For the last four semesters (this one is the fifth) I let my students use a specific type of presentation: Pecha Kucha Presentations. The name is derived from Japanese and means something like „chit chat“. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that it is a very good exercise for holding presentations. The most important thing that occurs to me: self restriction.
Who does not know presentations that let you shake your head in disbelief because the presenter talks too much or not enough about a topic. Or he/she is not able or willing to stick to the given time. How often have I heard presenter telling the audience that they might not be able to finish on time and that the audience should cut them off if they don’t. What else does this mean than that towards the end of the presentation it gets more and more unimportant?
The strict form of a pecha kucha presentation—20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide—is a challenge, especially, if you are not used to restrict you talk. I usually change the rules in my courses a bit, making it 15 slides. Thus, every presenter has 5 minutes to divide the important from the unimportant.
Tips for holding a pecha kucha presentation that I always give my students are the following:
- Divide the important from the unimportant.
What do you have to tell your audience about your topic, what can be left out? What is interesting for the audience? What are the central assumptions?
- Divide what you want to say into small portions.
It is of course ideal if you can come up with 15 portions at once, but you might also move around things later on.
- Write down key words that you want to talk about during your presentation.
2-3 key words per slide are ideal.
- Think about which visual elements you want to put on your slides.
They can be text, screenshots, images, animations, or short video clips. The most important thing is that they fit to the things that you say.
- Use the pecha kucha template (ppt file) to insert your elements.
Please pay attention to the count down in the lower right corner. It should be on top of all the slides. Use the option „bring to front“ in PowerPoint.
- Practice the presentation.
You will see that it’s not that simple to stick to the time limits. Move around items to make them fit.
- Practice the presentation again.
If it works, good. If it doesn’t:
- Practice the presentation again.
In the first 20 seconds you will usually recognize who has practiced and who hasn’t. It is incredible how long seconds can be if the presenter is not talking because there still a few seconds to the next slide.
The reactions of students are most of the times fascination because of the format but also groaning because of the strict limitation that the format brings along. But it is this limitation that seems to be the best exercise for free presentations that are supposed to bore no one. With a little bit of patience you are able come to the point and also to create a sensible connection between what you talk about and what you show. Self restriction led to a lot of nice surprises when it comes to creativity in some courses. Breaking the strict form without really breaking it can be quite interesting.
In addition, the pecha kucha format can also solve two problems that often occur in large seminars which require a presentation as assessment. Firstly, more presentations can be held in one session. It is only so much true that quality suffers from shorter presentations since the teacher has more time to get involved and everyone can analyze whether all important things have been mentioned. Secondly, and I think that this must not be neclected, teacher and fellow students are usually less bored, because presentations are more creative.
Further information about pecha kucha presentations and some examples can be found at: