ELT Pecha Kucha Hour

Background: last month I was co-organizing Teacher Sharing Day which we called ‘Think Different’. There were five interactive sessions conducted by individual speakers, and one surprise/bonus session which is the main focus of this post. The name of that session was ‘ELT Pecha Kucha Hour‘.

A little bit of history: as you might already know, ‘Pecha Kucha’ is a Japanese word for ‘chit-chat’ and describes a presentation format with a slide show of 20 images, each being shown for 20 seconds only. In the classical version, the slide images (can) advance automatically and a presenter can talk along to the images. As you can agree, 400 seconds is not too much time for a presenter.

Initially designed in 2003 by two architects, Pecha Kucha (PK) Nights developed into a popular kind of event around the world, and have been held on various topics.

The main reason/rationale to originally create it was… architects talking to much! [Zhenya’s note: at least teachers are not the only ones known for having too much of TTT, or Teacher Talking Time]

By the way, while preparing for our event in Dnipro we were considering to register it on the official website, but then found our that our city had been already running them

So we had ‘ELT Pecha Kucha Hour’ (not ‘night’) in the title, which allowed us freer interpretation of how to handle the format. For example, we did not insist on either the number of slides (some presenters had fewer than 20), or the number of seconds (eventually it took most speakers longer than 20 seconds to talk about a slide). We didn’t insist on having only images on the slides, saying this in the call for presenters: ‘The slides are preferably images (photos, metaphors, drawings, etc.), with minimum of text’. On reflection, I feel it was fine, as the short timing of this format was already a challenge. A ‘Twitter-like’ presentation format, so to say.

We were not the pioneers in ELT who decided to try how the format would work: I personally heard of at least one conference where the format was tried, and that’s IATEFL Harrogate in 2014. Even though the recording is no longer available on the official website, you can watch it on Sandy Millin’s blog.

Our Teacher Sharing Day considered several topics for the PK Hour, for example, My Teaching Evolution, Reflecting on one’s role in the profession, My Teaching Journey, etc. The actual theme we chose was My ‘Think Different’ Moments in Teaching, formulated with the idea that presenters would have enough freedom to share what they like, and stay ‘in the topic’ of the whole event.

There were five brave and enthusiastic presenters sharing their teaching journey.

I did not create my own PK presentation and enjoyed being a listener, so can share my reflections from this point of view:

  • it was very fast: I had no chance to make notes (could only notice that some people were making a video recording);
  • I wanted to ask a question to a presenter, but some of them did not offer that opportunity (and if the others did, the time did not allow for in-depth answers);
  • I was amazed how different all the five teachers were (some beliefs shared sounded almost opposite, e.g. detailed lesson planning, or creating materials).

Some reflections from the organizer’s point of view:

Was the audience prepared for this format? In my short introduction part I mentioned the length and the idea, but I wonder if everyone had enough time to realize what’s going to happen. While planning, I had thought about ‘plan B’ idea: asking the audience this question: What would you share if you had 400 seconds and 20 slides on the topic ‘My ‘Think Different’ Moments in Teaching‘? I wonder if it is a good idea to do it (have done it?) as a way to prepare for the coming content, and especially if we aim to promote the idea that every teacher has something to share and can present at events for colleagues?

I also wonder if having 2-3 minutes of silence after each presentation could be a good idea: listeners could take notes, talk in pairs, etc., and the new presenter could open the slides and breathe another minute?

The original format does not allow to turn back a slide, for example; I wonder if we could change this rule and allow some slides to be shown longer (or… would it ‘kill’ the brevity idea?)

We have been reading feedback from the attendees and don’t have them all in at the point of writing this post. What I see now is that for a number of people the ELT PK Hour turned out to be the favorite session of the event. We will definitely keep this format as a part of our future events.

Some reflections from the presenter’s point of view:

As promised, I am sharing our presenter’s reflections about the planning and presenting process and experience.

[Note: it was initially posted on Facebook in Russian, and was translated and shortened by me with the author’s kind permission and approval. An amateur video recording was made by the presenter’s friend, and some thoughts below are based on watching the video and reflecting on it]

Please meet Kateryna Kaminska, teacher of English and Spanish, freelance trainer.

I got excited about the idea to try out such a format in the context of ELT, and thought it would be a great chance to do something new. Well, it is my style of living anyway! I did it, and now would like to share some conclusions:

  1. The easiest part in the prep process was to collect ideas and prepare the text/speech.
  2. Thinking about, searching for and creating images/slides takes much more time than #1)
  3. (But #2 is very exciting!)
  4. As I had to learn how to record a video in Power Point, I realized how many more features it offers (and would love to try some of them in my coming presentation! Yay!)
  5. Surprisingly, I was the only PK presenter who times the slides to meet the suggested requirements. As a result, mine was the only one that followed the timing limit (all the others took more!)
  6. The conclusion from #5 is to be more relaxed [about the requirements and restrictions]
  7. Presenting almost in the original Pecha Kucha format! The organizers offered to bear the overall timing in mind (6 minutes, not 6 minutes 40 seconds) and to be more flexible about the number of slides, which was the difference from the classical version of PK.
  8. 6 minutes, 13 slides held 27 seconds each is veeeeery fast! I started a bit later as I was given a clicker while the first slide was already on, and I was explaining why I didn’t need it… I started to feel stressed, stammered at times, and didn’t have time to develop some ideas, which I thought was confusing (or so it seemed).
  9. I should have asked to start the slide show from the very beginning, but I did not think about that at the time.
  10. It was a good idea to have a couple of slides for each idea in the presentation.
  11. I noticed that when I was reading a written text, or rehearsed presenting at the peace and comfort of my place, I was talking faster, freer, and more than at the actual event. I realized I had to keep thinking, not just recall what to say. Almost anew.
  12. In the stress of the presentation I did not mention about 35% of my ideas and thoughts.
  13. Presenting is hard if you tend to stammer. In general, I take a lot of time while having conversations to analyze whether or not I can pronounce something at the moment of speaking, and for searching alternative speech patterns to ‘circumlocute’ what I am trying to say. This got harder in the presenting process and speed.
  14. [from the video] I noticed how much time my interjections take (ummm, uhm, etc.). I had been told I tend to do that, and I keep noticing it in my speech. I suddenly realized how much time I ‘lost’ for those in the short presentation format! I now feel a need to get rid of this habit (just need to understand how to do it, and then … do it)
  15. Anyway, the recording shows quite a good level of the presentation. It does not show me skipping pieces of my own text, jumping from one idea to the other making a decision what to say and what not to in order to keep an idea complete and logical. Yes, all that while speaking!
  16. One needs to write a text. Has to. Even if you eventually skip half of it. I would not have done it without a written (and rehearsed?) text in my head.
  17. 17. At the end of my presentation I couldn’t even hear applause! I had to ask a person sitting next to me if the audience had been clapping, or not. It was hard to believe until I saw the video!  
  18. If I had not been stressing out this much (about the time, about being the only one ‘auto-timing’ the slides, etc.) I would have remembered to leave time for questions at the end. If people had had questions I would have recalled the parts I skipped in my talk. I had no idea it was possible in this format, and did not plan it.
  19. I was genuinely surprised when people came over and shared which ideas from my talk were close and relevant to them. Why was I so surprised?
  20. I feel I did a great job! I did something new, and I did it in a different way from the others. And I had fun! I am notorious for saying ‘yes’ to projects and new things, and I am planning to keep doing that! 🙂

Thank you everyone who supported me on that day, and who offered their support. It was very important for me! Thank you EduHub Teacher Sharing Day organizing team for making this happen. And… looking forward to more! 🙂

[Zhenya’s note: Kateryna, thank YOU for your willingness to say ‘yes’ and experiment with something new/unusual/different! It was a pleasure to learn with you in this process, to watch the presentation, and to read these reflective notes!]

Some final thoughts:

Possibly, we could also try other short formats/variation(s)? For example, my friend and colleague who had taught in Japan for a long time, recalls another conference session format she took part in. This is what she wrote in her e-mail to me:

Another kind of presentation format she experienced] based on a Japanese storytelling technique called ‘kamishibai‘. I can’t find the exact parameters […] for it, but I think it’s shorter than a PK. It was at a Teacher Education SIG event at JALT. A number of [presenters] were set up around the room and the audience members would choose which ones to listen to. It was a kind of free rotation.’

A belief of mine to finish with (not just about Pecha Kucha!): The key to a great presentation is to present something you love.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. Update in January 2019. There is a great post by Nik Peachey on his blog about using PK with students. If you enjoyed reading about the format, you might want to see how it works in your classroom!

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/
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8 Responses to ELT Pecha Kucha Hour

  1. ven_vve says:

    Hi Zhenya,

    I tried to comment yesterday and then when I hit “post comment” the whole thing disappeared. 😦 Let’s hope I have better luck this time. 🙂 Anyway, I meant to say that reading your post gave me the idea that I could do a session on this format the next time I teach my presentation skills course, if that comes to pass. I hope I get a chance to do this.

    It also got me thinking about the differences between PK and TeachMeets, which I believe are fairly similar in format. I thought you might like to see a teachmeet organised as part of a project I was involved in at work (this is in my non-ELT role). This particular event took place when I’d just joined the firm, so I wasn’t directly involved in any way. The recording is in Croatian, but you can see how long the talks lasted, the order the speakers presented in and a couple of other details. Here’s the link: https://meduza.carnet.hr/index.php/media/watch/11737

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    It’s interesting to hear how you have loosened up the PK restrictions, and how presenters responded to them.
    I’ve attended PKs quite a few times as evening events at IATEFL, and I think it was Lindsay Clandfield who originally introduced it. There was even a PK debate in Glasgow which I joined in with – the coordinators didn’t know who was on the opposing team until we walked up on stage. It was lots of fun 🙂 https://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/iatefl-glasgow-2017-in-sum/
    You can find other PKs from TESOL France on YouTube too. One of my favourites is this one by Jamie Keddie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puU8tSnZzak
    One question: were all of the presentations in English? I found it exhilarating to do a PK, but can’t imagine doing it in a second language. I greatly admire anyone who can do that!


    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Sandy

      Thank you for the comments and the links! Great to see how the format was adapted/adopted by the ELT industry. Loved the idea of PK debate (and how the teams did not know who the others were 🙂

      Our presentations were all in English. 100% of our conference speakers and 90% of all attendees had Ukrainian or Russian as their L1, so it was L2 for all of us. Doing it in another language (even L1s, I think) would be a challenge for me personally. Maybe a topic for another post or conversation 🙂

      Happy New Year to you Sandy,


  3. Zhenya says:

    Hi Vedrana

    Thank you very much for the comment and link, and apologies for not being able to respond earlier (was running an intensive course for teachers/trainers/supervisors in Rabat, Morocco, and that took literally all my time and attention for the past month)

    It is great to learn about Teach Meet format and to listen to the presentations in Croatian! Is there any description in English about the format? I wonder about the history/story of it, too (I believe a shorter format is something our modern world is pushing towards, with all the busy-ness and brevity, and social media formats, etc.) I think this is probably one way to see conferences/meetings in the future?

    Would love to learn more about the presentation skills course: is it ELT? For students or teachers?

    Take care and talk soon! And Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ven_vve says:

      Hi Zhenya,

      It’s my turn to apologize for not getting back to you sooner; I think I read your response on my phone (again), made a mental note to respond the next time I was at my desk and then somehow a week went by. 😦 I hope you enjoyed Morocco; in fact, I’m sure you did, judging by the pics. 🙂

      Re teach meets, I’m afraid there isn’t any info in English on those organized as part of the project I linked to, if that’s what you were wondering about. I did mention you in a response to a tweet the other day – it was about a teach meet which is going to be held at the Bett Show, so I hope there is some info about the format on their website/social media pages.

      Finally, about the presentation skills course: it’s an elective course for graduate students at the institution where I teach. I’m officially the course instructor, but I’ve only taught it once. When I took up a full-time job, I had to reduce my teaching load, so now I only have my online course. But I was thinking that maybe next year I could do the presentation skills course again for a change, and let someone else take the writing skills one.

      Liked by 1 person

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