Guide to Making a Pecha Kucha Presentation: The Big Event

Final Runs

By now, you’ve likely practiced a great deal and have gone through several practice runs. While I’d like to say don’t worry and try not to think about the event… I know I didn’t fare very well. Throughout the day of, I was pretty nervous and things just got a worse as the evening (and start time) drew near.

On the day of, there aren’t really a lot of things that can be done. At this point all the slides are in, and IMO it’s risky to make dramatic alterations to your talk, last minute. If you’re really nervous, consider using your morning and evening commutes to practice, or go over your talk during lunch. Try (hard as it is) not to think too much about it.

At the Event

Try arriving at the event site a little early. Perhaps meeting with some of the other speakers will help take your mind off of things, prior to your taking the stage. Or, if you were like me, getting there early gave me a chance to get a bit more comfortable with the space.

Get comfortable with the mic. As silly as this sounds, go up to the stage area and stand near the microphone. I did this, and it helped immensely. Getting a feel of what the view/perspective will be from the mic will help when it’s finally your turn. It’ll seem a little more familiar.

Try not to drink before you talk. This may seem self-evident, but try to avoid drinking (too much) prior to your talk. By all means, order a stiff drink afterwards… but try to hold off as much as you can, beforehand.

One drink can easily lead to a few drinks, particularly when you just want to “settle your nerves.” Consider this: how terrible would it be for you to slur your words on stage? All your hard work and prep, undone by a few too many drinks prior to.

I say this as a big fan of the sauce: save the boozing for afterwards. It’ll taste that much sweeter.

Volunteer to go early. For me, until I finished my talk… I was a ball of nervousness. If possible, check with the event organizer and see about getting an early slot. There are many good reasons for speaking early, but the major reason to me is that you can get your talk completed… and spend the rest of the time basking in your great performance, and enjoying the other speakers on the bill.

The crowd is on your side. Intensity and passion are things that can be felt by the audience. The crowds at Pecha Kucha are there to cheer you on, and everyone’s there to get excited, to get inspired together.

Remember that this isn’t you getting in front of a class, giving a report on Lincoln’s presidency. You’re talking about what interests you, what you’re passionate about. You’re sharing that with the crowd, and they’re eager to hear what you have to say. You came here willingly and the crowd came here, willingly. It’s not a you-versus-them thing, it’s a together thing.

Slow and steady. As you start your talk, recognize you’re nervous and that there’s probably a lot of adrenalin in your system. Try to consciously slow things down. Try to make sure you’re speaking clearly and that you’re not just zooming through your slides.

If you finish a particular slide a bit ahead of schedule, it’s ok to pause in wait for the next slide to appear. Consider using the pause to look around and make eye contact (see below).

Try to make eye contact. Hopefully this doesn’t throw you off your game too much. And hopefully you practiced looking around a bit, when you were doing your dry runs.

A big part of speaking is engaging the audience, and scanning the room making eye contact with people helps tremendously in this regard. If you’re too nervous, don’t worry about locking eyes with individuals… but try looking to different areas of the room as you talk.

This is a particularly tricky thing, especially if you haven’t tried it out beforehand. I’d definitely recommend adding this to your practice runs so that you’ll be a bit more comfortable with this, prior to the event.

Bring business cards. People from the audience will likely come up to talk with you after your presentation (particularly if you did a good job). In addition to the well-wishers and pats on the back, many folks may be interested in setting up meetings with you or exchanging information.

Make sure to have some contact info or business cards handy. Anything, so long as it has your phone number, email, or URL on it. At the very least, have some paper and a pencil on hand.

That’s pretty much all the advice I have. If you’re interested in more presentation advice, check out Garr Reynolds’ site for some great tips (I referenced his pages a lot, when doing my own prep work).

Good Luck!

I hope these pages were of some help to you, or at the very least helped you see what goes on behind the scenes of a Pecha Kucha talk. The following two sections don’t really have any tips or advice, and are more just media assets: the slides themselves and some videos of my talk.

If you came across this guide while prepping for your talk, I’d love to hear how things went. Preparing for Pecha Kucha was unlike any other kind of presentation I’ve done before, and I found it to be a fascinating process.

Good luck to you, as you put yours together… and feel free to drop a line, as I’m curious to hear all about it.

Next: Downloads

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Hi, and thanks so much for your great guide. I have one questions. Is there special software to download that one plugs one’s images into? Or do I simply put them into PowerPoint and set the time to 20 seconds/slide?

    Also, do you have any tips for academics using Pecha Kucha who want to talk about their projects? Perhaps there are not really great images that can accompany that kind of talk or am I being too unimaginative?

    Thanks for your help.

    Nancy Burkhalter Reply

    • Hi Nancy! In terms of what you would put your images into, I’d say most people go about it exactly the way you’ve described: add each image as a slide in PowerPoint, and set the time to 20 seconds per slide.

      If you don’t have a copy of Microsoft PowerPoint, there’s an open source suite of applications called OpenOffice that you might look into. Specifically, the program called Impress is meant to be similar to PowerPoint.

      Regarding what kinds of images academics could use, I think this speaks more to the art of presentation creation. I personally don’t think there’s any differentiation between academic or non-academic subjects, and it’s more about the style and tone of the presentation you want to create.

      Who’s your audience? Are you presenting to others versed in your subject matter? If so, detailed images might be exactly what they’re after. If you’re presenting to the general public, perhaps images that are more abstract in nature would be better.

      As an example: in my presentation, when I’m talking about poetic forms (sonnets, sestinas, etc), I ended up using a closeup image of an old book.

      I would say don’t worry about finding the right exact image that perfectly matches the content of what you’re talking about. In my opinion, the slide or image is always a supplement to whatever it is that’s coming out of your mouth. You want the image to support your words; the last thing you want is your slide distracting your audience, and preventing them from hearing what you’re saying. This is why a lot of people recommend having little to no text in your slides, as audience members tend to immediate start reading once they see text displayed.

      The PK site is a great resource for inspiration, if you’re still unsure about how to find good slides/images. You can view a lot of other Pecha Kucha talks online, and check out how other folks approached their talks:

      avoision Reply

  2. This has been a joy to comb through. It’s been my go to map! Thanks for the clear, thorough, simplified rubric and directions! I hope to give a Pecha Kucha talk here in Charlotte in March. Fingers crossed. Thanks heaps!

    cha Reply

  3. This was excellent! Thank you for putting this together. Super helpful!

    Elizabeth Reply

  4. Hi there,

    I found this article awesome and I wanted to share two pieces of advice about eye contact with you. One coming from a seminar presenter and the other one from a dance performer.

    The first one is to look just above people’s eyes, almost on their eyebrows. This way people can’t really tell you are not looking directly at them, however you are not making eye contact or getting distracted as there is no connection involved.

    The second one is if you are on stage, look out for the pilars of the room or for the exit signs. This way you are not staring down or at single spot.

    Thank you for the cool article!

    Dimo Reply

  5. I am a professional speaker, but have never presented in this 20×20 format. I received an invitation to do so for an upcoming symposium, so I’ve been checking websites. I found your advice spot on. I particularly liked the low-tech cards approach. It makes one think of exactly what info should be consolidated on that little 3×5-inch space. Thanks for the careful advice–especially in regard to not drinking ahead of time. My mentor years ago advised me never to alter my consciousness before performing. She said it would be the worst thing–not because I would fail as a result–but because I might succeed.

    Mary-Kate Mackey Reply

  6. Wow–I wish I had seen your site before my college students started working on their required Pecha-Kucha assignment (yeah, some of us are trying to wean students from awful, text-filled PowerPoints. We hope this will make them more comfortable public speakers once they are in the world of work….we don’t mean to take the fun out of PKs….). The tips you give about rehearsing/practicing are extremely helpful.

    Priscilla Perkins Reply

  7. Thanks a lot!

    Lars Sandved Dalen Reply

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