The Pecha Kucha Format

    Posted on Tuesday, Sep 24, 2019
    This past May I participated in the inaugural Architecture & Film Symposium hosted by the College of Architecture. Unlike other conference presentations I did, this time I gave a Pecha Kucha talk on a Chinese period action-drama directed by Jiang Wen. This was my first time giving Pecha Kucha presentation, and I want to share with you some tips for preparing and delivering in such format.
    First, the word “Pecha Kucha” came from the Japanese word for “talking”. The format is that you have 20 slides to communicate your point and you only have 20 seconds for each slide. So the entire presentation is a bit over 6 minutes. The first thing to think about is how are you going to structure your talk. How much time you want to spend on explaining the background (especially for a topic that is not familiar to your audience), examples, and conclusions? Then you need to fit all the information in short or long sentences that can be finished within 20 seconds. I spent many times practicing beforehand, so I can have a perfect pace and still finish the words without losing my breath. Another important thing is to look at your slides, are the texts and pictures relevant? Can they supplement your talk? Can the audience absorb all the information on the slides within 20 seconds while still paying attention to you?
    Now that you have planned out your presentation, the next step is practice, practice, practice. In this process, you are likely to delete a lot of texts from your scripts, because usually our scripts are too long to read. Once you’re settled with the scripts, have your friends who are not familiar with the topic come and listen. Can they understand what you’re talking about? What’s missing in your logic? Or, on the other hand, are there too much information? You can only perfect your talk by having other people listening to it. It’s relatively short and informal, so it’s easier to have 2-3 helping ears.
    Many Pecha Kucha speakers I listened to did a great job “talking” instead of reading from their scripts. That indeed made them more engaging speakers. However, since it was my first time doing it, I decided to go with a script. The timing turned out perfectly and I was able to finish my whole talk smoothly within 20 seconds for each slide. Based on the feedback I got after the symposium, my audience were able to understand and appreciate my points, which gave me so much confidence for my future talks.
    If your department of professional organization have Pecha Kucha session in their conference, I high recommend you to consider such format for your case studies or demonstrations, basically anything that has a limited scope and can be communicated within a few minutes. It can be a good practice for first-time conference attendees, although compared to traditional “paper presentation” format, it does take an equal amount of time to prepare for (although it seems like Pecha Kucha needs fewer slides and text info).
    For those of you who want to listen to other Pecha Kucha presenters before try it yourselves, there is a local Pecha Kucha event series hosted by the College of Architecture’s Institute for Applied Creativity, and you can find their schedule and recorded previous Pecha Kucha events in Bryan at:

    ---Mingqian Liu
    Mingqian Liu is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Department of Architecture

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