The average human attention span is eight seconds. That’s shorter than the average attention span of a goldfish, and probably less time than it would take to introduce yourself on stage. In a survey, 4 out of 5 professionals claimed that they shift their focus away from the presenter during any given presentation they’re watching. If you’re going to lose your audience before you even really begin, what’s the point? In an effort to be more successful, presenters are constantly testing new formats to package their message in a way that both resonates with their audience, and keeps them engaged from slide to slide.
Basically, we’re all trying to solve the infamous “death by PowerPoint”? The solution: Beautiful.ai meets PechaKucha.
PechaKucha is a presentation format that has been adopted by many. From PechaKucha nights with friends, to new curriculum standards at universities, PechaKucha has changed the way people present. But what is it, exactly?
What is PechaKucha?
Not to be confused with Pikachu (any Pokémon fans out there?), PechaKucha— which is Japanese for chit-chat— is a particular presentation style. In 2003, architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Tokyo’s Klein Dytham architecture invented PechaKucha in an effort to bring “More show. Less tell,” to life in presentations. Essentially, the duo wanted to streamline the process and delivery of long design presentations to make them more digestible to audiences. The format follows a simple 20x20 rule in which each presentation is 20 slides, and each slide is shown for only 20 seconds each. Think of it as a speed presentation, where the presenter has to make their point— beginning to end— in 7 minutes total.
The PechaKucha format is used among friends for PechaKucha nights (similar to the TikTok-famous PowerPoint nights), in business, and at schools. It’s an elevator pitch for your topic. The short-form presentations keep distractions to a minimum, and engagement at a maximum. Specifically, teachers have found the format to be extremely useful when trying to engage students and encourage critical thinking in the classroom. “This presentation style was designed to help people tell a story instead of lecturing to others,” Jim Ave, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Kinesiology at Fresno Pacific University said in an interview. “This keeps students engaged. It’s another tool to use in class to foster learning.”
Tips for giving your first PechaKucha presentation
Now that you have a little bit of background on the ever-popular PechaKucha, here's how to nail your first 20x20 presentation.
Be passionate about your topic
Because of the nature of a PechaKucha presentation, presenters have to be quick on their toes. Providing commentary for each slide in under 20 seconds is no small feat, and in order to do it well presenters need to be knowledgeable in the topic. It’s considerably easier to make your point quicker when you’re passionate about the topic. If you’re planning a PechaKucha presentation, choose something that genuinely interests you and that you can speak on with little-to-no effort.
Know your story
As with any presentation, you should know your story before you even think about designing a slide. But this is especially true when you’re trying to scramble to hit your point in under 20 seconds. With a firm stance on your positioning, it will be easier to structure your story and touch on all key points. If you’re going through each slide like you’re telling a story to your best friend, it will be more seamless and you’ll be a lot less likely to slip up on your words or get stuck mid-slide.
Let your slides do the talking
When you’re on a time-crunch, your slides have to pull more weight. Let them say what you can’t in 20 seconds. Images are your friend here. Nobody wants to attempt to read (and comprehend) a big block of text in 20 seconds before it’s gone, so lean into visual storytelling. In fact, most PechaKucha presentations don’t include any text at all and simply use images for each slide. Your image should be relevant to the point you are trying to make, and have an obvious connection to your topic.
Beautiful.ai’s free image library boasts an impressive collection of hundreds of thousands of quality photos and icons. Regardless of your PechaKucha topic, there is truly something for everyone.
Keep your takeaways to a minimum
Obviously with such limited time, you have to be intentional about your key takeaways. At its core, PechaKucha forces you to say more with less. Keep your main points to a minimum so you can easily zip through each slide in the allotted 20 seconds. You should be able to make your point easily and quickly, and then be ready to move on to the next one. In order to do so without giving your audience whiplash, make sure you structure your presentation in a way that flows and makes sense. Your story should be easy to follow, even if it’s fast.
Timing is everything
A PechaKucha presentation is all about timing— obviously, that’s the whole basis of the format. To make sure you’re prepared to run (literally, run, don’t walk) through your presentation in less than 7 minutes, you’ll need to practice. And then practice again. We recommend going through your presentation a minimum of three times to ensure you can stay on track with the 20-second per slide limit.