PechaKucha: Now you see it – now you don’t

PechaKucha

For the last Software Testing Club Meetup here in Cambridge I shamelessly hopped on the wagon and directed us to go see the PechaKucha Night at the friendly Espresso Library near Parker’s Piece.

PechaKucha Nights are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps — just about anything, really — in the PechaKucha 20×20 format. PechaKucha 20×20 is a simple presentation format where you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.

Not too many testers were interested this time, nonetheless I’m still happy with the evening – I had been too busy in order to organise or prepare a more focused event but still wanted to offer an opportunity to take in some new information in the company of other testers. Also, selfishly, I really wanted to go myself – being generally interested to hear people share knowledge and ideas but also because I had done a few presentations recently (at work and outside, for other testers) and wanted to get inspired to try something new, especially regarding on how to structure my slides which tend to be rather wordy.

One approach of getting better is training, but it also helps to stop, analyse and reflect, to contrast your own with other approaches, to try something new. And here comes the PechaKucha Night, offering an opportunity to take in how different people would present using such a fixed format – perfect. There were eight presentations during the evening but I won’t talk much about the content here – if you’re interested you’ll find the talks at the Cambridge PechaKucha page – you’ll rather get my thoughts on the use of this format. So here goes:

  • The talks were on a wide spectrum between a slide-show-type of talk where the story connects only loosely with the pictures and a presentation-type of talk were your structure develops from slide to slide
  • … but most talks were closer to a slide-show
  • … and most slides being mainly visual, often not including any text at all
  • … and not including title or final slides
  • Talks were the slides were the driving factor had a slight disadvantage as
  •  … you don’t control the slides, they automatically switch every 20 seconds
  •  … and if can be difficult to be neither ahead nor behind the actual slide
  •  … while keeping the flow of the story natural
  •  Whereas the talks were the slides were supporting rather than driving the story allowed to
  •  … be more independent of the slides and their tempo
  •  … tell the story and connect to the actual slide whenever suits your needs but ignore otherwise
  •  … more easily have two or three similar slides for a longer topic (> 20 seconds)
  •  But both types (or any mix between) can work well in this format, especially when
  •  … you are truly passionate about your topic
  •  … you engage with the audience rather than with your slides
  •  … you know your content well and are aware of your next (couple) of slides
  •  … you are comfortable with the style you choose (bend the format to how it best works for you)
  •  … your slides follow naturally onto each other
  •  … unless you are using a radical break in the flow of images and story for dramatic purposes (which is very effective)
  •  … you take it easy and have a strategy when encountering roadblock, for example using humour (“Oh, the slide is gone already! Moving swiftly on.”)
  • And both types can fail

Not too surprising out-takes, maybe, but helpful to me while pondering the style of my own slides. I was especially impressed by a few successful examples on the evening where a word connected dramatically to the image shown in the slide, or a phrase was exemplified nonchalant by what was shown in the background – this worked really well to bring across a point and to engage the audience with the talk. I think although I personally would not want to drift too much into slide-show land, still favouring some text, I would still want to try more to pinpoint the story I want to tell and separate it from the slide, thinking more about how to use the slide as a mere emphasis showing an image, a headline, a word, a result, a quote – but not trying to fit the whole story onto it.

Try it yourself and let PechaKucha show you in an enjoyable evening a colourful variety of topics, styles, images and stories – and of working the stage while not being in control of your slides. Daring! Many thanks to organisers and speakers for making this possible and sharing their ideas!

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About Karo Stoltzenburg

Software Tester in Cambridge. Views are my own.
This entry was posted in I've attended a thing, I've thought about a thing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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