PECHA KUCHA? YOU BETCHA!
I received my first initiation into the world of Pecha Kucha here at the Wolfsonian-FIU last evening. I had been asked by a colleague if I might be interested in presenting something on a topic related to our new Speed Limits exhibition, and I had agreed before knowing anything about Pecha Kucha and its unique format.
“Pecha Kucha” (a Japanese expression akin to “chit chat”) was coined to describe a gathering in Tokyo in February 2003. The event aimed at bringing young designers together in a venue where they could meet, network, and display their work in a public, social forum. The movement has since spread to cities all around the globe.
To accommodate large groups of attendees, the organizers devised a format that limited each participant to 20 images, each shown for no more than 20 seconds—thus ensuring that no presentation exceeded 6 minutes and 40 seconds. As I learned last evening, it is a demanding format that forces the participants to be concise and to the point—something I would liken to shifting from free verse poetry to the haiku.
Last evening’s event, organized with Pecha Kucha Miami and intended to complement the museum’s Speed Limits exhibition, was a thrilling first. I had created my own Powerpoint display with the sole aim of showing off more of the Wolfsonian’s library and museum collection related to the theme of “speed.” With lots of images of streamlined trains racing forward and Futurist airplanes flying across the screen, I found myself hard pressed to keep to the 20 second limits per slide, but did my best by adopting a speedy rhythm of speech that would have made an auctioneer proud!
Over the years, I have attended my share of library and history conferences where presenters have done little more than read abbreviated versions of long papers in a monotonous drone. I too have sat helplessly squirming in the audience while a presenter has rambled on long beyond their set time limit with no one daring to “get the hook.” Although I had originally been skeptical as to how much content one could impart in a 20 seconds per slide format, I was happily surprised at how much the participants had been able to “show and tell” about their projects in so short a time space. The audience that had gathered for the evening appeared to share my new-found respect for Pecha Kucha, as I did not hear any impatient sighing or witness the all-too-customary fidgeting in chairs that events with multiple presenters often provoke.