20 Slides, 20 Seconds: The Art of Pecha Kucha

20 Slides, 20 Seconds: The Art of Pecha Kucha
April 6, 2015

This article was submitted by Ali Ernest, Business Solutions Analyst at Park National Bank.

It amazes me sometimes the way that some of my coworkers go about creating a PowerPoint presentation, especially when the plan is to turn it into a Brainshark presentation with audio.

It is not uncommon for someone to cram as many words as possible onto a slide, and then record the slide word for word. To be honest, if I’m required to sit through a word heavy Brainshark presentation, I simply skim the slides and completely ignore the audio. If that is the case, what is the point of the audio at all?

Other times, I’ll just listen to the audio while I’m doing other things and ignore the slides altogether. Is it necessary to have all of that text?

Is there a better way to utilize the space on the slide while still recording meaningful audio?

I was sitting in my Research and Behavioral Theories class when I first heard the term “Pecha Kucha,” and I had no idea what my professor was talking about. This professor required us to give multiple presentations throughout the semester, each of which had different topics, time requirements and styles. As we were preparing our final presentations, he mentioned that we would receive bonus points if we used the Pecha Kucha format.

A Pecha Kucha is a presentation composed of twenty slides. The presenter spends only twenty seconds on each slide before the presentation automatically switches to the next slide. If we do the math, that makes the presentation exactly six minutes and forty seconds long – no more, no less.

My professor now requires this style of presentation for all of his classes, because it pushes his students to really think about what is going on each slide. Since the slides automatically change after twenty seconds, there ideally would be as few words as possible on each slide with the author relying mostly on pictures. That way you can easily transition from one idea to the next as the slides change.

If the slide has a picture and a keyword or two, it is easy to touch on those points and transition to the next slide. If you do not get the chance to mention something because you run out of time on a slide, the audience is not as likely to notice because you do not have a bulleted list of points for them to follow.

Ideally, you are simply talking for 6:40 and the slides are changing as you talk. And, since there are so few words on the slide, the audience is focused on what you are saying, rather than trying to read everything that is on the slide.

The next time you are creating slides, try doing so as if you only have twenty seconds to talk about each of them. Focus on images, and limit the number of words on each slide to create a more dynamic presentation. If you really think about the content on each slide, your audience will stay engaged and it will be a more meaningful experience for everyone involved.