PechaKucha is the tough discipline that will improve your presentations. In this piece, communication coach Jon Torrens explains the common pitfalls which it addresses.
PechaKucha - harsh but fair for presentations
PechaKucha is a simple way to force presenters to improve. I run PechaKucha Cambridge, and on each night it’s easy to see who’s put in the work and who hasn’t. While the ethos of PechaKucha is to share a creative idea rooted in community, rather than a business pitch, it’s very useful for business situations. Here are some dreadful ways that speakers occasionally fumble the ball, followed by the key elements of a great PechaKucha which they should have used instead:
- It’s a sales pitch. Please, no; we don’t want to be sold to. Instead, we want your story, motivation, emotion, your ‘why‘. If you really want to sell something, please don’t come across as trying to do so, you’ll just turn us off by being too commercial, too keen, too desperate. Instead, show your passion! Show how your product or service benefits real people by using an actual story as an example. If people buy into your obsession with your concept, then they’ll be on board for a possible business transaction later. This more restrained and subtle approach could be seen as ‘British’ as opposed to the more direct ‘American’ approach. The ‘correct’ one, of course, depends on what’s most appropriate for your audience.
- The slides lead the presentation. The slides should be backing you up and illustrating your points, not providing you with your material. Rehearse! It’s so satisfying and reassuring to see a speaker refer to something which then appears on the screen, instead of the other way around. Once it becomes clear that you’re not relying on the slides, you strengthen your credibility. It takes work, but the reward of that work is definitely worth it. The other way of showing independence from your visuals (although not a PechaKucha technique) is to speak for longer than a minute without any change in the visuals. When you do this, you become more interesting than the visuals, and they become a backdrop to you (and you’re the real medium for your piece). This is subtle but very effective.
- It’s just too long. Keep it concise, keep it simple, keep it pure. I go on about this a lot but it drives me insane when speakers decide that more material improves their communication, because the exact opposite is true. If you can nail the pitch, presentation, phone call or meeting in only a few minutes, you are a hero, to be applauded. The PechaKucha format of 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide is ruthless but effective. It was created by some Klein Dytham in Japan about 14 years ago, whose architects were taking too long to describe their projects. Try it at your company (even if you’re a company of one, like me) and see what happens. You may find that your instinct rejects it because it seems too hard. Stick with it, though; push through and you’ll see something incredibly useful happen. You may need someone to help you, but it’s worth it.
“I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have enough time.” – lots of people
Discipline yourself in terms of quantity and duration, and then the essence of your information and message will be brought into focus.
By reducing stress and fear, I make giving talks enjoyable.
Using my experience as an introvert, stand-up comic and video games designer, I deliver short, fun but effective training to create successful, confident speakers. I work with both companies and individuals.
All my training is currently online. I can use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype.