Pecha Kucha - the future of presenting papers?

(UPDATE: See Beware: No Pecha Kucha allowed without consent from Tokyo) Why reading your paper when there are lot more exciting ways of presenting your research? I have asked Aleksandra Bartoszko and Marcy Hessling to tell us about their experience with a recent experiment at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association last december.

They attended a panel where papers were not read but presented via 20 images that were displayed for 20 seconds each. After 6 minutes and 40 seconds the show is over and the discussion can begin.

This way of presenting is getting more and more popular around the world and is called Pecha Kucha.

Pecha Kucha presentations might take more preparation time, but presentations are more focused, there is more discussion as when people want to hear more after 6 min 40 sec, “they will just open their mouth and ask". According to Aleksandra Bartoszko Pecha Kucha style presentations might also be a great way to present anthropology to the non-anthropological public.

“It was the first time ever I was totally focused on all the presentations during the whole session", Aleksandra Bartoszko writes enthusiastically:

It was the first time ever I was totally focused on all the presentations during the whole session:

1) because of the REAL time limit,
2) because of the power point presentations NOT being a text,
3) because of the lack of WRITTEN style of the presentation, the oral style is almost required in this format and in a way natural,
4) because of the lack of word overflow - presentations really to the point,
5) because of the time left for the discussion (real or potential, but still, there is time for that).

I did enjoy this format because:

1) because of the lack of fluency in English I’m not too good in oral presentations, and because of the 20 seconds per slide (in my understanding of the idea, 20 sec per point) it was easier to present something in more “digestible” way to the audience. And because of the pictures, there was a lot of things/descriptions I could just skip.

2) because of the time limit, I really had to think what was the main point I wanted to address to the audience - NOT everything that I had discovered and would like to share with (this is just not working). This time limit is also a good lesson of modesty and self-criticism. I think that this is also a good way to MAKE PEOPLE DISCUSS - I think that usually when “unfortunately we have time for just one short question or comment” most of the people do not want to be the one who talk or “steal” this question, they pull out, especially young scholars. While during an 1 hour discussion more and more people get involved.

Anyway, when I’m done in 6,40 mins and people want to hear more, they will just open their mouth and ask. I think that academia does lack the culture of speaking, talking and discussing. Yes, I do think so :) So, I am for more active meetings.. people are getting so lazy sometimes, both the presenters and the audience.

3) Also, and paradoxically, because of the language issue I prefer the discussion part to the paper. I am just not able to speak so naturally having a paper, and I don’t like the way I usually present (in spite of the fact that this is a tradition etc. It’s just not fun at all, and I guess that most of the participants of the conferences agree, they are just too lazy not to read the excerpts of their books etc). So, that is why I do appreciate every single minute left for a discussion. I believe that any other session I attended could work in this way and the discussion would be great and more fruitful than usually.

4) after fieldwork we have so many photos that never will be used. And I think it is so valuable to see other “fields", other people in work, their “photographical” perspectives, we can learn so much. And I do feel sorry for all those picures stored in our offices, apartments, old albums which will never be used, maybe one of them for a cover to some book, or a nostalgic wallpaper on our laptops.. I don’t know, I just think that the places and people deserve to be seen once they are “captured".

5) this is a great way to present anthropology to the non-anthropological public, to present our results in an understandable but still scientifical manner. Most of the anthropologists (like many other disciplines) just do not know how to speak about anthropology and our work, so it is a good way to start. As one of the participants said “this is the way I can explain my parents what I am doing".

Marcy Hessling organized the Pecha Kucha session. I asked her a few questions:

How was the session? Did you like it? What did the others say?

- I think that the Pecha Kucha format was quite a success at the meeting.  I enjoyed presenting, and I am fairly certain the other participants did too.  It does take a lot of preparation in advance, which is surprising to some because of the shorter presentation time.  But when you just have 6 minutes and 40 seconds to utilize, it is important to be succinct and focus fairly narrowly on a specific issue or topic.  And it is also quite a challenge to choose the 20 more relevant, and yet at the same time visually compelling, images.

Why did you decide to organize a Pecha Kucha session?

- I first heard about the Pecha Kucha format a few years ago (probably in 2007, I think or in early 2008) when I saw a Call For Papers for a student conference that was going to be held somewhere overseas.  Possibly in Japan.  It sounded like a great way for students to present their work.  First, because students are generally quite technologically savvy, and second, because students are typically working through aspects of being in the field or creating a project.  This format is very audience-interactive (at the end) so it is a way to get some feedback too.

Pecha Kucha means 20 slides a 20 sec. How important is it to follow the rules? Is it ok to use 10 slides a 30 seconds?

- The way I understood the format is that it is important to stay within the 6 min 40 second time limit, and that generally most people do 20 slides for 20 seconds per slide.  However, I have heard of some people doing a 6 min 40 second movie too.  So I think it depends on the organizers.  

Was it easy to motivate people to take part in this Pecha Kucha session?

- There were quite a few people who were initially interested in this format, but it does take a commitment to do the preparation in advance. We had a visual anthropologist act as our discussant, and I really wanted to get the presentations to her in advance of the meeting so that she could speak to them in her comments.  She was very impressed with the format, and with the quality of work that the participants brought in.

Will there be another Pecha Kucha session at the next AAA meeting?

- I am not sure if there will be another Pecha Kucha presentation at the 2010 AAA meeting, it depends on the current program chair, and the individual section program editors.  I hope that it does continue.

How do these presentations look like? Here are two presentations you can download:

Fredy R. Rodriguez Mejia, Non-Governmental Organizations and the Politization of Environmental Practices in Copan, Honduras (Powerpoint, 8.9MB)

Aleksandra Bartoszko - Do They Have Any Choice? Distribution of Life Chances, Risk management and poverty in a Nicaraguan village (Powerpoint, 16.4MB)

Here are the abstracts and infos about the session (pdf, 78kb).

Aleksandra Bartoszko has written more about her research in her field blog Antropyton (which I found was one of the best field blogs I’ve read). She edited the open access e-book The Patient that includes her article “I’m not sick, I just have pain”: Silence and (Under) Communication of Illness in a Nicaraguan Village. Norwegian readers can download her thesis Vi er ikke dumme, vi er fattige!
Om vitenskap, eksperter, utdanning og barrierer for folkelig deltakelse i en nicaraguansk landsby

Fredy R. Rodriguez Mejia is also a poet.

And here is a Pecha Kucha presentation about Pecha Kucha

There is a large collection of videos over at www.pecha-kucha.org

AQWorks has made a Guide To Better Pecha Kucha Presentations

Last summer, neuroanthropology had an interesting post about speed presentations.

Thanks Fredy R. Rodriguez Mejia, Marcy Hessling and Aleksandra Bartoszko for your contributions!

UPDATE: It seems there will be similar experiments at the next AAA meeting as well! The AAA blog mentions this post about Pecha Kucha and asks for contributions:

Are you interested in creating a session or special event in an innovative format for the 2010 AAA meeting? Do you want to organize a service activity, walking tour, or an unconference to complement the meeting? Email your ideas to aaaprogramchair [at] gmail.com or aaameetings [at] aaanet.org.

UPDATE 2: Yes, there will be another Pecha Kucha session. See AAA 2010 New Orleans - Call for Abstracts - Graduate Pecha Kucha Session


How To Present A Paper - or Can Anthropologists Talk?

Academic presentations: “The cure is a strong chairman and a system of lights”

Norwegian anthropology conferences are different


Comment from: Mary Walker [Visitor]
Mary Walker

Yup this kind of presentation jam is pretty common at many tech/startup meetings & conventions. Most aren’t strict pechakucha – they’ll have a rule like “5 min per talk” and it’s however many points & slides you the speaker want to cram into those 5 min. Often no discussion – discussion to happen afterwards by interested ppl tracking down the speaker – or, there’ll be a designated time limit (2 min, 5 min) for Q&A, then it’s on to the next speaker. It works very well for certain kinds of meetings, or for designated time blocks at conferences.

2010-01-29 @ 21:01
Comment from: Sara [Visitor]

@Lorenz thanks for this very useful post.Pecha Kucha way of presenting helps the presenters to deeply think and focus on the key ideas in their topics.

2010-02-03 @ 01:18

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