by Sally Pike

PechaKucha Cape Town

Presentation techniques for project forum meetings

PechaKucha Cape Town
PechaKucha Cape Town

Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation ('chit chat'), the PechaKucha presentation format is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. We’ve all sat in ‘project forum’ meetings. They can be a great opportunity for project managers across the community to come together to explore common risks, issues and lessons learnt. The idea behind these meetings is good, and often they are incredibly effective.

I’m sure we have all experienced those forum meetings that are dominated by one or two of the many project managers involved, where the main aim of the meeting gets distracted from as one individual laboriously explains the details of what they are doing, or somebody simply hogs too much of the floor for anyone else to share their opinions and experiences. 

The main reason behind these meetings is to provide project managers with the opportunity to spread knowledge and explore, and share solutions to common problems. A skill that each project manager (and generally anyone in business) should develop, however, is to talk about his/her project in a concise and focused manner so that the audience can enjoy the full benefit of their time spent together.

I recently spent an evening at PechaKucha Cape Town, and what a joy of an evening it turned out to be. While my motivation was more a quest to seek inspiration and engage with innovation, I find I always leave these events having learnt more than expected.

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003, and now events are taking place in hundreds of cities around the world. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of conversation ('chit chat'), the PechaKucha presentation format is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It is the format of keeping presentations concise and moving at a rapid pace that characterises the PechaKucha style of presentation.

When listening to the presentations at PechaKucha, I found that no matter the topic, I was constantly engaged because each presenter had to share and discuss a new image so quickly in succession. Based on this format, it should take each project manager a maximum of seven minutes to present a concise and complete overview of his/her project, which would make these meetings much more effective.

Another useful format (albeit slightly more challenging) is the elevator pitch. If you had one minute to explain the key touchpoints of your project, what would you say? The elevator pitch format is usually used to grab investor attention: the main idea is to challenge presenters to share their business vision in a smooth, focused manner in the time it would take to complete an elevator ride. 

Perhaps one minute is a bit too short for what needs to be shared at a project forum, but the idea is powerful. Imagine if in your next meeting, the presentations were focused, kept to the point, ideas were highlighted clearly and possible steps forward (including resources) were clearly identified. Suddenly, time spent is purposed, functional and valuable. A good presentation takes a level of discipline to stick to the purpose, and avoid tangents.

This is where the power of the PechaKucha and elevator pitch techniques find their power:  they keep the presenter focused and create boundaries from which one cannot stray (sounds regimented, but in large meetings there does need to be some level of control – side details can be dealt with over the phone or via email). 

Perhaps an effective presentation format for project managers to use in a forum would be a combination of the elevator pitch and the PechaKucha 20x20 style. Let your first three slides be your elevator pitch, grab audience attention, allow them to desire more information, get them engaged, then spend the next six minutes (no more) elaborating on key points and reflecting on key details. Cross-check yourself: Are you sharing relevant information? Is your communication clear? 

Respect your audience enough to prepare for each meeting: recognise that you are all sacrificing time and energy, and that the time spent together, if used well, can be incredibly powerful and add business value.


If you would like to find out more about PechaKucha, visit or follow on twitter @PechaKuchaCT.


Sally Pike


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