What PechaKucha could teach IT pros about talking to their business peers

Some of the most important content shared across the corporate network is contained in PowerPoint presentations. That doesn’t mean they should be long

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Admit it: How many times have you found yourself watching the clock during a lengthy presentation, regardless of the subject matter and its relevance to what you do?

The monotony of many presentations, and the use of slides overloaded with text, are two of the factors that inspired PechaKucha. Developed in 2004 by two architects based in Tokyo who were also tired of long PowerPoint presentations, it’s a method that is quickly becoming a standard in the business world.

Essentially, PechaKucha suggests using twenty slides to present a topic at a rate of up to twenty seconds per slide. This forces the presenter to think about the message he or she wants to convey, and to deliver only the essentials of the subject, since they have less than seven minutes to do so.

PechaKucha also encourages the use of explicit and evocative images rather than text. The thought is that, if the audience doesn’t have to read the information on the screen, the message will be better received and remembered. This makes sense: the capacity and length of human concentration is limited, so this approach leads to greater commitment on the part of the audience and leaves more time for questions afterwards.

Of course, the PechaKucha method lends itself to more succinctly presentable subjects and has its limitations. Although it can not be fully applied in some contexts, it is an interesting alternative to more traditional approaches. A good example within the education and training is the University of Sherbrooke, where PechaKucha has helped educators and business people adapt their presentations and more effectively deliver their messages.

Some aspects of PeckaKucha will be familiar to IT professionals. The late Steve Jobs, among other speakers, was a master in the art of brevity and timeliness. TED conferences were founded on the idea of putting “ideas worth spreading” into 20-minute segments, and similar events such as the Ignite conferences and Talk20 make a virtue of the short and simple speech as well.

In any case, this is a way of conveying information that could be relevant for a lot of people working in the IT sector, where the subject matter is complex and not always easy to follow for a non-IT audience. It also makes sense in an era of social networks where, in some cases, you’re limited by the number of characters you can use to communicate.

Already busy at work and in private life, people want to get to the point, even if they have tools that let them talk — such as business VoIP, unified communications tools such as chat or videoconference — as long as they want.

The traditional belief that the quality of a document or speech is proportional to its volume has fallen out of favor today. As managers, trainers and business people, we have to start adapting accordingly.

This post originally appeared in French on expertIP Quebec.   


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