Discovering Pecha-Kucha: A Chance Discovery via NPR

I was sitting outside of Caribou Coffee this afternoon, waiting to pick someone up when all of a sudden I got an earful of Pecha-Kucha via All Things Considered on NPR. I was kinda shocked because not much of the meetings and events industry makes the news so it was pretty cool to listen about something that many of us have been talking about for a few years.

I also thought it was cool to hear the origins of Pecha-Kucha as well.

Here is a little of the article, you can read more or listen to the story here:

It’s the bane of students, business people and even the military: If you’ve ever yawned through a slideshow, you’re probably familiar with that dreaded malady of modern times, known as “Death by PowerPoint.”

Now, for the long-suffering audience, there’s some good news. Tokyo architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein hit on the antidote to presentation overload — a style they dubbed pecha-kucha, Japanese for “chitchat” — and their elegant solution is taking the world by storm.

Dytham and Klein are easygoing by nature, but if there’s one thing they can’t stand it’s slideshows full of hot air. So when the pair staged a forum featuring the work of their architect friends, they laid down one rule as simple as it was extreme.

“The problem with architects is they talk too much. So how could we find a way to stop them? You get passionate about whatever you’re talking about and you go on forever and ever — so we came up with 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide,” he says. He says 10 slides, 10 seconds per slide was too short and 30 slides, 30 seconds per slide was too long.

“We were trying to find a catchy 5 minutes or so for the architect to present,” he says.

With speakers allotted a draconian 6 minutes and 40 seconds each, Dytham and Klein were able to pack 20 speeches — or rather, speechlets — into a single evening. Klein named these curious events after a quaint old Japanese onomatopoeia.

“We were looking for a name, and somebody says, ‘It’s just chitchat, it’s pecha-kucha, pecha-kucha, pecha-kucha — people talking too much. So that’s where we came up with pecha-kucha,” she says.

Pecha-Kucha Goes Viral

At first, pecha-kucha (pronounced: PEH-chakh-cha) was purely local. But then, something strange happened. Without any prompting or publicity, and to the astonishment of its founders, the format went viral.

In just the past three years, the speech events have taken root in hundreds of cities in the U.S. and worldwide, from Amersfoort, Netherlands, to Saragossa, Spain. New cities are added, on average, every 72 hours. Nearly a quarter of a million people every year gather in warehouses, old prisons and forest clearings for pecha-kucha nights — a spectacle that seems to belie the pretenses of the online age.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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