As a conference architect, I am continually looking for new and engaging ways to deliver content in conferences and some of you will have heard and maybe even experienced a pecha kucha session.
It’s a Japanese concept and it’s a great way to add some freshness to your programme. If you haven’t come across it yet, in a nutshell, it is PowerPoint led – but only pictures no bullet points – with slides moving on automatically every 20 seconds. There are 20 slides making a total session length of 6mins 40 seconds. And the speaker has no control!
So in truth (besides the use of PowerPoint) it’s pretty far away from your standard speaker controlled 30min presentation: and how we need to see the back of this as the backbone of our conferences!
I’ve placed pecha kucha sessions into several conferences including EIBTM, The UK Association Congress and Tech-Fest. Overall they all went down really well and in many cases were picked out as highlights by attendees. And of course, everything they were performed wonderfully by very brave speakers.
So here are my top tips to make sure you get the most out of any pecha kucha session:
1. Every speaker should, of course, be well briefed by the conference architect, but you have to brief your speaker even more precisely if they are doing a pecha kucha session.
2. If you are presenting you have to ensure you aren’t trying to condense your ‘ usual/normal’ 30mins presentation into 7mins.
3. Even though you have 20 slides don’t be tempted to try and make 20 points. You should still try to make only 3 – 5 points.
4. Pecha-Kucha bans bullet points so if the organiser wants to give slides to the audience the speaker should provide information in another format to be disseminated.
5. Beware of cultural differences. I’ve had an Englishman, a German, an Italian and a Scot do these sessions and they all had their peculiar take on the session. More on this if anyone contacts me for a funny story or two!
6. The format is still quite new so ensure that the chairman or the organiser introduces the concept to delegates before the conference and especially before the sessions take place. I always start my introduction with: “The next set of speakers are very brave…..”
7. Traditionally pecha kucha doesn’t include time for questions and I think in some instances it should. Maybe pecha kucha max with 3mins 20 seconds of Q+A would work well.
8. Running three sessions together fits nicely into a ‘traditional’ 30min conference slot.
9. They can be used exceptionally well for sponsor or exhibitor product or service presentations.
10. One of the best uses is as a teaser to a longer session run later in the day. The tease can deliver the ‘key’ general information for all with the longer session drilling down into the detail.
11. Make sure you brief your chairman as this upswing in tempo has to be well managed.
12. Both speaker and organiser should learn how to schedule slides in PowerPoint before the session.
13. Although it’s only seven minutes as a speaker you will have to prepare for longer than you would for a usual session!
You don’t have to be a conference architect or to be heavily involved in meeting design to make the most of Pecha-Kucha. You should definitely try these and other types of sessions in your conference programme if you want to add a bit of flavour.
They may not be right for every conference you run or for every topic but the more we all move away from the traditional 30min style lecture the more success we will have in delivering truly engaging and interesting learning.