Deriving its name from the Japanese word for “chit chat,” PechaKucha Nights wraps up the stream-of-consciousness flow of idle chatter into a concise, intentional package. Now, these presentation-based soirees have found a home in Peoria, thanks to one local enthusiast.

A Creative Assembly
PechaKucha Nights got started in 2003 when a pair of Tokyo architects came together to create an informal platform for local artists and designers to share their work and passions. In the years since, it has snowballed into a global assembly of creative minds, with events in more than 430 cities around the world. Anyone can attend these gatherings—or present at them. It’s essentially a type of social networking, but one that (gasp!) leaves the computer behind.

“I think the basic philosophy is another means of trying to connect people,” explains Brandy Dietrich, architect at PSA-Dewberry and founder of the Peoria chapter. “It’s a means of getting people together and learning new things.”

Attendees can expect presentations on an infinite range of topics, from the zany to the reflective. A single night might feature a primer on molecular gastronomy, a collage of urban graffiti, and the quest of a reluctant Facebooker, but all presentations share a single twist: each is exactly six minutes and 40 seconds long.

Using the “20×20 method,” PechaKucha’s only guideline is that all presentations must include exactly 20 PowerPoint slides, each appearing for exactly 20 seconds. The snappy format seeks to eliminate the dreaded “Death by PowerPoint,” whereby unengaging presenters rely on the ubiquitous software to mask a lackluster discourse.

Dietrich, who brought the idea to Peoria about a year ago, outlines the process. “[Presenters] send me their slides, and I put them into one massive slideshow presentation. The slides progress automatically every 20 seconds. No one is pushing a button; no one is cueing anyone…You just kind of have to go with it.”

From Tokyo to Peoria
Having discovered PechaKucha while serving on the American Institute of Architects Illinois Board of Directors, Dietrich attended gatherings in Champaign, Chicago and Washington D.C., before thinking to herself, “Peoria can do this.”

To jumpstart the initiative locally, she appealed to its founders. “I had to fill out several forms and send them to global PechaKucha headquarters in Tokyo,” she recalls. “They had to read why I felt that Peoria could support these kinds of events.”

Today, with three events under its belt, Peoria’s PechaKucha Nights are gaining traction. Dietrich reminisces fondly about past presentations, describing two improvised routines based on random slides that appeared behind the presenters. “I was laughing so hard I started crying halfway through!” On a more serious note, she recalls a touching presentation about 20 things the presenter took for granted, before describing one on the “art of the taxi.”

“She presented about the different scenarios…in different countries because of the culture around the taxi,” remembers Dietrich. “In some of them, you have to be sure you tip; others find tips offensive. In some countries, stay away from the black-and-white taxis…you might be lucky if you survive the taxi ride!” Regarding the diversity of presentations, she adds, “It’s just a very interesting mix that you end up with.”

Know Thyself
Dietrich believes that the eclectic assortment of presentations showcases the adaptability of the 20×20 method. “It’s a format that fits anyone, whether they are a stay-at-home-mom or an engineer who travels the world. It’s a means of everyone looking inside themselves and figuring out what makes them unique.”

She notes that people often find it difficult to pinpoint their own unique qualities. “Typically, the first thing anyone says to me is, ‘What in the world would I present on?’”

But everyone has a passion; the key is to present on something you love. In this respect, PechaKucha reveals another benefit: its ability to help people discover and unveil those passions—and illuminate themselves in the process. For more information on PechaKucha in Peoria, visit
pecha-kucha.org/night/peoria. a&s


PK at a Glance
PechaKucha Nights offer individuals a means to present their work, ideas and passions while connecting with others in an engaging, open environment.

FORMAT: Each presentation features 20 slides that appear for 20 seconds each.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Anything goes during PechaKucha Nights!
UPCOMING EVENT: September 20, 2011, 7pm at the Rhythm Kitchen in Peoria 
ADMISSION: Free.

Curious? Visit pecha-kucha.org to watch one of more than 200 presentations online!