Presentations in Exactly Six Minutes, Forty Seconds

It’s the Dogme 95 of PowerPoint. Invented in Tokyo in 2003 by a pair of architects, Pecha Kucha (pronounced peCHAKcha, Japanese for “chatter”) requires performers to present exactly 20 slides for exactly 20 seconds apiece. According to the official Web site, Pecha Kucha events have now been held in 100 cities around the world.

Like Dogme, Pecha Kucha’s restrictive rules are meant to free presenters’ creativity. Most of those who have adopted the form so far have been artists, architects, and designers. But Pecha Kucha has begun to attract interest from business presenters as well.

“Word of its success among artists and designers reached business types longing to make presentations interesting again.

One of these is Sébastien Meilleur, a training co-ordinator for the pharmaceutical industry.

Every year, his colleagues are bored to tears by a barrage of slideshows to keep everyone abreast of the company’s several projects.

Some of the presentations last an hour. As a result, most of his co-workers can’t sit through them all.

“Most people don’t have the knowledge to make something more interesting or interactive, so they go with death by PowerPoint,” he said.

“The Pecha Kucha format is perfect. It basically tells: ‘This is what I do and how I do it, and if you’re interested, come see me.’” …

To [Mitch] Joel, [president of digital marketing agency Twist Image,] Pecha Kucha will force people to obey what he deems the holy triad of great pitches: be brief, be brilliant, be gone. “It’s something all businesspeople could learn from,” he said.

In his Wired magazine story, Daniel Pink has posted a video of his own example Pecha Kucha. Take a look.

The value of the 20-second rule is apparent immediately: the speaker is forced to make every slide count, never lingering too long or skipping through any that turn out to be redundant or unimportant. It also forces the speaker to rehearse, have a single, concise thesis, and defend it with relevant examples.

One additional virtue, reminiscent of something else we’ve discussed before: images that complement the words spoken rather than simply reiterating them. The slides are examples, not a script.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 4, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Josh – If the problem is slides, the best advice is don’t use them. Appearing to be “speaking from the heart” is MUCH more effective than reading from a script. Most people’s slides are simply outlines of their script. Most of us are too lazy to do the prep work and rehearsals to pull off a speech without notes and without slides. Try it; you’ll be amazed at the results.

    John Redmond

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