14 Aug 19 / Blog

Drowning in data? Try pecha kucha!

So what is a pecha kucha presentations?  Let me first start with ‘why pecha kucha’.  For decades, TV producers have relied on high impact visuals to tell their stories.  Remind me of the last time you saw a bullet point graphic appear on your regular TV news bulletin?  I’m thinking you’ll say, ‘Never!’  So why should you subject your presentation audiences to text-dense slides that distract from your message?  Images and graphics will tell a story more clearly than any deck full of bullet points and text ever can.  And if you’re consider a data visualisation, then a bright, clear, visual presentation with lots of imagery is how you’ll win your audience over. 

The ultimate data visualisation presentation

So how about moving the dial and considering the next level of visual presentation?  Pecha kucha is a visual storytelling format that makes efficient use of language for a memorable and impactful presentation.  The pecha kucha format allows you present 20 slides, each of which you deliver in 20 seconds.  So your pecha-kucha presentation lasts for exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  And your slides move forward automatically. You don’t click through your presentation, it’s on a timer. So it’s almost as though you have a visual movie playing as you speak.  This means that the format obliges you to keep the words accompanying each slide to just 20 seconds.  So you’re automatically delivering a clear, concise message.  

The impact?  Your audience listens to you in a completely different way. Because the slides are changing before their eyes, you’ll notice that your audienace gives you their full attention.  They’re listening for what comes next.  And if you can use beautiful, interesting imagery, you’ll immerse their senses to get them involved in your presentation more deeply than you could ever imagine.  Of course, you need to consider your content just as you would any other presentation.  But with a pecha kucha, you’re accepting the constraints of the format to offer an immersive storytelling experience to your audience.

Advice for a great pecha kucha presentation

  • Be brief.  The slides advance quickly.  Twenty seconds is not a long time.  For most slides you have a sentence to make your point. 
  • Avoid text on your slides if possible. Or use at most a word or phrase. Text ties you down, because as long as it’s on a slide you have to read it.  And you might need to be flexible in the moment.  
  • It’s a snappy format. High impact.  So you have the opportunity to make a small number of key points. For most presenters, that’s a maximum of three points. For some pecha kucha presenters, that’s one point in more depth.  
  • If you’re delivering in person, then forget about the first slide.  You’re busy taking to the stage and bowing in the face of all that audience applause. You have no time left to say anything that matters!  Unless you’re delivering virtually. In which case, that first slide counts twice as much.  
  • Breathe.  Just because it’s a time-limited format doesn’t mean that you ditch the rules on a great presentation performance. Pace is important. If you race off at high speed, you’ll leave your audience behind.  
  • Rehearse.  The slides advance without you. They’re on a timer.  So get clear on your message and rehearse what you’re going to say in advance.  That avoids that tumbleweed moment of dead time as you stand there waiting for the next slide to appear. Or the feeling that you need to speed up and race off without a breath to keep pace as the slides take on a life of their own.
  • Rehearsal is easy! At least easier that for other formats.  The average pecha kucha presenters rehearses five times. That takes less than an hour. Anyone can find an hour to rehearse!  And if you rehearse once every day for five days, so much the better. 
  • This is a great format for data visualisation.  If you want to tell a story with data, then pecha kucha forces you to think creatively and visually.  

A twist on pecha kucha

Or if you’re really up for a challenge, why not try an Ignite talk?  It’s another snappy visual storytelling format. The rules for an Ignite talk are 20 slides of 15 seconds duration – 5 minutes in total!  Same idea, different timings.  Here’s an Ignite talk from creativity speaker Scott Berkun with advice on giving a great Ignite talk:


data visualisation talk

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