Tips And Tricks For Making A Successful Pecha Kucha Talk

This weekend I have my first Pecha Kucha talk and I figured that it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts and suggestions on how to prepare better and also deliver a good talk in this format.

Just to remind you, a Pecha Kucha talk is a format for giving a presentation where you have 20 slides, each slide is presented on screen for 20 seconds, slides change without your control, as a result whole talk takes 6 minutes 40 seconds.

In case of ChamberConf, we did have around 11 speakers speaking one after without any breaks another presenting various topics, both technical and not.

Here are my tips and thougts:

Pecha Kucha is more challenging than longer, traditional talks

I have given many talks that varied in length between 1 and 2 hours on the topics I know very well and I could spend many hours talking about, but in the case of Pecha Kucha, because of the limitations, you have to be prepared in a different way, you need to know exactly what are you going to say and do not digress – after you start, there is no way to stop the timer and slides from changing.
As a speaker that is familiar with the subject very well, you have to accept the fact that you have to simplify your points (sometimes a lot) and often omit some points in order to focus on the core.

 

Be prepared to throw out your talk

When preparing for the first time, be ready to throw out your talk and start again (or at least throw out some parts of your talk). Too much content was my first mistake, I had to throw out around half of the content in order to focus on the core aspects of the topic.

Do a demo

When preparing for the ChamberConf, the organizers arranged a meeting for the Pecha Kucha speakers when we had a chance to make a demo, share out toughs, get and give feedback.
After the first live demo, I have made significant improvements in my talk (mostly throwing out stuff and keeping the time). At the conference you could also see pretty clearly that the people who skipped the meeting had some issues.
If the organizers don’t do this, or for some reason you are unable to attend such meeting, organize this yourself, usual suggestions include family, coworkers or local tech meetup. If they are reluctant to help, say to them that it’s not going to take more than 10 minutes.

Have a timer

When delivering a normal talk, you could check the clock from time to time, or have the organizer/moderator to help you. Here the time (and the timer) is essential. Most presenters used reveal.js which has the integrated timer, but I opted for the PDF format that doesn’t have anything like that. In my case having a separate laptop with the timer was a live saver few times. I could see that I’m getting to the end of the slide and I had to skip or shorten what I was going to say. Or that I had few extra seconds and could speak more slowly or add maybe one extra sentence.

Less text on the slides is usually better

In this format you don’t want your audience to read your slides and loose contact with you. So slides should mostly contain only few words and some image (in most cases only image, but this depends on the subject).

Consider writing down all you are going to say

I think this helped my quite a lot. For each slide I have written down 2 or 3 sentences of what I was going to say. In order to meet the 20 second limit, I was aiming for around 16 seconds when reading the text out loud.
When preparing for the traditional talk, I usually don’t write down anything, the slides are contain enough points and I can elaborate on each of them for some time.

After the talk ask for feedback

Try to ask few people from the audience for feedback about your performance. In my case I was primarily worried if I didn’t simplify too much (speaking about technical stuff) and if my overall intention was clear.

Summary

Pecha Kucha is completely different way of making presentations. I think it’s a very good way to show one small concept, or just interest audience in learning more later about your topic.
From the speaker perspective it helped me to improve my skills in making concise talk, in a timely manner and keep audience in sync with me when presenting.
I think the conference organizers could use it in favor of lighting talks.
Presenting at ChamberConf
Presenting at ChamberConf