This Unusual Japanese Technique Will Radically Improve Your Presentations
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
Most presenters fall short when it comes to engaging audiences while driving home their point. Too many slides, the wrong kinds of slides, rambling, lack of an objective and a weak argument are just a few of the presentation sins most speakers commit.
PechaKucha, a weird Japanese presentation technique devised by Tokyo architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham can help. They came up with the idea because “Architects talk too much! Give a microphone and some images to an architect — or most creative people for that matter — and they’ll go on forever! Give PowerPoint to anyone else and they have the same problem.” PechaKucha’s basic message is a piece of advice I’ve been giving to presenters for years: the less you say the more valuable your presentation becomes.
PechaKucha (Japanese for “chit chat”) forces you to speak more concisely, precisely and clearly by allowing just 20 slides. Yup, 20 slides. Oh, and you only get 20 seconds to present each slide. An auto forward control ensures there’s no request for “next slide” or “please go back.” Also called a 20×20 presentation, PechaKucha gives you just 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver your presentation. Every second is precious which means you can radically tighten-up your presentation skills or fail. It’s high pressure, but it’s also a great learning ground.
Granted, not every presentation can be delivered in under 7 minutes. But practicing PechaKucha forces a new way of thinking that eliminates the excess and leads to shorter, more creative and more highly polished presentations. It’s helped me hone my keynoting skills and PechaKucha is also a great format for project reviews, presentations and internal meetings. But the real fun comes when you join one of the public events.
The first PechaKucha Night (PKN), originally planned as a one-off event, was held by its creators in Tokyo in 2003. The event has since grown to over 800 cities around the world. Mostly held in fun spaces like bars, restaurants, clubs, beer gardens, homes, studios, universities and churches, The global PechaKucha network is organized and supported by Klein Dytham architecture with local events run by city organizer volunteers who do it for the inspiration, love and fun of it. (Check at http://www.pechakucha.org/attend/ to find a PKN near you or to learn how to start your own.)
So what’s the best way to started? PechaKucha presentations begin with a clear objective. A quick way to land on the point of your presentation is to answer the question: As a result of this presentation, my audience will have learned____, or be asked to ____. If you can’t answer the question, don’t speak on the topic. At Amazon, before they launch a product, they put together the press release for the product. If they can’t literally write the press release for the results the product will achieve and how cool it’s going to be and how the customers are going to react, they won’t even launch the product. It’s the same basic idea.
One exercise I use to drill down to the essence of my topic when preparing for any presentation including a PechaKucha is to first describe my presentation point in 30 seconds. Then I turn it into a single sentence, and then 3 words. Finding your objective can be the hardest part of preparing a presentation, but without it, you’re almost guaranteed to wander off course and lose your audience. Remember, you’ve only got 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide.
As you develop the language you’ll use in your presentation, choose words with high imagery value. What you don’t want to do is to sound like a newly minted MBA who just puked on a piece of paper (e.g. ‘we’re going to leverage our core competencies to achieve synergy and competitive advantage’). Lose the corporate gobbledygook, and don’t fall for the misguided notion that the more abstractly you speak, the smarter you’re going to sound. People often think simple language will make them sound stupid. Actually, having an audience that knows what the heck you’re talking about is going to make you seem absolutely brilliant.
Killer slides are another PechaKucha requirement. The strict time limit won’t support the complex diagrams and text heavy bullet points that make most presentations wander off course. Keep text to a minimum and make sure every image or graphic has a discernible “holy mackerel” point that’s easily and quickly understandable. One good rule of thumb is that words and visuals should complement each other, not mirror each other. The point is not to show off all the cool graphics you can make but rather to display your information in a way that your audience will instantly resonate with and say, “I get exactly what this person was talking about.”
Finally, you want to practice and then practice some more. It takes work to drill down your point to 20 seconds and to still talk with ease and flow. Practice in front of a makeshift audience and ask them what they learned. If your practice audience doesn’t get your exact point, it’s a safe bet your business audience won’t either.
Mark Murphy is NY Times bestselling author, wrote the books Hundred Percenters andHiring for Attitude, Founder of Leadership IQ, a sought-after leadership trainingspeaker, and creator of the leadership styles assessment.