Pecha Kucha: How to Ignite Passion in Others with 20 Slides

2020Standing in front of a crowd for five minutes, with 20 slides, is a great way to communicate something you stand for.

Pecha Kucha (Japanese and derived from the sound of the ‘chit chat’) is the art of giving concise, rapid-fire presentations.  The presentation format involves 20 Powerpoint slides that autoplay for 20 seconds (20×20) in the background. The format was conceived by two architects in Tokyo who were tired of attending presentations where speakers didn’t get to the point. The format has become a popular worldwide ever since.

Topics for Pecha Kucha tend to be personal, persuasive, and passionate. The first Pecha Kucha Night (PCN) occurred in Tokyo in 2003, but Pecha Kucha events such as Ignite Minneapolis are hosted in more than 900 cities around the world. Organizers in some cities have added their own variations to the format. For example, Ignite Minneapolis includes 18 five-minute presentations. Each Ignite presentation includes 20 slides, but each only appears for 15 seconds (20×15).

Last year, I presented at Ignite Minneapolis on houseboat living (below) to more than 1,000 onlookers. The 600 square foot boat provides tight living for 2-4 people (and labradoodle). However, it also provides the highest quality of life I’ve experienced. Far better, in my opinion than the 3,500 sq foot house we shared before moving to the river. The point I wanted to share? Quality of life isn’t measured in square footage.

I was the first of 18 presenters. The experience was outside of my comfort zone. It was chaotic. It was unsettling. And, it was fabulous. That is why I brought Pecha Kucha into my MBA classroom at St Kate’s (St Catherine University in St Paul, MN) during the same month. Students prepared and shared Pecha Kucha presentations on a Navy Life, Life as a Twin, Beer Making, Robots in Fiction, Large Families, dating, caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and more.  Student’s feared the presentations going in and treasured them when it was all over. Everyone shared and learned something new and interesting about others in the classroom.

St Kate’s encourages students to active on social justice issues — and encourages instructors to integrate social justice elements into each class — so I plan to continue leveraging Pecha Kucha student presentations in the classroom with social advocacy and social justice in mind.   Pecha Kuchas provide clarity — which is something we all lack when it comes to social issues and our role related to them.

Pecha Kucha’s an ideal format for students to:  Clarify social issues they care about;  Advocate with peers by demonstrating  why matters; and  Describibe how they plann to make a positive difference in the world around them.

It’s a way to discover, and share, what they stand for.