PechaKucha is a dynamic presentation method developed by two Tokyo-based architects as a way to maximize the exchange of ideas while keeping the audience’s attention.
Problems and Purpose
PechaKucha is a dynamic presentation method developed by two Tokyo-based architects, Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, as a way to maximize the exchange of ideas while keeping the audience’s attention. Given less than seven minutes, each presentation consists of 20 Powerpoint slides which, given that this method is mostly used by the creative arts community, typically consist of images and, in some cases, videos.
The name ‘PechaKucha’ comes from the Japanese ペチャクチャ meaning ‘chit chat’. PechaKucha as a method should not be confused with PechaKucha Nights (PKNs) which, while using the presentation format, are actual city-wide events with designated organizers. Usually held yearly, there are over 900 cities with ‘registered’ PKNs. The ‘registration’ process is informal – called a ‘handshake’ by Klein and Dytham – and is renewed yearly. It is expected that there is only one official PKN per city but anyone can use the format as long as they clear it with the official group or if they simply borrow the method for their own event.
The method was designed as a way to draw people to what might typically be thought of as ‘dull’ or ‘dry’ presentations. Powerpoint slides are notoriously ‘bland’ so Klein and Dytham created PechaKucha Nights (PKN) as a way to capture the attention of young designers and architects. The method is also useful in many other contexts including academia since the high presenter turn-over rate allows for a large number of people to both share their own ideas and hear those of others. As the creators put it: “architects talk too much! Give a microphone and some images to an architect -- or most creative people for that matter -- and they'll go on forever! Give PowerPoint to anyone else and they have the same problem.”
The creators also note that, since its creation, PKN has filled an important gap in the public sphere – short of getting published in a magazine or having enough pieces to display in a gallery, most young artists (or any graduates, for that matter) have no where to share their work. PKN provides the perfect answer since it can be set up anywhere and, given its short format, participants can range anywhere from the complete amateur to the experienced academic.
Origins and Development
The first PechaKucha Night was held in 2003 at Klein and Dytham’s “gallery/lounge/bar/club/creative kitchen” SuperDeluxe in Tokyo. Since then, over 900 cities have taken the ‘handshake’ with the creators and set up their own PKNs often held yearly. Pecha Kucha as a method has most likely been held in thousands of contexts but, since they are not specifically allowed to be advertised as PKNs without the go-ahead from their city’s official organizer, it is difficult to get an exact number. As the creators make clear, this method can be used anywhere, anytime – they give the example of a family get-together when numerous relatives want to share holiday photos.
How it Works
An important aspect of the PechaKucha format is it's simplicity. The youngest presenter is recorded as being 5 years old which the oldest was 69. The participant selection method can therefore be tailor to the focus or theme of the event itself rather than the methodology. For example, PechaKucha was recently used during public consultations on Melbourne’s ‘Future 2026’ comprehensive long-term municipal development plan.
PKNs can be held anywhere and the creators note that, since their development, PKNs have taken place in “bars, restaurants, clubs, beer gardens, homes, studios, universities, churches, prisons (disused), beaches, swimming pools, even a quarry!”
While the number of presenters depends on the size of the event and the organizer’s intentions, the PechaKucha method stays the same. Each presentation consists of 20 slides set to advance automatically every 20 seconds to allow the maximum number of speakers while leaving time for audience interaction between sets. Owing to this unique format, PKNs have become known as the “20 x 20” method for their 20 slides for 20 seconds.
One of the important features of the method is hinted at in its name ‘PechaKucha’ which means either ‘chit chat’ or, more literally, “the sound of conversation.” This method is very different from the one-way Powerpoint presentation common in most office boardrooms. It is meant to excite reaction and to encourage a dynamic performance from the presenter, one that gets the audience excited about their material while also imparting a large amount of information.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The success of the original PechaKucha, while not officially documented, is obvious – just a year later the method had already made its way to Europe and, as of May 2016, over 900 official PKNs have been held across the world.
While it is impossible to determine how far reaching the method has become, it’s likely that PechaKucha has or will be used in all contexts where Powerpoint presentations or other speaking events have been organized. In Australia, the PechaKucha method was used in service of a larger public consultation initiative which was ultimately successful. The PechaKucha was held alongside 30 other public engagement innovations such as design hacks and pop-up events. The topic, urban perspectives on future growth and development, demonstrates the method’s versatility.
It’s rather telling that the method has not changed since its first inception – its simplicity is perhaps its most lasting feature. By keeping each speaker to under 6 minutes, organizers can choose to maximize the number of speakers or, alternatively, use the extra time for more audience interaction. This makes the method perfect for deliberative contexts where a lot of information has to be presented while leaving time for group discussion.
As well, the visual nature of the method is likely to keep audiences more engaged. While Powerpoints tend to get mired in bullet points and large amounts of text, each slide in a PechaKucha is meant to be more of a talking point or a visual stimulus for the speaker so as not to distract the audience from the information being imparted.
The one downside to the method also stems from its brevity: presenters are encouraged to prepare thoroughly before hand lest they be cut off when their slide changes mid-sentence. However, if mastered, the PechaKucha can be a powerful tool for deliberative innovators.
“Frequently Asked Questions.” PechaKucha, http://www.pechakucha.org/faq.
GDC Team, “How to Make Great Presentations With Pecha Kucha.” Global Digital Citizen Foundation, https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/how-to-make-great-presentations-with-pecha-kucha.
Richard Edwards, “Pecha Kucha in the Classroom: Tips and Strategies for Better Presentations.” Remixing the Humanities, The Weblog of Richard L. Edwards, https://remixhumanities.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/pecha-kucha-in-the-clas....