Here are the four Pecha Kucha presentations that EventCamp East Coast participants experienced on November 5, 2011. They were followed immediately by small group discussions to cement and broaden the resulting learning.
Traci Browne: A journey inside the mind of a conference producer.
While preparing to emcee my Pecha Kucha session at EventCamp East Coast next week, I thought it would be useful to collect together in one place my scattered posts about the Pecha Kucha format, as well a video of one of the Pecha Kucha presentations I’ve made. Enjoy!
Last week, at Event Camp Twin Cities 2011, I emceed my third Pecha Kucha session. So I’m sharing what I’ve learned about organizing events with multiple consecutive Pecha Kucha (or Ignite) presentations. (If you’re thinking—What’s Pecha Kucha and why is it cool?—read this post first.) I’m going to gloss over information about venue selection and marketing, since these are pretty well covered on the global Pecha Kucha site. Instead, I’ll concentrate on some of the lesser-known but important issues that arise when you use this popular format to educate and entertain.
PowerPoint or Keynote or both?
The first logistical question any Pecha Kucha organizer faces is: What presentation software to use? The Wintel/Apple debate may have lost some of its fervor over the last few years, but in the world of presentation software it’s alive and well in the popularity of both PowerPoint and Keynote. Unless you’re running a session at a school or organization where all the presenters have access to the same software, it’s unfair in my view to restrict presenters to only one of these products. While PowerPoint has greater market-share, Keynote is more likely to be used by the creative types who tend to populate Pecha Kucha presentations.
This means, of course, that you’ll need access to both software packages yourself. So you’ll have to use a Macintosh, since that’s the only platform that runs Keynote. If that’s the case, I recommend you build the single multi-presenter presentation in Keynote, which I consider the superior software for Pecha Kucha-style presentations.
Selection criteria for presenters
If your presentations are to reflect the interests and variety of a community, I suggest you provide relaxed criteria for selecting presenters. Creating and practicing a Pecha Kucha presentation is a significant amount of work. I am reluctant to impose my selection criteria on what people offer to do. If you receive many more offers of presentations than you can accommodate, then schedule multiple sessions and populate each one with a somewhat consistent set of presenters.
Pecha Kucha templates
To create a uniform look, it’s important to provide all presenters with templates for your session. These typically will include twenty two slides in all:
An opening slide containing event logo and presenter and/or topic information;
Twenty “blank” slides; and
A closing slide with presenter contact information.
I like to provide a visual indicator of time passing on each of the twenty slides, and use a translucent circle that moves from left to right in twenty seconds along the bottom of the screen. I do not remember whom I stole this technique from, but it works well and is appreciated by presenters. Here’s a link to sample Keynote and PowerPoint templates that use this technique.
Make these templates available several weeks before the event. Creating a good Pecha Kucha takes time. The quality of your session will suffer if presenters have to rush to create and practice their presentations. Since the templates are large, upload them, together with a set of instructions, to a file-sharing site and send your presenter the link.
A word about fonts
Tell your presenters not to use obscure fonts in their presentations. Why? This may cause ugly font substitution effects if the computer on which the master presentation file is created does not have a font the presenter used.
Before the session
Before the Pecha Kucha session, you must round up all the individual presentations, convert them (if necessary) into the chosen software format, check them, and merge them into a single large presentation. Don’t underestimate the time required to perform these steps. It’s easy to be stymied by a late presenter, omit a slide component when converting, or delete one of the many slide auto-transitions. For a set of six presenters, I’d allow several hours to do a careful, accurate job. I tell presenters that their presentation is due ten days before the session. Send reminders a few days before the due date, and follow up immediately if any are not received on time. Invariably, one or two presentations will be late, but at least the rest can be converted, checked and merged into the master file while inveigling the tardy.
How to merge multiple Pecha Kucha presentations into one master
Here’s the procedure I use to merge multiple Pecha Kucha presentations into one master file. Start with an appropriately renamed master copy of your Keynote template. Next, decide on the order that the individual sessions will be run. How you merge each individual presentation into the master Keynote file depends on whether it’s Keynote or PowerPoint.
It’s easy to merge an individual Keynote presentation into the master file.
Switch to Navigator View of the individual presentation, and click on one of the slides in the slide view
Select all (Command-A) the slides and copy (Command-C) them.
Switch to the master presentation and click on the slide right before where you want to insert.
Paste (Command-V) to insert the entire individual presentation into the master file.
As you might expect, merging a PowerPoint presentation into the master Keynote file is more complicated, and there are more opportunities to make mistakes.
Begin by adding a blank copy of your presentation Keynote template into the master Keynote file, using the technique described in the previous section.
Copy the presenter supplied text on the opening title slide and paste it into the corresponding slide in the master Keynote presentation.
Click on the first of the twenty PowerPoint presenter slides and carefully select all the elements on the slide, except the animated timing circle.
Copy your selection, switch to Keynote and paste into the corresponding Keynote slide in the master file.
Click on the animated Keynote circle and choose Bring to Front from the Arrange menu. If you omit this step, the moving circle may not be visible when showing the slide.
Repeat the above three steps for each of the twenty presentation slides.
Finally, copy the presenter supplied text on the closing title slide and paste it into the corresponding closing slide in the master Keynote presentation.
Since the above processes may take several hours, be sure to frequently save your work!
Add a title slide for the entire Pecha Kucha session to the front of the completed master file. Also add a black slide at the end for the production crew to display when the final presentation is over.
Testing the master presentation
Once you’ve created the master presentation it’s time to test it. To avoid font and hardware problems, use the computer that you will be using at the event.
Testing the master presentation requires constant attention for the entire duration of the presentation. Check that:
The presentation pauses on each presenter’s opening and closing slides.
You’ve copied all slide elements correctly from each of the twenty slides in the individual presentations.
The presentation auto-advances every twenty seconds on each of the twenty presentation slides.
You have only one animated circle moving on each slide.
The animated moving circle is visible on each of the twenty slides.
In your instructions, emphasize that practicing the session is important. Even if the presenter knows their content well, discovering what can be said in the twenty seconds before the current slide advances takes time. Multiple run-throughs will help presenters learn to recover from the inevitable minor slips that occur.
It’s an art to match what you say with the twenty seconds each slide is on the screen. Like most art, one’s skill improves with practice.
As with every presentation, poor sound can severely impact your Pecha Kucha session. If any of your presenters have included sound in their presentations (yes, it happens) you will need to arrange to mix the sound output of the presentation computer into the sound system for the event. Presenters should use a wireless lavalier (preferred) or wireless handheld mike so they are free to move about during their presentation. Ideally, use three microphones (for the emcee, the current presenter, and upcoming presenter). But you can get away with a single handheld microphone if that’s all that’s available.
Think about how you will introduce each presenter. The approach I like, much appreciated by audiences, is to ask each presenter to write a short poem about themself. So far I’ve employed the haiku (4 line) or cinquain (5 line) forms—you can obtain a description of these online. I encourage presenters to be creative and/or amusing with their poems. Tell them not to worry about following the precise formal poem structure. At the event, the emcee slowly reads each presenter’s poem out loud before she starts.
Other miscellaneous tips
Budgeting Pecha Kucha sessions is not complicated. Unless you’re holding a for-profit event (which requires, incidentally, a minimum donation of $200 to the PechaKucha organization) you are normally aiming to cover your expenses. These are chiefly venue rental and A/V services. If you are serving drinks I suggest you employ a cash bar. Your income can come from an event sponsor or a modest door charge.
If you’re holding a Pecha Kucha session at a conference, consider reserving time right after the presentations are over for the presenters to lead small group discussions of their content. Allow about thirty minutes for this, and suggest that audience members can move between groups as desired. We did this at Event Camp Twin Cities 2011, and it was very well received.
Finally, if at all possible, video the entire session and have someone take photographs too. Upload the movie to a video-sharing site. And photographs provide a great memento for presenters and good content for advertising your next event.
Other Pecha Kucha organizers out there: what tips do you have for organizing a Pecha Kucha event? Please share your experiences and advice in the comments.
Want to see my 6 minute 40 second Pecha Kucha presentation Face The Fear—Then Change Your Conference Design! given at EventCamp Twin Cities on September 9, 2010? If so, download this PDF and then open the recorded stream (8 hours and 48 minutes!) of the entire event. Don’t worry, you don’t have to watch the whole thing! Simply move your cursor into the center pane (the one with my name and smiling face) and drag the progress bar that appears to the 6 hour and 27 minute mark. You’ll be able to watch me give the talk in the small inset window, while following along with the slides in the PDF.
P.S. If you’d like to watch any or all the seven Pecha Kucha sessions, here’s a list of them, together with the haiku(!) written to introduce each presenter. Scroll the progress bar to the time indicated to watch.
Adrian Segar: Introduction to Pecha Kucha – (5 hours 36 minutes)
Elling Hamso on “Event ROI for non-believers.”- (5 hours 41 minutes) Elling Hamso San, bringing profits to events, the ROI guy.
Brandt Krueger on “PowerPoint SchmowerPoint: Formatting Presentations for the 21st Century.”- (5 hours 49 minutes) A/V, presentation pro, Knows how to coil a cable! Brandt Krueger, Geek Dad.
Lara McCulloch on “Stories, Sagas & Fables.”- (5 hours 56 minutes) She loves to build brands, Lara McCulloch-Carter, by telling stories.
Lisa Qualls on “#EventsThatLast.”- (6 hours 4 minutes) This is Lisa Qualls, Wife. Mom. Biz Owner. Loves sports. Happy to be here.
Lindsey Rosenthal on “Give Your Event a Charitable Makeover!” – (6 hours 12 minutes) Lindsey Rosenthal, I plan events and fundraise, Love to meet you all!
Greg Ruby on “Foursquare for Events, Exhibitions and Destinations.”- (6 hours 19 minutes) Sexy Greg Ruby, He is a FourSquare addict, Support Group he needs.
Adrian Segar on “Face the Fear-Then Change Your Conference Design!”- (6 hours 27 minutes) Adrian Segar, Beginning his fifth career, Now designs events!
Have fun watching!
What do you think of the Pecha Kucha format for event sessions? Did you find the fast pace and short presentations refreshing? Should we have squeezed in some time for questions and answers?
If you’ve registered for EventCamp Twin Cities as a remote attendee (it’s free!) you’ll be able to watch a live stream of a little piece of Conferences That Work streamed live. I’ll be running a personal introspective from the comfort and convenience of your web browser of choice on Thursday, September 9 at 4:15 p.m. EST. This will be the first time I’ve ever facilitated a personal introspective with a remote audience, and I’ve added an experimental way for remote attendees to share the results of their introspectives online.
Actually, why restrict yourself to just my session? We have a great set of innovative sessions available to anyone who wants to join the remote audience. I’m also running a fast-paced Pecha Kucha session at 2 p.m. EST the same day, and the conference program is packed with other great content and formats. The organizers have bent over backwards to create a two-way experience for remote attendees; here’s an excerpt from the EventCamp Twin Cities remote audience page:
[You’ll be able…] to view the video stream and the slides from the main sessions, [and have] the ability to participate in the backchannel with on-site attendees and other remote attendees. The official Twitter hashtag is #ectc10. Also, there will be a hybrid moderator that will capture your questions and comments to share with the greater audience. And, we will be using PollEverywhere to allow ALL attendees (face-to-face and virtual) to vote via Twitter or their mobiles when speakers are asking questions.
In addition, Emilie Barta, the virtual emcee will guide you through the event and make sure that you are connected to the face-to-face audience. In between sessions, she will interview speakers, sponsors and attendees to add additional context to your event experience.
I may not see you at EventCamp Twin Cities (though I’ll be scanning and responding to messages via my Twitter feed throughout the event.) But I hope you’ll drop in and see me and the other wonderful people and sessions we’ve created, and interact with us too. Don’t miss this unique opportunity!
“Being architects and having been to countless lectures, we knew that once people start to talk about their work and have a mic in their hands they just go on about details forever…”
—Mark and Astrid Klein, the inventors of Pecha Kucha
To recap, a typical Pecha Kucha session at an event consists of around an hour of back-to-back presentations, each 400 seconds long. There’s no time allocated for questions during the session, and (unless people start throwing stuff) no participation during each presenter’s time on stage.
My defense is brevity. Because all presentations are purposefully short, I like to describe Pecha Kucha as speed dating for ideas. The Pecha Kucha design purposely and explicitly excludes formal Q&A during the session, with the clear expectation that presentations will spark dialogue outside the session.
In other words, unlike the claims of many a traditional presentation with an obligatory Q&A session tacked on the end, a Pecha Kucha event doesn’t pretend to provide an interactive experience. Rather, a single Pecha Kucha provides a rapid introduction to a topic, an idea, or an experience that acts as a jumping off place for stimulated viewers to start learning more via engagement after the presentation. A single fifty minute session can expose attendees to multiple powerful, interesting, and entertaining ideas and viewpoints, and leave plenty of time during the rest of the event for captivated individuals to seek out presenters for further discussions.
Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s why PK (Pecha Kucha) is OK.
Want to experience Pecha Kucha as applied to the world of event professionals? Then you owe it yourself to attend EventCamp Twin Cities next month (September 8-9, Minneapolis, MN) for our Pecha Kucha session, moderated by yours truly. Here are the scheduled presentations from a variety of event professionals!