PechaKucha: The Art of the Concise Presentations

By John Rahmlow

Picture1PechaKucha: twenty slides, twenty seconds per slide, with the slides set to automatically advance to the next slide whether you are ready or not. When I saw this as a topic for one of the sessions at the 2011 Presentation Summit I decided that it was worth an hour of my time to find out more about PechaKucha.

My first thought was that it would be a great tool for developing presentation delivery skills, what I found out was that it does that and a lot more. The aspect of PechaKucha that took me by surprise was how effective it was in helping to hone my messaging skills. Developing a short presentation can take more time than developing a longer one because you have to be more precise and concise when you have less time. With PechaKucha, not only does your overall presentation have to be concise, each slide needs to be so as well.

The first, and only time so far, that I delivered a PechaKucha to an audience was at the 2015 Presentation Summit. I volunteered to create and deliver a presentation as part of the session at the conference because I had learned so much from watching others do it at previous Summits. It was while I was preparing to deliver my own PechaKucha that I learned how well it can help a presentation designer (content design, not slide design) learn to focus on each slide when creating a presentation. I have designed hundreds of presentations, however knowing that I could only have twenty seconds worth of content on each slide made this one unique. I wanted each slide to have a visual impact on the audience, and I wanted it to be something that they could understand quickly and once again focus on what I was saying.

Once I had decided on my content and created my slide deck, I started to practice delivering the presentation. This is Green light at pedestrian crossing lights closeup what I had originally thought was the benefit of PechaKucha, and I was not disappointed. Learning to control the pacing of my presentation so that the slide transitions matched (for the most part) what I was saying was difficult and rewarding. Too often we use the slides as an outline for our presentations, and PechaKucha forces you to learn your content inside and out, while at the same time helping you control the speed at which you deliver content to your audience.

When the time came for the session, the six of us who had volunteered lined up to deliver our presentations. Each of us had different strengths with regards to presentation design and delivery, and we were each looking to get different things out of volunteering. As an experienced presenter, I was focusing on having a clear message and smooth transitions from slide to slide. Other volunteers had little to no presentation experience; however, their slides put mine to shame, and they were looking for an opportunity to get a little experience as a presenter. During the hour, we all were able to get out of the session what we wanted, and that is one of the beautiful things about PechaKucha and PechaKucha events.

Pecha KuchaSample PechaKucha Event Posters

Yes, there are PechaKucha events, and there is even an international PechaKucha organization. You can find PechaKucha events in over 925 global cities, and I have heard that these events are well organized and a lot of fun. From what I have heard, the events are very different than some of the other, more formal presentation organizations. The nights typically have a theme, and the audience is out for entertainment and education, not to judge and critique the abilities of the presenters. These events often take place in bars and restaurants, and the casual atmosphere helps the presenters relax and helps keep the audience loose.

pechua goldJPGPechaKucha offers channels on their website which gives you a bird’s eye view of the creativity at work. Did you know that once a year on February 20th — the anniversary of PechaKucha’s founding — there are global events held to celebrate the proliferation of worldwide creativity, and the amazing connections started around the world? On the PechaKucha Global Night channel, don’t miss the enchanting video, “The Heroes Who Welcomed Me” by Luis Mendo. He shares his experiences in relocating to Tokyo and the people who helped welcome him to his new country.
Are you looking for a way to practice your presentation design and delivery skills? If so, consider PechaKucha. You don’t need a formal event to give it a try, you can create one on your own and deliver it in your living room. All you need is a desire to improve your skills as a presentation designer and presenter. It doesn’t matter what your slides look like or how well you present. What matters is your desire to learn and improve. Look for a local PechaKucha event, or organize your own. I think you might find out that the hardest part of PechaKucha is figuring out how to pronounce it.

About our author:
AAEAAQAAAAAAAAa6AAAAJDU0ZDczZDQ5LWFlYmEtNDZlMi1hODVlLThmYzFiYjJhZTUyMQJohn Rahmlow is a Retirement Planning Counselor in Vanguard’s Participant Education Department. His primary responsibilities include meeting with participants on a one-on-one basis and conducting group meetings on topics such as plan benefits, investment strategies and retirement readiness. Prior to becoming a Retirement Planning Counselor, John spent more than ten years as the Meetings Consultant in Participant Education. In that role, he was responsible for providing consulting and content design services for custom presentations for institutional clients. Before joining Participant Education in 2005, John was a team leader in Participant Services. John has been with Vanguard since 1998.

Rahmlow earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Delaware; a JD from Widener University School of Law; an LL.M. in Taxation and an Employee Benefits Certificate from Villanova University School of Law; and currently holds FINRA series 6, 63 and 26 licenses as well as the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor designation from the College for Financial Planning.

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