Tips on Presenting at Pecha Kucha

My Visual Brainstorm for Pecha Kucha

I spent the last year researching how to design and deliver effective presentations, and used that learning to help me with my Pecha Kucha preparation.  I wanted to share it with you, as I think it can really be helpful.  I drew heavily upon Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Edward Tufte, and Richard Mayer – they are the leaders in the field of designing and delivering information.  I want to share my process in the hopes that future Pecha Kucha presenters can benefit from my experience.  I presented on February 10 in Burlington – and I was really pleased with how it went.  People came up and thanked me for sharing, and seemed to really enjoy the presentation.  I felt totally prepared.

Visual Brainstorming

Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds have some great tips for developing your presentation – This list is sort of a mash-up of their suggestions and the IDEO visual brainstorm method, plus a little tweak that I added:

  1. Spend some quiet time contemplating what you want the key point of your presentation to be.  Do this by unplugging from everything, and spending some time in quite contemplation away from distractions.
  2. After you have spent some time in quiet reflection, break out the post-it notes.
  3. Write down each thought you have about the presentation.
    1. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thought, a quotation, an idea, a visual idea for a slide, whatever it is that’s running through your head, put it on a post-it.  The time for organization will come later!
  4. Spend a day doing this.  Each time something pops in your head, put it on a post-it.
  5. Organize the post-its into clusters of similar topics/threads.
  6. Take a big piece of white paper, make 20 slots by tracing a post it(one for each slide in the presentation), and hang it on the wall.
  7. Move your post-its around in those slots (each of which represents one of your slides in the presentation)
  8. Organize your ideas into a cohesive story.
  9. Make sure that each and every point/slide/thought/quotation directly supports your key point.  If it doesn’t, ditch it.  If you have a bunch of slides that don’t fit the key point, maybe you need more reflection time to determine what the key point actually is.
  10. No matter what, you need to have a key point, and all the slides need to support it.

Slide Design

Garr and Nancy have fantastic, applicable advice for this in their books.  Presentation Zen Design is the book that I would recommend for the purposes of learning how to actually design the slides – it gives easy to follow, simple instructions that anyone can use right away.  Just reading this book and following Garr’s tips will make you a much more effective presenter.  Resonate, Nancy Duarte’s book about using storytelling and visuals to give effective presentations, gives the best description of how to tell an effective story through your presentation.  I recommend that you buy these books if you ever give presentations in front of people.  Buy and use them, I should say.  They will improve your designs immensely.  They certainly have for me.

Your slides should have images that support your point, and a minimal amount of text.  Designing the slides in this way fits best with how humans process and retain information.  Putting tons of text (like bullet points) on a slide is pretty much the worst thing that you can do to your audience if you want them to retain information.  Science says so!  Richard Mayer’s Multi-Media learning outlines the research that supports this theory.  We have a limited capacity to process what we hear, what we see, and what we are reading (This is what people refer to as “cognitive load theory,” which you may have heard people bring up in the past).  When we have to read something at the same time we are hearing it, our brains get overwhelmed.  So, if you like your audience, don’t do that to them.  They will appreciate you for it.

My advice for slide design that is specific to Pecha Kucha is to get creative!  You can take risks with this presentation style that you may not be inclined to take at work.  Have some fun with it!