Update: Volume 10 in Easton will be at the Pomfret Club, 4th street in historic Easton – November 11 2017!!
Pecha Kucha: qu’est-ce que c’est? November 10, 2015 * by Helene Barker Kiser, of thINK + original co-conspiritor to bring PK to Easton.
That the historic city of Easton overlooks the forks where the Lehigh and Delaware rivers meet and merge is both literally true and metaphorically significant.Here, 27,000 fiercely loyal and highly engaged Easton residents—white collar or blue, college student or retiree, straight or gay, Hispanic or Caucasian or African-American—also come together to practice community, building bridges to connect with each other in ever more meaningful ways.
Because Eastonians are such a diverse and close-knit community of interesting and interested individuals, it was only fitting that the international PechaKucha organization landed here in 2015. Part of the social fabric in cities worldwide, PechaKucha Night is a fast-paced, dynamic, and hugely fun quarterly event at which passions, ideas, and insight are shared communally.
The Japanese term for “chit chat,” PechaKucha (pronounced either puhCHOCKcha or PETchaKOOcha depending on who you ask) was founded in Tokyo in 2003 by architects and business partners Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, who devised the innovative format for other like-minded and engaged creatives to share their work visually and exchange ideas.
The idea rapidly took off and spread across the globe; as of this writing, there are more than 800 PechaKucha host cities, from Helsinki to Paris to Boston to Rio de Janiero to Sarajevo to San Francisco and all points in between. Organizers in each PechaKucha city enter into a handshake agreement with the global organization after a formal application process.
If you’ve heard of TED talks (“Ideas Worth Spreading”), you already have a pretty good idea of the basics of what to expect from PechaKucha presentations, but there are key differences.
First, the format.
Whether the presenter is a well-known photographer with international acclaim or a quiet widow who cards, spins, and dyes organic wool, the presentation “playing field” is completely democratic.
Every PechaKucha presentation consists of exactly 20 images or photographs, each of which appears on screen for exactly 20 seconds. Do the math and you’ll find that 20 images times 20 seconds equals 400 seconds, the exact length of time that each presenter is allotted. No more and no less.
The excitement and energy in the room at a PechaKucha Night is palpable, and it’s sustained precisely because the presentations move along at a predictably fast pace. There is no time for minds to wander or attention to stray, and no chance for the “talking forever” that often happens when a speaker gets a hold of a microphone or fires up a PowerPoint.
The second difference is what can only be termed the ethos.
TED talks are amazing events powered by people who are recognized as true leaders and innovators in their fields—the subject matter experts in the truest sense of that phrase. Part of what makes them amazing is their exclusivity; not many people are qualified to give a TED talk.
On the other hand, anyone who has something they love or something they are passionate about can present at PechaKucha. The evenings are not expert or data-driven. They are fun. They are informal. They are inclusive. And they are community based.
But PechaKucha isn’t an open mike night or a free for all. The presentations—there are a total of eight each PechaKucha Night, with a brief break at the halfway point—are selected and curated by the PKEaston co-chairs. While their role is not to impose on or judge the presenters, the co-chairs serve as a “first audience,” working together with presenters to develop and craft the most visually engaging and well-paced individual presentations possible. This also ensures a diverse, wide-ranging, and appealing program for the evening.
PechaKucha is perhaps best understood as a beloved community event where all are truly welcome and appreciated, whether as audience members or as presenters. The energy at the event is almost impossible to describe; the brief “spotlight ads” from corporate and community sponsors are met with cheers and applause just as the presenters are, because everyone involved is an integral part of the community. Absolutely no one is out of place here.
PechaKucha gives Eastonians a place to come together as a community to celebrate the individuals of our community in interesting locations across our community.
In just 400 seconds, we collectively learn about an artist’s new project. And chocolate making. And brewing craft beers. And the neuroscience of zombies. And rethinking urban cemeteries as green space. And art as therapy for incarcerated women. And riding a Pony Express re-creation. And the historic farmer’s market.
And just about anything else you can think of, all while sharing drinks and snacks and conversation and camaraderie with others from all over Easton and the greater Lehigh Valley.
Helene Barker Kiser, MA, MFA, is a writer and co-owner of thINK: Creative. Content. Consulting. thINK, partners with clients to develop creative and persuasive communication materials that reach target audiences and achieve goals: increased sales, improved public relations, or better brand awareness. thINK believes in relationship, taking time to really understand clients and what they need before writing a word—who they are, what they offer, what makes them special. Other commercial writers use tired templates and standardized formats. The thINK approach is immersive and experiential, so we get it just right the first time, on time and on budget.