Eight things I learned doing my first Pecha Kucha

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That’s me talking about my Lola. Thanks to @novelnessidiotish for the Instagram!


I was invited the other day to take part in an official Albany PechaKucha event at the Opalka Gallery at the Sage Colleges. (Thanks, Elizabeth and Amy!)

The idea is that you can give a presentation on anything, but it has be done with 20 slides and each slides must be shown for exactly 20 seconds. I decided to Pecha Kucha about what’s been on my mind as a writer — family, history, and mythology.

Here are eight things I learned:

  • 20 seconds is fast, but enough to get about 40 words, or four average-sized sentences said.
  • Practice. I didn’t practice enough — setting up powerpoint with timed images and going through what I wanted to say. I recommend doing that. I thought I’d be at a podium and could refer easily to my typed notes, but most people stood beside the projected image and just spoke. Some people had note cards, which seemed smart, as they could be flipped through smoothly. I had my text on 8-by-11 1/2 sheets of paper, and I didn’t want to be flipping through those.
  • Create expectations by setting up the transition. I had written out a text for each slide, and at a crucial moment — I spoke without notes — I forgot the transition sentence I had written and didn’t set up the next slide, which was an abrupt transition to a series of new slides.
  • The audience goes with the flow. You can make abrupt changes, and the audience will go with you. Maybe the Albany audience was super open and receptive, but perhaps everyone’s been in slog of presentations before and the format promises something quick and interesting.
  • One idea can be extended over multiple images. While some presenters had specific points to make with each image, others made one more complicated point over many images. Both approaches work.
  • Conclusions are satisfying. Some presenters (including me) wrapped up the presentation in a final slide with a variation of “and this is what it all means to me.” All of those kinds of endings are satisfying. One ending that was very satisfying was by the artist Michael Oatman, whose presentation was on his process of conceiving and creating a work of art and ended with an image of that work of art on exhibit in a museum.
  • Nothing beats enthusiasm. One of the best presentations of the night was also the first. Andrew Krystopolski reveled in being a fan of Polka music. He spoke with speed, clarity, enthusiasm and fun about how much he loved Polka, with photos of him at playing music, dancing, and meeting his Polka heroes — and even showing the audience his tattoos of the names of his Polka heroes. The presentation was fun, funny and from the heart. It showed Andrew to be not just a good presenter, but a wonderful performer and entertainer.
  • Earnest introspection also works really well. Stacy McIlduff’s presentation on the movies she grew up with and was influenced by — with each image being a still from a film — was interesting and earnest and also heartfelt. Her presentation felt brave because it was so personal and important to her.   

So would I do it again? Yes.

Do I recommend doing a PechaKucha? Yes.

Have you done a PechaKucha? What have you learned?


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