PechaKucha is a special presentation format that was developed in Japan in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, two architects working in Tokyo. For the PechaKucha (pronounced: “petschaktscha”, Japanese for “chit-chat”) you use exactly 20 slides which you present in 20 seconds each. Each presentation lasts exactly 400 seconds or 6:40 minutes.
Advantages of PechaKucha
PechaKucha undoubtedly offers several advantages to the common, often lengthy presentations. The strict timing helps to focus on the most important statements only. Adequate preparation and some training will help you to stick to the time limit. However, this should not tempt you to squeeze 20 findings onto 20 slides. It is more appropriate to summarize one aspect per slide, similar to an elevator pitch. On the next slides you can discuss important aspects of this knowledge in more detail. Create simple (instead of complex) images. Anyhow, you are forced to get to the point quickly.
You can increase your impact by including short breaks, since they help to slow down the pace of your presentation. This way your audience will have more time to reflect on content. You also stand out from the crowd of speakers who rush through their presentations with a lot of content in a short time.
Images and text on slides
Speakers and slides complement each other perfectly at PechaKucha: As in every speech, your statements are in the spotlight. Illustrations underline what has been said, taking up an equally important part of the presentation. Due to the time limits, it is best to only use photos or simple graphics, without words or at most with a short sentence on the slide. This way you avoid the infamous “Death by PowerPoint”. The following slide shows the opposite example, revealing several weaknesses even without a time limit.
- It is heavily overloaded with eight pictures. Instead, I recommend one photo completely covering the slide. It is self-evident that microscope pictures should be as large as possible (at the highest possible resolution).
- The images do not reflect the natural order as shown by the model on the right. The viewer first has to elaborate on the spatial relationship of the images. If these are placed in spatial relation to each other, the vertical sequence e11 – e10 – e8 – e2 (from top to bottom) is the best choice. For a PechaKucha presentation, four slides, each with a picture in the appropriate order, would be advisable to avoid rushing through the presentation.
- The slide is text-heavy. However, the speaker is able to present it much faster in his own words. Arrows or markers in the photo may explain and underline important characteristics. In the audience, only the front rows are capable of reading font size 12. Technical literature recommends a size of 18-24 pt, and 28-36 pt for the title. In PechaKucha we better limit ourselves to one word or a maximum of one sentence per slide.
- The speaker may display the title of his presentation on the first slide without repeating it. The additional information at the bottom of the screen does not provide any useful information but rather overloads the slide.
Structure of the PechaKucha presentation
The sheer amount of information may easily overwhelm your audience. Those people following the presentation attentively are exposed to a high stress-level – a sensory overload. For this very reason, PechaKucha presentations promote a critical examination of the content shown. This is precisely why your major target is to entertain and inform your audience.
As in any presentation, PechaKucha requires a clear structure in terms of content. Short and crisp introductions will get your hypotheses to the point. In the middle part you prove or disprove them by discussing a maximum of three important aspects. Depending on scope, you can also extend single aspects to several slides. It concludes with a slide that visualizes your core message, or that prompts your audience to take concrete action. If your speech is followed by a discussion, you can also ask open questions yourself. Alternatively, you may invite your audience to an open discussion during the following break.
Potential of PechaKucha for scientific content
I can only recommend the PechaKucha events to anyone interested in an entertaining form of knowledge transfer. A growing number of conferences inside and outside science are using this format to share interesting information within 400 seconds. They provide new food for thought on a wide range of topics. Although they will not replace the classic speeches, lectures and keynotes, they add value to the existing formats and inspire people to come up with new ideas. Last but not least, PechaKucha is a suitable format for sharing old and new scientific findings with non-scientists within a short period of time.
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