Magazine article Techniques

Engaging Students through Pecha-Kucha Presentations

Magazine article Techniques

Engaging Students through Pecha-Kucha Presentations

Article excerpt

HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU WITNESSED A PRESENTATION in which the speaker lulled the audience to sleep with slide after slide of nothing but boring bullet points, or slides so crammed with information you go away suffering from eye strain and fatigue? What is most ironic is that most people can spot a boring presentation from a mile off, but then turn around and do some of the very things in their own presentations that people find so irritating. After more than 25 years of teaching, as well as giving and seeing hundreds of presentations, I am convinced that most people do not understand the concept of' helping their audience "get the message."


I must admit that I, too, once fell into the trap of' using some of the mythical rules for presenting, such as the Rule of Six: No more than six lines per slide and no more than six words per line. When I first started teaching, which was long before PowerPoint ever existed--let alone personal computers we: used transparencies. While these were handy, they were also expensive, costing as much as 50 cents per page. Being on tight budgets, many teachers decided to put as much as they possibly could on one of those slides. Along the way, people figured out that if you are going to torture your students by cramming so much information on a slide, you should put no more than six words per line or six lines per page. Thus, it was a plea to get us to limit how much we put on a single slide.

Over the years we went from transparencies to such programs as HyperCard on the Mac and then on to Microsoft PowerPoint. We were all amazed at how much easier it was to create visuals using PowerPoint. As we typed, the computer automatically placed those bullet points one after another on the page. It automatically set the type size for us and even gave us dozens of design templates to use. We could now even include pictures, videos and sound. And just like that, we were able to transform those boring transparency slides into boring electronic slides of colorfully displayed bullet points.

Reimagining PowerPoint

The point to see is that people have lost sight of the fact that the message does not come from the screen, it comes from the heart of the speaker. People do not show up to read a person's bullet points from the slides. They come to hear a story. Could you possibly imagine hearing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say, "Next slide, please"? He moved us, and he inspired us with his words, with his emotions, with his story. The real power of PowerPoint lies in the ability to capture the audience's attention with a picture as the speaker unfolds the story within, not by how the speaker lies up the bullet points.

As marketing guru and Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talks presenter Seth Godin notes, "PowerPoint could be the most powerful tool on your computer, but it's riot. It's actually a dismal failure. Almost every PowerPoint presentation sucks rotten eggs." Yet the use of PowerPoint is the standard for the presenter at any conference anywhere. So, what can we do to more effectively use this tool?

Telling a Story

One way might be to actually use the slides to help tell a story. During his 2008 ACTE Annual Convention keynote presentation, Daniel Pink referenced the book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds. In that book, Reynolds described a phenomenon that is overtaking the planet. The book describes how two Dutch architects by the names of Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham created a concept called Pecha-Kucha, which means chit-chat in Japanese. The concept was quite simple: Fell a story with 20 slides at 20 seconds per slide. The slides do not have bullet points, but rather a picture. As the pictures transition across the screen, the speaker simply tells a story. The stories can be about anything, from grandma's doilies to your last vacation.

There are now more than 500 cities across the world that host at least four of these events each year. …

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