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Pecha Kucha: Are you up to the challenge?

by Tahira Majothi on September 13, 2010

Last week I attended Vitae’s 2 – day Researcher Development Conference in Manchester. It was an indicator of the interesting times we have ahead of us, with examples of best practice in supporting researchers, discussions on the future of funding revenues and innovative new ways of supporting the research community (in the current climate) very much on the agenda.

The conference was a great opportunity to network, there were so many appealing workshops but alas so little time; it was very difficult to choose.  However one of the workshops that caught my attention was entitled ‘Pecha Kucha: a different style of presenting for public engagement’.

Pecha Kucha is the Japanese word for chit chat. It was devised by two Tokyo based architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham Architecture in 2003. The Pecha Kucha was devised to help speakers cover a topic in a concise yet engaging manner.

The Yorkshire and North East Hub of Vitae decided to incorporate the Pecha Kucha presentation as part of their traditional public engagement poster competition. They found that they were able to broaden the appeal of the competition as candidates were able to elaborate on their research, in such a way that they were not vying for attention with the visual images on their slides. The slides were set to 20 seconds each by the organisers.

This meant that timing was crucial, as you were unable to revisit a slide, or restart a slide. Being too slow highlighted poor preparation and talking too fast meant there were gaps in delivery whilst waiting for the next slide. The success of Pecha Kucha lies in its ability to eliminate ‘waffle’ and focus arguments regardless of the topic. This is done best by weaving an attention grabbing story in a creative way that highlights your passion for your subject.

So how does it work?

  • 20 PowerPoint slides (mainly visual, minimal text)
  • 20 seconds permitted for each slide (use automatic timer under PowerPoint Animations)
  • Total time: 6 minutes and 40 seconds

The beauty of the Pecha Kutcha is that you can use it to deliver a presentation in a variety of settings and cover more or less any topic of choice such as work, pottery classes, club/society memberships, musical tastes, architectural influences, improving the aerodynamics of trucks, the optimum temperature of pasties, or what you do on weekends to name a few.

If you’re intrigued and want to find out what all the fuss is about, visit the Pecha Kucha site. There are now Pecha Kucha nights taking place in over 230 cities around the world, if you fancy having a go, why not check the website for inspiration and then try putting together a presentation using an online stopwatch. How did you fare?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Victoria Sheppard September 17, 2010 at 1:12 pm

this is a useful summary of Pecha Kulcha – I had head about it but wasn’t sure of the details. I wanted to go to this workshop but it clased with one of the other 14 on offer at the conference! It would be great to get some sort of Pecha Kulcha competition going at Salford – maybe something for next year’s PGR conference? (SPARC 2011)


Tahira Majothi September 17, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I really felt enthused after this workshop, Victoria. The Pecha Kuchas (PK) by Liberty Horner (on Pork Pie Pastries and shelf life) and Almajd Alhinai (on Aerodynamics of heavy road vehicles) were great.

Both presenters were really funny and engaging, I think they really enjoyed the simplicity of the process and the delivery style was much more fluid and creative. Afterwards we were put into small groups, and I’m afraid as we were nervous ( I know, happens to the best of us :-) ) we ended up choosing fairly ‘safe’ topics such as ‘How to organise a conference’ and ‘What I do on weekends’. The execution however was so much fun. It does translate, regardless of the weightiness of the topic!

Maybe we can follow Vitae’s North East and Yorkshire’s (Hub) example and use it alongside the Poster competition or as a workshop? This year’s SPoRT programme looks great, thank you for all the hard work that went into co-ordinating it


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