Two Pills Tips: Pecha Kucha!

Borrowing a strategy from across the pond to keep lectures concise and attention-grabbing!

Pecha Kucha Your Way Out of Boring Lectures!


What: Pecha Kucha is the Japanese term for “the sound of conversation” or “chit chat.” These presentations encourage conversations and not just delivering bullet point information in pre-designed slides. It is a presentation with 20 slides at 20 seconds each. The presentation is set with a timer to advance the slides every 20 seconds. 20 seconds is enough time to make a point, but not to ramble. As the speaker, there is a limit to the amount of text you can say in 20 seconds. It forces the speaker to be concise and the audience to be more engaged.

Why: Traditional lecture slides are full of way too much text that is in the same format with each mouse click. Students are more inclined to lean back and potentially sleep, especially if they already have the slides that you are reading. Plus, our learners have seen these same text heavy slides for their entire education. We may remember chalk boards (even my college calculus classes), overhead projectors (were still used in my biochemistry class in pharmacy school), and dry erase boards. Our learners, however, have likely received information in a slide format since their early childhood education. I’m not saying that lectures with slides are bad, but they are very familiar.

Let’s talk about images in lecture. They are often lame clip art, captured from an image search, or just generally used to make a slide look less full of text. In a pecha kucha, the image is often the entire slide. It forces the speaker to talk about the image, not read the text next to it.

Where: Any topic that is visually stimulating. Pecha kuchas are a beautiful way to present global health or public health topics. Maybe students use their own photos captured on a rotation. I have also seen Pecha Kuchas on issues such as electrolyte disorders. Each slide is a different aspect of the disorder, such as hyperkalemia or hyponatremia. I like those ideas for Pecha Kucha because they are a single focus and you can certainly describe them with 20 slides. If you need inspiration for topics, you can find many Tedtalks that are in this style. Again, the focus is on the images and not the text.

Who: Electives, rotation students. Instead of students presenting a report or proposal, have it in this style. Students either work individually or as partners. Larger teams would be more difficult for each person to be able to present. If presenting as partners, it would be advisable for one partner to present 10 slides and another partner to present the other 10 slides.

This presentation style may appeal to those who struggle with public speaking. The presentations are given at a faster pace and for only a few minutes (6:40).

How: The speaker (either faculty or student) designs a 20 x 20 presentation. Yes, there are constraints. However, constraints stimulate creativity and encourage take home points over details. Pecha Kucha also encourages students to truly understand the topic in order to prioritize which points are most important in their presentation. This promotes the skills of analysis, evaluation, and creation.

Pitfalls: too much text, bullet points, reading off the slides, overly crowded slide that would take more than 20 seconds to comprehend. Please, please, please do not use animations. We do not need anything flying in.

Pearls: Tell a story with your 20 slides including a beginning, middle, and end. Transitions are important. Take time to find the perfect image for your story. Rehearse and practice. Your voice is telling the story and the timer will go on without you. The presentation should be polished and professional.

When: Maybe include a class period with 1-3 Pecha Kucha presentations. If you have a significant number in a row, it may be more difficult for the audience to remain engaged.

After the presentation, encourage discussion surrounding the topics of the pecha kucha. Maybe each of the pecha kuchas were related. Pecha Kuchas are often the starting point for excellent discussion!

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