Pecha kucha and the end of death-by-PowerPoint

While it is probably too much to hope that pecha kucha (pronounced peh-chak-cha) will revolutionize the way slideware is used in the classroom, instructors and students should know that pecha kucha is great for keeping slideware presentations focused and the audience’s interest up — arguably two of the biggest challenges facing PowerPoint presenters.

 

Like haiku or the sonnet, pecha kucha imposes a strict form on the content. In this case the medium is the slideware presentation. Presenters must show twenty slides — no more, no less — and show each slide for twenty seconds; again, no more, no less. This permits you a mere six minutes and forty seconds to deliver your presentation.

 

The 20 x 20 format is not meant to restrict so much as to force you to be creative and to stay focused on what’s really important. There is no time for digressions. The pace is quick. The presenters I have seen tend not to read from their slides, thus eliminating redundancy. They say what they have to say then move on the next slide, which is always only seconds away. The audience, aware of the format, anticipates the next slide change, and is never left wondering, “when will this end?” Discussion should come afterwards to allow the presenter to flow uninterrupted. When you’re done, podcast it. Blog it.

 

Preventing death-by-PowerPoint is only one of pecha kucha’s advantages. The concise and brief format also means you can also rethink your class time. What to do with the leftover time? This is a nice problem to have. Perhaps the best reason to try giving a pecha kucha presentation yourself is you will have to rework — and rethink — your content.

 

Pecha kucha nights are now held in major cities all over the globe. Participants can present on any topic. The events are social, informative, fun and frequently licensed. That people voluntarily attend events in which they sit through as many as 15 PowerPoint presentations speaks volumes about the effectiveness of the form. Many of the examples on YouTube are well worth a look.

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6 thoughts on “Pecha kucha and the end of death-by-PowerPoint

  1. While I do like the idea of the time constraints for each individual slide, I’m not sure about limiting the actual number of slides in the program. Those functions around the world you speak of could always put a cap on the number they want, but limiting the slides for, say, a student’s presentation in class would be detrimental to their grades. Imagine covering the Spanish-American War or China’s history in twenty short pages. You’re also talking about people who would want to get up in front of people to present, and who appreciate the challenge. What about a fictional student who hated getting up in front of peers and reciting a speech? A simple hesitation could cost them the time they need to get out the information they want to, and cause them to lag compared to their slides. I think that to use this with any success in a classroom, a couple of trial runs with the students would be a must. An example of the teacher doing one (on any topic at all) just to show them what they need to do would also help them out. In all, this seems to rigid. Being able to put constraints on these things is definitely a great idea, but being able to adjust those constraints would be an even better one.

  2. Good points, for sure. I really see the value of pechkucha as a way to get instructors to think differently about how to deliver content in the class. It might not be appropriate all the time, but as a student, listening to an instructor talk in 6 minute chunks (perhaps followed by activities after each chunk) is a lot more compelling than listening to them present an hour long powerpoint.

    Point taken about adjusting the constraints as needed–I totally agree. However, I think Pechkucha also forces students to narrow their topic into something manageable. Trying to present China’s history in 20 slides is almost as impossible as trying to do it in 4 months across 400 slides, wouldn’t you say?

  3. Since this post is one of the most popular ones on the blog, and has been receiving a large number of hits lately, I want to mention that it was written by my colleague Paul Razzell–we originally shared this blog shortly after it’s move from UBC. You can find more if his fine work at http://bcitltc.com

  4. I found this post interesting since I had never encountered the concept of Pecha Kucha before. In a university context Pecha Kucha could be more effective in maintaining the attention of students during lectures than the traditional slideware presentations that are currently used. I also like the idea of using Pecha Kucha to give lecturers more class time – perhaps this time could be used for practical activities to reinforce concepts covered in the Pecha Kucha presentation, since practical activities promote application of taught concepts (Knaup, Haux, Haber, Lagemann & Leiner, 1998; Bjork, 1994a). I was wondering if you had encountered any research that directly compares Pecha Kucha and traditional slideware presentations in an educational context?

    • Hi Emily,
      No, I’m not familiar with pecha kucha research for educational contexts, but it’s an interesting idea. Pecha kucha is really quite popular outside of education, but I still don’t see it being talked about much at the institutions that I have worked at since this was posted 2 years ago. I think that in addition to being a tool that is used to help think differently about how instructors use class or lecture time, it lends itself nicely to a student presentation activity where they are required perhaps to demonstrate application of taught concepts.

  5. Pingback: Limitations of dual coding in further education – focus on lecture presentations and ‘Pecha Kucha’ « Evidence-based Effective Education

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