Learning Resources Bank

Using Pecha-Kuchas to help students to develop effective focused oral presentations.

PechaKucha is (so I’m told!) Japanese for ‘chatter’. PechaKuchas help students frame interesting informal talks. Designed by two Tokyo-based architects, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, PechaKucha limits presentations to 10 or 20 images.

Use a Powerpoint or Keynote template of 10 or 20 blank slides you pre-prepare with an automated 20-second turnover built in. The architecture of the talk is built in as each slide/ image changes automatically every 20 seconds. I usually restrict students to 10 images by 20 seconds each, which equals 200 seconds, or all up 3 minutes 20 seconds per presentation. (I use slightly longer durations for later-year students.)

The tutor’s role is to encourage students to rehearse, to try to go to the heart of a single matter they have chosen to research and present. Tell them they have 3 minutes 20 seconds, the normal limit of an attention span, to raise a key issue and show why we should care.

As a tutor, you are encouraging the students to think all the time about what’s best shown and what’s best heard, and about how much stuff can be processed by an audience in each 20-second block of hearing and seeing. On the ‘seeing’ side of the PechaKucha, this means using only an (authenticated) image or a tiny (referenced) text on slides and/or tiny bullet lists. On the ‘speaking’ side, I let the students refer to notes linked to each image, but NEVER to read something out aloud looking down.

Here is a journalist, Daniel Pink’s view: "Say what you need to say in [3 or 6] minutes and [20 or 40] seconds of exquisitely matched words and images and then sit the hell down. The result, in the hands of masters of the form, combines business meeting and poetry slam to transform corporate cliché into surprisingly compelling beat-the-clock performance art".