Pecha Kucha is a concept devised by an architect in Japan fed up with boring presentations. It has forced a rethink on approaches to public speaking that transcend the delivery of content-rich seminars and has become a global phenomenon. Though not directly transferable to every scenario, it does help force greater engagement and emotional connection. Its beauty is the focus it offers, even to those less naturally gifted at addressing an audience. I still use video playback with preachers learning to be comfortable with their use of body language and intonation, but Pecha Kucha drives style on the fly.
Essentially, Pecha Kucha (which means ‘chit-chat’), involves a talk structured around twenty slides each used for twenty seconds (and wouldn’t some people love sub-seven-minute sermons?!) The idea is to use pictures and a bare minimum of text to ‘think story’ in presenting each concept or its sub-components. Even for the usual use in longer time frames, the timely spark of well-placed pictures is enormously helpful in facilitating emotional engagement and punchy delivery.
Key words only. Visual engagement. Of course, these are what Powerpoint presentations ideally do, anyway, to serve rather than prop up. Many a presenter has, however, invested so much into their visuals that their slideshow becomes their message, rather than a tool to enhance it.
I once used this Pecha Kucha technique without realising it. I told a personal and relatively emotional story using a series of pictures and then moved to key concepts that flowed from it. A public speaking consultant who was present and identified himself later said he was personally engaged and interested in the responsiveness of people who sought prayer afterwards. He identified my technique as this revolutionary Pecha Kucha method as if I had somehow used it on purpose, when this was actually a pure coincidence. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the need for even greater intentionality in using creative or poignant visuals to offer an engaging focus.
I took the attached photo when I was away in Sorrento earlier this year and called it … ‘holiday brain’! It allows me to introduce the concept of choices we make with our unstructured time and to hook people to the purpose of the story and what it illustrates. Not all photos will have the same effect and some are mere illustrative pictures. A series of photos or keywords can sometimes be used sparingly but might spark an inspirational moment or identify a new trajectory. (Besides, a picture often does tell a thousand words).
I certainly don’t use this technique all the time. Its beauty is in its creative difference. Every presentation needs to consider its emotional impact for optimum effectiveness, but for some moments or topics more than others. Pecha Kucha best helps by disciplining and directing such impact. So, apart from considering copyright implications of images used, just about any speaker can adapt this approach to communication to double their impact by thinking in terms of stories and atmosphere with newfound intent.