Why PK (Pecha Kucha) is OK

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“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

I recently wrote about my enthusiasm for Pecha Kucha sessions at events. But there’s one aspect of Pecha Kucha, which, at first sight, seems to fly in the face of some of my exhortations in this blog.

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.

So, if I’m such a fan of participation during event sessions, why am I promoting a session format, Pecha Kucha, that doesn’t include any?

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 I like Pecha Kucha!

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!

Elling Hamso on “Event ROI for non-believers.”
Brandt Krueger on “PowerPoint SchmowerPoint: The Next Generation of Presentations and Presentation Technology.”
Lara McCulloch
on “Stories, Sagas & Fables.”
Lisa Qualls on “#EventsThatLast.”
Lindsey Rosenthal on “Give Your Event a Charitable Makeover!”
Greg Ruby on “Foursquare for Events, Exhibitions and Destinations.”
Adrian Segar
on “Face the Fear—Then Change Your Conference Design!”

Pecha Kucha, not Ashton Kutcher

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Instead of going after celebrities to present at your next conference, highlight some stars amongst your attendees with a Pecha Kucha session!

Pecha Kucha is a dynamic presentation format that has spread globally since its invention in Japan in 2003. Think of it as a haiku for presentations – twenty slides automatically advanced, each shown for twenty seconds, while the presenter shares his or her passion about a topic. Because each presentation lasts just 6 minutes and 40 seconds, presenters are challenged to be concise, targeted, and creative—and you can pack eight attendee presentations into an hour-long conference session.

Oh, you have a question? You want to know how to pronounce Pecha Kucha? Don’t be embarrassed, everybody asks. Just watch this short YouTube video:

O.K., glad to have cleared that up. You can also incorporate Pecha Kucha into a social event at your conference by scheduling your presentations during an evening social, with food and drink available while the presentations go on. This is the format used at Pecha Kucha Nights, held in hundreds of cities all over the world four or more times a year.

It’s pretty easy to set up a Pecha Kucha session. Before the conference, you’ll need to explain the format to your attendees, promote the session, solicit presenters, and send them a presentation template. Have them send their presentations to you before the session. On the day, you’ll need an appropriately sized location with presentation-friendly lighting, a wireless mike and sound system, a schedule, and a screen, projector and laptop running PowerPoint or Keynote. Add an MC and a staffer for the laptop and you’re ready to go!

I’m a big fan of Pecha Kucha as a way for people to connect and learn in a fun, fast-paced environment. I’ve just signed a contract to run Brattleboro Pecha Kucha Night, and we’re working on holding a Pecha Kucha session at Event Camp Twin Cities this fall.

Want to learn more? Check out the hundreds of presentations available on the official Pecha Kucha website. (I especially like this one by Daniel Pink on Emotionally Intelligent Signage.) I also recommend you attend a nearby Pecha Kucha Night to experience the format firsthand. I think you’ll see how Pecha Kucha can liven up any conference.

Have you used or experienced a Pecha Kucha session? How did it work out for you and/or the attendees?