3 Tips for a Killer PechaKucha

PechaKucha, the Japanese word for chit chat, is a presentation of 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds. (Total time is 6 minutes, 40 seconds). Because the slides advance automatically, the format forces speakers to be concise ... otherwise, they fall woefully behind their slide deck.

What I love about PechaKucha is that it encourages people to get right to the point -- and then move on. We've all heard speakers ramble on stage. They wander down one rabbit hole after another. Often they haven't taken the time to key in on their main ideas before the speech. As a result, their audience struggles to weed out the "tangents" and "asides." Before long, they're tweeting or texting on their cell phone. The speaker has lost them. 

How, then, can you give a killer PechaKucha? 

Tip #1 - LESS IS MORE - Long before you take the stage, you need to know the one or two main ideas per slide that you'd like to share. This takes time and, frankly, it's tough. But if you don't "do your homework," you'll try to cram in too much info. The result? You'll speak rapid fire and you'll lose your audience. You only have 20 seconds for each slide, so you have to be selective. Ruthlessly so. In the end, I encourage you to give priority to the "headlines" you want to share on each slide and, remember, less is more.

Find vivid photos like this one of fireworks in Singapore. My favorite source of pictures is Unsplash. [Photo credit: Nitin Mathew]

Find vivid photos like this one of fireworks in Singapore. My favorite source of pictures is Unsplash. [Photo credit: Nitin Mathew]

Tip #2 - COMPELLING IMAGES - The best PechaKuchas have powerful images. You can find quality, high-resolution photos here or here. These pics are free and have no copyright restrictions. They also have searchable databases so you can find the right picture quickly.  (I love these sites so much, in fact, that I get their weekly emails.) For your presentation, it's fine for some slides to have a single word, short phase, or compelling statistic. But your slides shouldn't be cluttered with text. No bullet lists. No dense paragraphs. No special effects. Instead, I recommend following the slide guidelines used in TED Talks. Essentially, big, moving high quality images that reinforce the point you're making.

Tip #3 - PRACTICE - This format is unforgiving because the slides move ahead whether or not you're ready. In the last PechaKucha I attended, 9 of the 10 speakers fell behind in their presentations. Meanwhile the slides, on automatic advance, surged ahead. Folks on the stage kept glancing back at the screen, flailing their arms, and stumbling on their words. They weren't sure how to get back on track. The audience giggled when the first two speakers fell behind; after that, the joke wasn't as funny. Now, no two speakers are alike, but I generally recommend running through this type of presentation (with your slides) at least 5 times before you deliver it. More if possible. You need to know the main idea for each slide, how to jump forward if needed, and what you're going to do (pause) if you get ahead of your slides.

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