PechaKucha: Your Unofficial Exhibit


I only recently learned about PechaKucha, a non-profit organization in Japan that started as a way to give voice to designers and which has turned into the everyday person’s outlet to present, well, anything.  On a PechaKucha Night, as one of their presentation gatherings is called, a few presenters will show anything from their first grade art project to their latest high tech web design work and the only presentation rule is the 20×20 format: 20 slides of 20 seconds each.

The idea of public slide presentations is not new.  In fact the gatherings remind me of TED (despite the statement on the PechaKucha website that they’re nothing like it) though unlike TED presenters PechaKucha presenters can be anyone of any age without requirements of expertise.  The Nights take place in cities around the world and they are arranged by local organizers.

What reasons do we have to care?

Finally, your gallery exhibit!  What’s really good to fathom is that one of these gatherings could be your outlet to show the work you’re passionate about.  You can finally show your paintings to a live audience and talk about what inspired you to make each piece or you can show your latest website design and tell the audience about the challenges involved.  You can even share your photos from that amazing trip your friends keep asking you to stop talking about no matter how cool you keep telling them it was.

It can be very rewarding to show others the work to which you dedicate so much of yourself but also it may be that someone in the audience really likes your cake decorations and decides to hire you to do their wedding cake.  The same could happen with your design work or flower arrangements or anything else you do.  In a way the presentation could lead to self-promotion although that is not the intention behind the gatherings.

On a different note, the 20×20 format cuts down the length of presentations – anyone who’s ever had to sit through a slide show knows that shorter is better.  Often presenters go on and on and turn a potentially interesting presentation into torture, squeezing full pages of information on slides and reading straight off the slides for what feels like a whole day.  When restricted to the 20×20 format presenters must better organize their presentations and in the worst case scenario audience and presenter only have to go through 6 minutes and 40 seconds of a bad presentation.

Then there is the social element.  One line that caught my attention on the site was “there’s nothing social about social networks.”  So true.  Instead of sitting alone at home with their computers, putting up their presentations on Facebook, people can get out to show their presentations to a live audience and to talk about their projects after they speak as they mingle with the audience.  They might even find people who are actually interested in their projects and want to know more, as opposed to virtual “friends” who are probably more interested in seeing their own updates about their trips to the refrigerator.  The gatherings take place anywhere the city organizers choose such as a bar, a restaurant, someone’s house or yard and so forth, and though the site doesn’t specify this, there might be an entrance fee to events depending on where they’re held (I found out by clicking on events’ links).

The PechaKucha format’s not all that special but…

Anyone could have come up with the 20×20 format.  In fact Ignite, another gathering for slide show presentations, has a 20 slide x 15 second format and there are other slide presentation gatherings with their own formats.  Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist who’s sat through hundreds of slide presentations, suggests using 10 slides x 20 minutes x 30 point font.  You could come up with your own 10×10 or 8×12 or whatever format.  What’s important is that some format be established to push presenters toward shorter and (hopefully) more interesting presentations in a professional or informal setting.

What is interesting about PechaKucha is that they went as far as to set up an organization and brand their gatherings, which seems to be one reason why they are becoming increasingly popular.  There’s no fee to use their trademark but to hold an event under their name an organizer must sign an agreement.  In this way the organization can limit the number of Nights in a given city to one and keep some sort of control over the types of events their name is used for; they certainly wouldn’t want to be associated with illegal activity for example.

It is definitely good news that this outlet is available to us all but I’ll have to wait for a presentation near me so I can find out first hand what it’s like.  If you’ve been to one of their “nights”, please let us know what you thought about it!


Freelance writer, translator and copyeditor currently living in Amsterdam. Former stressed-out marketing and public relations person in NYC. Likes languages but really doesn't like flowers. Contact through GreenRabbitTranslations.com.

Discussion

  1. Jeremy Englert on the 28th May

    Cool article, but you have one point wrong.

    When it comes to Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule, the 20 stands for 20 minutes. Not 20 seconds.

    “It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. ” – Guy Kawasaki

    • Mike Vardy on the 28th May

      Thanks for pointing that out, Jeremy. It has been corrected.

      With all the focus on PechaKucha and its “seconds” – the minutes never seem to linger too long!

      Again, thanks for your feedback!

    • Ana da Silva on the 1st June

      Thank you for pointing out my mistake Jeremy! There was a whole lot of seconds and minutes during my research.

      @Mike: Thank you for correcting for me!

      By the way, has anyone used or seen someone else using the Kawasaki “method”?

  2. Luce on the 28th May

    Sounds really interresting!

    By the way, nice one:
    “to virtual “friends” who are probably more interested in seeing their own updates about their trips to the refrigerator ” hahaha

    • Ana da Silva on the 1st June

      Hi Luce!

      I’m glad you liked :)

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