Have you heard of PechaKucha? With so many platforms for creative self-expression arising today, I recently attended a PechaKucha night in southwest Michigan, finding the event and presentations inspiring and genuinely intimate. Pechakucha 20 x 20 uses a simple Power Point presentation format where presenters shows 20 images for 20 seconds, with images advancing automatically, coupled with spoken word ‘captioning’ of each, making for a sometimes hilarious, sometimes wildly creative mini-performance. People have referred to PechaKucha as a “Local Ted Talk”, but while TED is brilliant it is very different. TED is top down but PechaKucha is bottom up, giving a lot of everyday people a chance to share extraordinary ideas.
The whole deal was started by a group of Japanese architects almost 20 years ago in Tokyo, Japan, with PechaKucha Nights growing globally into informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas, works, thoughts, holiday snaps -- just about anything, really -- in the PechaKucha 20x20 format. Every PechaKucha Night city is hosted by a local organizer – in this case Lana Defrancesco of St Joseph, Michigan - who has an annual Handshake Agreement with PechaKucha HQ to run their event series, ensuring that each PechaKucha Night is relevant to that city, and can create a unique platform to uncover that community’s creativity. And it does!
Many cities beyond Tokyo offer virtually no public spaces where people can show and share their work in a relaxed way. If you have just graduated from college and finished your first project in the real world, where can you show it? It probably won't make a magazine, and you may not have enough photos for a gallery show or a lecture, but PechaKucha is the perfect platform to show and share your work. Anyone can present -- this is the beauty of PechaKucha Nights. Astrid's daughter presented when she was 5 (about her artwork) and Mark's mother presented when she was 69 (about her elaborate wedding cake creations).
The key to a great presentation is to present something you Love. Good PechaKucha presentations are the ones that uncover the unexpected -- unexpected talent and unexpected ideas. Some PechaKuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some incredibly funny, but all are very original to each individual. The best presentation of our recent Thursday night gathering by far was by the die-hard quilter whose entire talk sprang from how she deftly hides fabric from her husband. In the Q & A afterward, when people asked where they found the inspiration for their talk, she answered, “I said to my sister, ‘I’m the most talentless person in the world. All I can do creatively is hide fabric all over the household’ To which my sister responded, ‘Why don’t you do a talk on that?’ And a star was born. You never know when your contribution - no matter how small - might move others, evinced by room of hundreds in attendance who gave her slides of fabric as a table runner, fabric hidden in stacks of picnic baskets and on and on a standing ovation. I’m considering my own personal talk before the year is out, with working titles like “Me and My Indian Chief” and “Serpents, Snakes and Rethinking The Garden of Eden.” Stay attuned.