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Boiling Down Years of Research to a Six-Minute, 40-Second Presentation Is the Challenge of Pecha Kucha

By Keith Morelli

Presenter at Pecha Kucha

TAMPA (April 12, 2018) -- Think about it: You work for months, maybe years on a research project, generating reams of data, spending hours analyzing the numbers and facts, all to arrive at a groundbreaking conclusion.

Now, you have to get up in front of a room full of skeptics eager to challenge your findings. And there's this: you have to explain it all in six minutes, 40 seconds.

Welcome to Pecha Kucha.

Seven Muma College of Business researchers, some professors, others graduate students, took the plunge recently, taking part in the highly structured exercise in communication. It took place in BSN 115 on a warm afternoon in March. Each had prepared a PowerPoint presentation consisting of 20 slides, each of which was timed at exactly 20 seconds and would automatically advance. If the speaker took too long to make the point, the timing of the whole presentation could be lost.

Pecha Kucha is a format devised by a pair of architectural partners in 2003, according to the website. The first Pecha Kucha Night was held in Tokyo, and has led to a trend in which complex topics are boiled down to the simplest terms, delivered in a brief amount of time.

"Good Pecha Kucha presentations are the ones that uncover the unexpected; unexpected talent, unexpected ideas," the website said. "Some Pecha Kuchas tell great stories about a project or a trip. Some are incredibly personal, some are incredibly funny, but all are very different ... "

Muma College of Business Associate Dean Kaushal Chari introduced the researchers and explained the rules. The idea behind the exercise, he said, was to foster communication and share what research has revealed about the world of business. The presentations ranged from identifying risk associations among cloud services to alcohol consumption as it relates to speculative investment behavior.

Pecha Kucha also is intended to offer a chance for feedback from a critical audience, Chari said, but more importantly, it forces presenters to boil down their research for when they are asked about it in time-limited situations, like job interviews.

How can this possibly be done successfully? Here are some tips from successful presenters:

  • Tell a story; take your audience on a short journey.
  • Determine what is most important, what you think the audience should remember.
  • Use powerful, relevant images, ones that reinforce your talking points.
  • Be careful not to cram too much into your presentation. Talking fast to keep up with changing slides doesn't help.
  • Practice several times beforehand to become comfortable with your presentation.

One by one, the presenters rose and walked to the stage to deliver their talks. Information Systems and Decision Sciences graduate student Gaurav Jetley, who careened through his presentation on "Adverse Drug Reaction Detection in EHR Databases," was the first to take the stage. He was followed by Finance Department Assistant Professor Jared Williams, who talked about connecting the frequency of taxi cab rides taken by bankers from their banks to the Federal Reserve in New York to predicting financial trouble for those banks.

That presentation was titled "When Bankers Go To Hail."