Reflecting on Pecha Kucha

Earlier this month, I delivered my first Pecha Kucha presentation – “Stop. Reflect. Focus. – Hagar’s Failures in Social Enterprise and Journey to Rediscover its Soul.”  I had long held an interest in the Pecha Kucha format – 20 slides (images only – absolutely no bullet points), on display for 20 seconds each.  A presenter has 6 minutes and 40 seconds to convey an idea, story, project, or really anything else they would like to share.  Because the slides move automatically, the individual has to hone their verbal message and utilize the images (or transition of images – juxtaposition) to get their point across as clearly and concisely as possible. Check out an example courtesy of Alastair Humphreys.

When I signed up to present, I drastically underestimated the amount of time I needed to commit.  No stranger to public presentations on my work, I planned to simply chop up a few old PowerPoints and tell the same story, albeit a bit more specific.  I made the classic mistake of starting my presentation by first choosing images instead of honing down my idea.

Running around in circles, I turned to the all-mighty Google and stumbled upon an excellent how-to guide on Pecha Kucha by Felix Jung.  Taking his advice, I scrapped my digital draft presentation and spent a few hours letting ideas flow from my head to small scraps of paper.

Then, I started the painful process of fleshing out those ideas and shifting around cards to ensure everything flowed properly.  The limitations of the format forced me to cut everything extraneous.  It was difficult to balance my desire to insert my personality into the presentation (e.g. stories or filler/background on how some ideas were generated) with the greater need to express the core ideas of Hagar’s rocky journey in social enterprise.

Next, I made sure that I could convey the purpose of each slide in 20 seconds by using the stopwatch on my trusty $20 Nokia mobile.  I arrived at the same conclusion as Felix – four slides was the optimal number to convey an idea.  Anything longer would be rambling and anything shorter would be too quick.  A few dry-runs via Skype with my rather honest/blunt fiance in the USA helped me further nail down the verbal elements of the presentation.

Finally, with my words carefully chosen, I could move on to the fun part – selecting images.  I found that I was able to further hone my verbal presentation by selecting images that could express some of my ideas and allow my slides to do a bit of the talking.  In retrospect, I think I talked a bit too much and, if given another chance, I’d let my images take more of the spotlight.

Overall, I am very happy that I participated.  As I told a friend after the presentation, it was a powerful reflection experience (a reflection on reflection).  The format forced me to think  honestly about the past 3+ years of my work with Hagar in social enterprise and attempt to answer a few difficult questions about why we did what we did.  By committing ample time and space to reflect (with the added pressure of conveying it to a discerning audience), I uncovered a number of amazing bits of wisdom that might have alluded me otherwise.

Because of this realization, I decided to open and close the presentation with examples of a powerful reflective exercise called “The River of Life” that is used in Hagar’s psychotherapy programs.  The River of Life allows individuals and organizations to artistically portray their journey, including difficult times, periods of change, and periods of renewal and growth.

Creating this Pecha Kucha presentation on social enterprise at Hagar was my River of Life – my attempt to reflect on a journey full of bends, rocks and waterfalls that I have had the privilege of joining.  Though there are lots of lessons in the presentation that are of use to social entrepreneurs, I hope that audience members took away two key nuggets that I believe are important to any individual or organization:  make time for honest reflection and constantly ask yourself “Why?”  If you don’t, you might find yourself surprised to be rushing down a river that is quite different than the one you originally envisioned.

Download my Pecha Kucha presentation slides in PDF format here.


~ by responsiblenomad on December 18, 2011.

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