The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

This year I was introduced to the Pecha Kucha presentation format. For those not familiar with it, Pecha Kucha (pronounced peh-cha koo-cha) originated in Japan and translates as the sound of conversation or chit-chat. A Pecha Kucha presentation lasts only 6 minutes and 40 seconds and is made up of 20 slides that automatically advance every 20 seconds.

I became aware of the Pecha Kucha format when Bob Silverberg, everyones favorite Canadian ColdFusion developer, volunteered to put on a Pecha Kucha BOF session at the CF.Objective() conference. Typically, Pecha Kucha sessions are about something the presenter is passionate about or deeply involved in. Ben Nadel talked about people-centric software design. Steve Withington talked about beer. There were a few other topics, though unsurprisingly, most were technical in nature. At the time, I was under quite a bit of stress and so I wrote my presentation on stress and how I manage it.

Personally, I thought the format was excellent. The crowd was really into the presentations and energetic, laughing and cheering at all the right places. Since then Ive given the presentation two other times with a similar feeling.

One of the things I like about the format is that it forces the presenter to be concise and get their point across as quickly, clearly, and efficiently as possible. Additionally, if I’m uninterested in a presentation I only have to wait about five minutes for it to be over.

Since giving these presentations Ive pondered what would happen if you crossed a technical conference with Pecha Kucha? Lets face it, theres way too much new information in the technology world to keep up with effectively. You could read blogs all day long and still not be up to date on the majority of whats new.

Consider that over the last few years weve had a renaissance of dynamic languages, new frameworks have emerged, software development approaches have changed, and more. In a nutshell, things are changing, and fast! As an example, I recently heard about the reemergence of server side JavaScript. Who would have thought?!

If we dont know whats new then were stagnating. For this reason Im seriously thinking about putting on a language agnostic tech conference. Ive loosely titled this Pecha Kucha Con. The idea is that the conference would be either one or two days with only one track. Each presentation would be 6 minutes and 40 seconds long on a topic that no other speaker would be talking about. The purpose of these talks would be to give the audience a small slice of information about this topic and just enough to get started researching it, if theyre interested.

Im thinking that in one day you would have approximately 27 presentations grouped in fours. So, for example, from 10:00 am to 10:30 youd have four presentations. There would be fifteen-minute breaks every 30 minutes for refreshments and networking. Add in a long lunch and morning and evening networking events and youve got a lot of opportunity to get introduced to a lot of things you wouldnt otherwise find out about. Furthermore, the technology agnostic aspect would hopefully create an opportunity for cross-pollination where maybe there isnt typically (like between, say, .NET and Erlang programmers).

I think theres a lot more that could go with this as well. For example, make it a multi-day conference. Or have multiple tracks perhaps for programming, management, design, etc. Perhaps this conference could be held both online and offline. For example, maybe there would be a venue in RTP, NC, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. Each on of these events could broadcast through Adobe Connect to each other and to the general public who might not be close to one of these areas. This would allow for very wide audience involvement and unique conference experience.

So, on the surface, do you think this sounds like an interesting idea? Do you have any additional ideas that might go along with this? Ive purchased the domain name I suppose Ill see what sort of interest there is and decide if its worth the effort or not.

Comments on: "A Technical Pecha Kucha Con?" (11)

  1. Doug, I think it’s a great idea. I would love to see something like this in the RTP area for sure.


  2. Funnily I mentioned this to a conference organiser for a well known upcoming conference, and hopefully this and BarCamp type presentations (presentations that people suggest from the delegates rather than presenters) will becoming a bigger fixture in conferences.


  3. Doug – I agree that concise and interesting are more powerful for learning quick ideas and keeping up with what is new. From there, a person could delve deeper into a topic and learn more.

    I think this has a lot of potential and not only that it is a good idea, but I want to help!! Let me know when you want to chat about it – this could be the beginning of a great new concept.



  4. Well, this is all great feedback. I should take a look at the barcamp format as well and see if that couldn’t fit in as well. And, yes, Paul, I’ll be in touch with you. I’ve had a couple other people express interest in helping out as well. That said, I’m not sure this would be a free event… On the other hand, I don’t have a ton of money to speculate on this. So we’ll figure it out somehow.


  5. We are thinking of having a significant Pecha Kucha style time as part of the Open CF Summit. We also planning on doing something with the Open Spaces conference concept. Check out the link below for more info.


  6. There were several of us at NCDevCon talking about doing a BarCamp type event in the Triangle. Think that would be a lot of fun and ‘hands on’.

    Maybe you could combine the two? Morning Pecha Kucha sessions followed by afternoon sessions where you dug in deeper to the top voted Pecha Kucha topics?

    Or day one is Pecha Kucha and day two is hands on?


  7. Interesting idea, Doug. Yes, that one we did at cf.objective really went well. It was my first, and a real treat (and challenge) to compress a talk to 5 minutes (for those interested, I did a variation on my CF Mythbusters talk).

    As for your concept, I’ll note that there is in fact a group that already organizes “PechaKucha Nights”, but obviously that’s a smaller format than you have in mind. Still, you may get some ideas from them:

    It definitely seems you’d get greater traction and interest if it was available online as well, but I know some assert the risk of that cannibalizing local presence. Always a balancing act.

    As for the pronunciation, well, I know that the Wikipedia entry says it’s pronounced as you say. πŸ™‚ But there are many references to it as well being peCHAtchka. While on the surface it seems that can’t be right, this youtube preso on the concept (from Wired editor Daniel Pink who refers to learning of it “in Japan”) repeatedly pronounces it that way at the outset: . I see how it could be so. For instance, we don’t pronounce “might” as “mikt”,or “mig-hit”.Hopefully it will be resolved authoritatively some day. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, keep up the good work and best wishes on the concept. I’d certainly enjoy doing it again.


  8. Shame I am not getting email notifications that people are updating this thread, but I thought I would post a very entertaining Pecha Kucha presentation on the Entimology of Flightless Birds

    (oh yes, it’s worth it…)


  9. Yes, Doug, to Mark’s observation: is it somehow intentional that there is no option for email notification of comments, as is common on most blogs? It would be most appreciated–and can help spur more conversation. πŸ™‚


  10. I see that an option to choose to receive notifications has now been added. Awesome.


  11. Darn, it submitted before I could check it. Seems that somehow the tab key (when it leaves this text field) does not stop at the notify checkbox but instead jumps to the submit button. That’s too bad. I hit the space bar intending to have it check the checkbox, and it just submitted the last comment. If that may be something you can address, Doug, it would be appreciated by keyboard fans. πŸ™‚


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