Powering up presentations: Pecha Kucha style!

Writer(s): 
Ian Willey, Kagawa University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Group work, Pecha Kucha presentations, PowerPoint 
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Activity time: 150 to 180 minutes (Two class meetings)
  • Preparation time: Little to none
  • Materials: Computer, projector

Pecha Kucha presentations, which use 20 PowerPoint slides shown for 20 seconds each, have gained popularity in the business and academic worlds. These presentations are often done in groups, and the fast pace requires presenters to choose their words carefully lest they fall behind and cut into the next person’s time. This speed and intensity is what makes Pecha Kucha presentations enjoyable. They are also a great format for students to deliver PowerPoint presentations in groups as they require students to practice as a team under time pressure. And they’re fun! The following activity can be done in any course where students deliver English presentations.                        

Preparation  

Step 1: Preparation takes place during the first class meeting. First, introduce students to the Pecha Kucha style of presentation. Though pecha-kucha (lit., prattling) is a Japanese word, most students are unfamiliar with this type of presentation. Sample Pecha Kucha presentations can be downloaded from YouTube and shown via projector.   

Step 2: Explain that the number of slides and timing of slide transitions in Pecha Kucha presentations can be made to vary.

Step 3: Using PowerPoint and a projector, show students how to set the timing of slides. Refer to the Microsoft Office website (in English or Japanese) for instructions on how this can be done.

Step 4: Divide students into groups of three. As this activity requires rehearsal outside of class, it may be best to allow students to select their own partners.

Step 5: Give students this assignment: Each student will give an introduction to personal hobbies or interests in English. Use six slides set at 20 seconds per slide (30 seconds for lower-level classes).

Step 6: Tell students to aim to speak for the full 20 seconds for each slide. This prevents students from simply saying, for example, “I like chess” on one slide, and “Chess is fun” for the next.  

Step 7: Instruct students to save slides on one file on a USB memory stick; each file should thus have 18 slides.

Step 8: Explain that presentations must be prepared outside of class time and practice as a team is essential. 

Step 9: Tell students that at least one student in each group should bring a laptop to the next class.

Step 10: Remind groups not to forget their PowerPoint file. Instruct them to practice as a group until they feel confident that their presentation will go smoothly. Tell them that, if they do not practice together, their Pecha Kucha presentation will become a Mecha Kucha presentation (i.e., a disaster). They will smile.            

Procedure

Step 1: Allow students some warm-up time (about 10-15 minutes). Using one group member’s laptop, students should stand up and practice their presentations.

Step 2: While students practice, move around and observe them. Offer advice and encouragement.

Step 3: For the rest of the class, have groups come to the front of the class and deliver their presentations. Sit back and enjoy!

Step 4: Allow some time for questions or comments between each presentation. Offer your comments. This helps students feel that the content of their presentation matters. 

Conclusion

When doing this activity for the first time, most groups will stumble during their presentations. This is part of the fun. However, most presentations falter simply because students have not practiced sufficiently. It’s thus a good idea to try this activity more than once in the semester, to see if students improve in their second presentation. You can tell students that their second presentation will be given a group grade, and all members must thus pull their own weight. Through this activity, students will hopefully learn that PowerPoint presentations, and presentations in English, can be dynamic and enjoyable for presenters and audience—though practice is essential! 

 
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