. The more words on your slide, the more time the audience will spend reading (and not paying attention to you). A failing in 90% of all slides is the curse of too much text. Remember that the main focus here is youtalking, and the purpose of the slide is that it supports your words… not the other way around.
The slide should be an addition to, not a summary of, your ideas and concepts. I know it’s a hard thing to do, but fight the impulse to put all the points you want to cover onto the screen. Otherwise, you run the risk of turning your presentation into a speed-reading exercise for your audience.
No more than four images per slide. In my talk, I used a variety of images. Some slides were one large graphic, other slides were split into two tall, vertical images. And I had a few slides that were sectioned off into four images.
When I tried to address every image in the slide that was split into four… I found myself rushing a bit (and was barely able to hit each one). In the span of about 20 seconds, I’d say that four images is about as much as you can touch on, if you want to say something specific about each image.
Make things consistent. However you choose to display images, try to make them consistent, slide to slide. If you plan on adding in small “titles” to each slide, try to make the placement of these titles consistent. Use the same font for each title.
In designing your graphics, it’s oftentimes easy to get lost within each individual slide. Remember that these slides will be shown together, as a group. The more consistency there is, the easier you make it for your audience to see connections between the slides.
And on top of that (and perhaps most importantly), if you apply a consistent look and layout aross all your slides… your slides will automatically look that much more professional. I can’t stress this consistency thing enough.
A site that may be of some interest is Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog. In particular, I found two of his posts (What is good PowerPoint design? and Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic) to be pretty helpful/interesting reads.
If you’ve got screenshots or photographs to use, great. But if you find yourself wanting to fill in a gap or wanting a separate image to help highlight a point… there are numerous resources online where you can find quality images for your personal use.
Flickr: You can perform an “advanced” search on Flickr and specify only images that have a Creative Commons license (image attribution is often one of the requirements).Image*After: A large, free collection of photos. Images can be downloaded and used for both personal and commercial purposes.
Stockvault: A photo sharing site with images from designers, photographers and students. Commercial use is NOT allowed, but personal use or internal presentations is acceptable.
morgueFile: The site name refers to old files/notes kept by criminal investigators and newspaper reporters, for use as quick references. High-res images are available for personal and commercial use, so long as the image is altered in some way.
Pow!: A large collection/list of stock photography resources.
iStockphoto: Royalty-free images, available for purchase based on a “credit” system. Great quality, but you need to pay for the images (worth it though).
Gimmestock: High quality images for $1 each.
If you’re preparing early enough and you encounter an image you want to use – it never hurts to email and ask permission. Oftentimes though, getting a response back is a difficult and/or protracted affair, so make sure you send out those inquiries early.
I ended up sending out a lot of permission requests, and found it beneficial to have a standard explanation of both Pecha Kucha and my talk saved in a .txt file. That way, I could easily add in a summary of why I was asking for permission, along with my request.
I would recommend you not set your heart on one particular image that don’t have the rights to. Tracking down the appropriate person or department is a really slow affair, and even if you get the right email address… it’s out of your hands whether your inquiry gets a response. If there’s an image you absolutely must have, I’d recommend buying it from a stock photo site instead.
As a side note, I *think* that using images for a Pecha Kucha talk would fall underFair Use. But despite all the Law and Order episodes I’ve watched, I’m really not a lawyer. Maybe someone else who knows this better can comment on it? At the end of the day, if you’re unsure whether you can use an image or not – ask.
There are a variety of tools that can help students with their sharing their understanding. Click on an application name below to access its tutorials.