Telling your story through pictures – the Pecha Kucha experience

Speakers at Pecha Kucha night ManchesterThe strapline for one of my favourite web sites (TED) is ‘Ideas worth spreading’, and it seems that Pecha Kucha is one that’s really caught on. Japanese for ‘the sound of conversation’, PK is an unusual presentation style involving 20 slides (predominantly pictures), each set to rotate every 20 seconds. This so-called 20/20 format produces a nice, concise story lasting 6 minutes and 40 seconds. PK nights (where a series of speakers give a PK-style talk) run in over 300 cities worldwide and last Monday we ran our second event in Manchester, at the offices of Slater Heelis Solicitors in Sale Moor.

You might think the prospect of listening to 11 talks in succession is hardly appealing, but we attracted close to 100 people and in Melbourne and Tel Aviv (where PK’s been running for a few years) they get nearly 1000! So why does it work, and what did we hear last Monday?

(Speakers shown above, from L to R: Ashley Boroda, Jo Berry, Juan Grange Yanez).

Having to get your message across in just 6 mins and 40 secs is a challenge, but the paradox is that audiences take more in from less! It’s easily digestible because of its brevity, but also because you tell your story through pictures. Think what it’s like to be in an audience and have a slide appear that’s full of text and bullets. Your heart sinks and your mind wanders. Put a picture up and you immediately intrigue your audience. They want to know the significance of the picture. They’re ‘primed’ and that’s a wonderful state to have them in. Your role as a presenter is simply to bring that image to life, to give it meaning and significance.

The fact the slides rotate every 20 seconds also drives the story forward. You can’t get bogged down on one point. The change-over forces you to move on and this gives the talk pacing and dynamism.

But it’s not all down to the format. Some PK talks are better than others and this boils down to the topic and the performance. If you had to listen to 11 business pitches in a row you’d hardly be queuing up! So at PK we look out for good stories: life-changing experiences, weird hobbies, travels, passions and challenges.

I’m not going to mention all the speakers here (they’re listed below and were ALL fabulous in their own way), but highlights for me were…

Dan Hasler on his Moss Cider project (a personal mission to grow apples and produce cider in his home district of Moss Side). Great slides (he is a designer after all), wonderful opening (hardly said anything for the first 2 slides, but poured out and drank some cider) and we’re a sucker for a crazy passion!

Juan Grange Yanez who wants to change our attitudes to the youth and needs our help! Juan’s mission is to develop a youth village in Manchester where street kids can express themselves and develop their inherent skills. He brought a young singer, a rap duo and some dancers who entertained us at the midway break, and they were wonderful. Juan draws strength from his own personal experiences as a youngster and epitomises the principle of ‘letting go’ and giving it some welly with his stage performance.

Everyone remembers Tony Brammer and his 4-desert challenge, a mind-bogglingly tough journey across some of the most desolate terrain on the planet. The image of his split toe lingers in the mind (ouch!) and so too the picture of him with a fellow traveller, who completed this ludicrous physical challenge…despite being blind.

Kwai Yu has a wonderful story too. A Chinese immigrant, he abandoned the corporate world some time ago and adopted fresh values (not least to be “important in the life of a child”). He’s also adopted what Aussie speaker Ian Berry calls a BHAG – a Big Hairy Arsed Goal – namely, to bring leadership learning to 20 million people by the year 2020. His methodology? The Leaders Café (check this out on LinkedIn).

But the highlight was surely Jo Berry, a lady I met only a week before PK. Her father was murdered in 1984 when the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel, Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference. She now works as a champion for peace and reconciliation, having formed a working relationship with the man who planted the bomb, Pat Magee. I’ve rarely seen people stand up to applaud midway through a business event, but Jo’s presentation contributed greatly to the evening and I’m privileged to know her.

I was thrilled with the night, a networking event that wasn’t. But nonetheless some fantastic relationships have been formed simply by bringing people together to listen to some wonderful stories. Special thanks go to Mike Fox and his team at Slater Heelis, my team of volunteers (Julie Brett-Bellis, Suzie Oulton, Charlotte Harris and Jennifer Shaw), my fellow PK organiser Phil Harris and of course to all the speakers and attendees.


Monday 27th September 2010 (6-9pm)

Venue TBC but in the Manchester area.

I’d love to know if:

  1. You’d like to attend?
  2. You’d like to present?

Our Speakers last week

Ivor Tymchak, Nick McCloud, Max Clements, Jo Berry, Simon Jermy, Juan Grange Yanez, Tamsin Fielden, Dan Hasler, Kwai Yu, Tony Brammer, Ashley Boroda.

Well done all – if anyone would like to contact one or more of our speakers, please let me know.

Facebook comments: