Pecha what? That was my reaction. I took Japanese in university but it's all rusted away into nothingness so I had no idea what this term meant. Turns out it's just a coined phrase meaning something like 'chit-chat.' It did come out of Japan but it's spread all over the world. Anyone with something to say is experimenting with this sort of intense presentation approach.
Functionally Pecha Kucha is a pretty cool idea. You might find it similar to the Ignite method (there's a discussion of it on Presentation Zen).
It's like speed-dating for presenters. You have a finite amount of time to tell your story in as compelling a way as possible.
- 20 slides
- 20 seconds a slide
- 6 minutes 40 seconds to deliver your presentation
Underpinning the idea is a belief that:
1. presentations have a finite length - this is good because our attention spans are finite
2. presentations are for presenting - they are not texts. They are intended to support a speech.
Communications is about persuasion. I want to bring you around to an idea, equip you to do something or just think differently. It seems to me then that communications, whether social or otherwise, is really all about marketing. And marketing is about making a pitch.
I learned this in investor relations. I would use video, slide motion, cool graphics... anything to keep bums in seats. I also found that, after 20 minutes, all those brilliant MBA-holding investment banking types would tune out, their notebooks would close and the muted clicking of Blackberries would intensify. We had lost the audience.
I did a little research and found out that the average fund manager or institutional investor sits through at least two of these presentations a day. In places like Zurich fund managers never have to buy their own lunches - they just go to investment roadshows. I guess it's kind of like sitting through a time share pitch to get a cheap vacation.
Many presentations fail to capture the audience in the first place. You don't even have a chance of losing them 'cause you never had them. Your presentations bore them.
In the old days before motion pictures, people traveled from town to town giving 'magic lantern' presentations. People like adventurer Richard Haliburton would talk about exotic places and voyages and illustrate their lectures. That's right, illustrate. No bullet points, no graphs, no text in 4 pt. Pictures to help them tell a story. That's what presentations are all about.
It's time to liberate Powerpoint. Watch Al Gore present in An Inconvenient Truth. Check out one of my favourite presentations... on strip malls (required viewing for all 905 dwellers). Come out to one of the Pecha Kucha nights (there's a group in Toronto). Make your own tight presentations.
I'm not shilling for Pecha Kucha nor am I advocating a purist world of 20 slide presentations. I'm just saying make shows that entertain and inform. Be a presenter. If your audiences wanted to read your presentation they would have stayed home. Give them something that was worth coming out for.