Learning from Pecha Kucha Night

May 27, 2009

Pecha Kucha CLeveland Vol 2You can show 20 slides or images. You may spend no more than 20 seconds per slide. No more than 20 presenters speak.

Those are the basic rules for Pecha Kucha Night, devised by architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet and showcase their work in public. Pronounced something like peh-CHAWCH-ka, the phrase is from Japan and means the sound of conversation, or chit-chat. Pecha Kucha Night now appears regularly in over 100 cities worldwide.

I went to the second and third Cleveland installments. New and old lessons for all types of presenters abound:

  • It’s easy to tell who has rehearsed and who has not. If your script, your slides, and your delivery flow as one, you will be regarded highly. Come with your “A” game. Prepare.
  • If you use no script and you speak from the heart, you can do as well or better than most. Audiences can sense passion. Just watch your timings, because 20 seconds goes by in an instant if you are on a roll about one particular point.
  • Designers design in solitary environments. Colors and font choices that look great on a work computer can look terrible to an audience of 300 on a too-small screen. Whenever possible, scope out your venue before you present. Design for maximum reach.
  • Arrest the audience with something wonderful to look at. This particular series discussed works of art based on perjorative language and African American history. Powerful messages matched with powerful images.
  • Tell stories. Ben and Greg of Ben and Greg’s Renegade Lunch Project shared anecdotes while photos of people dining and stark urban landscapes flashed behind them. Neat.
  • Audiences want to be be moved, not sold. Come and present your standard pitch deck for prospective clients and you will turn your audience off.
  • Get out and have fun. It’s an electric environment at PK Night. How often do you get to go a venue where an audience is eager for speakers and their slides, and presentations elevate to levels of art and poetry?

For Cleveland’s series, the ticket price has been zero. Free. (Beer and wine available at a fair price.)

Check your local listings here.

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