Discover: PechaKucha Perth

And regret not going earlier.

Words by: Tahlia Sanders

PechaKucha describes itself as “one of Perth’s best undiscovered events”, yet when I made the drive down to Fremantle for their last event a few weeks ago the venue was packed and I was turned away. It would appear Perth’s grittier answer to TED is gaining traction faster than event organisers could have imagined, and I can see why.

PechaKucha offers an opportunity for people from all walks of life to share their experiences and for anyone in the local community to access this invaluable knowledge. It makes use of a 20×20 presentation format, where presenters prepare 20 images that will play on a slideshow for 20 seconds each, progressing automatically and forcing presenters to speak with precision and brevity. This means the insights guests gain from a PechaKucha night are refreshingly hard-hitting and to the point.

The name PechaKucha draws upon the events’ Japanese origins. Translated, it refers to the sound of chit-chat.

Upon discovering the PechaKucha concept online, I knew I wanted to find out more. I got in contact with Rach, one of the coordinators behind PechaKucha Perth to delve deeper.

How has Pecha Kucha grown since you first came to be involved with it?

Since I have been involved over the past two years I have noticed a marked difference in people knowing who we actually are and what we do. Involving speakers with strong followings has helped us to get out there a bit more in the World Wide Web, Internet thing – and the rest is just word of mouth.

Creative people in Perth are reaching out to each other more than ever, I think. There are a lot of awesome organisations connecting them and a real sense of community, and we are just lucky to be a part of it. 

How did you come to be involved with PechaKucha?

Jess and Tara, two interior designers who studied together at Curtin, decided to revive PK Perth about 5 years ago – they attended PK in its first (at least, I think it was its first) Perth iteration. It was run by two other girls then. After it fell off the radar and they had just graduated, they decided it was something they wanted to bring back.

When Tara moved to Melbourne about 2 years ago, I came on board to help Jess. We are sisters and I had lent a hand in the past when she needed it, had presented in the past, and had a vague idea of how it worked. We work together pretty well (case in point: have not killed each other to this date) and we both work in creative industries and feel real good about all the things PK stands for: spreading good ideas, creating community, and inspiring others.

What is the process required to put together a PechaKucha event? Who is involved?

Jess and I usually find a venue first. We alternate between Fremantle and the city, and we always try to bring people into new or unusual spaces – so they get to experience new corners of our city as well. Once a date is locked in, we start sourcing presenters. Sometimes people come to us (we LOVE that), sometimes we approach people, sometimes we stalk them relentlessly until they submit… Ahem.

Then we badger them until they send their presentations to us. We format it, set it to auto-timer, give our presenters two free drinks on the night and hope for the best. Depending on the venue, we might have to run a bar and get a license, or else the venue will run it. Sometimes we have to hire chairs and set it up, sometimes it’s all set up by magical venue angels. Our cool AV guy Tony does the projector and mic set up, and it’s not for profit so our sponsors help us to pay for the venues and running the night. We have volunteers running the door and part of that $6 entry fee goes back to PK HQ in Japan, the rest goes to the next event. 

Can you tell us a little about your favourite presenters in the past? What do you think it is that makes a good PechaKucha presentation? 

That’s a tough one! At the most recent PK at Guild Hall, Stranger Danger Dinners was a great one – and slightly outside of the format, in that they pre-recorded their audio in order to remain anonymous. But all of our presenters that night were really wonderful. The room was warm (and packed out – we sold out in 30 minutes) and everyone was vibing off each other. It’s interesting to speak to our friends and fellow PK attendees afterward about their favourite talks of the night – there’s never a consensus. Different things resonate with different people, which is why we try to keep our presenters varied.

I think what makes a great PK presentation, or any public speaking presentation for that matter, is for the presenters to speak from the heart. Use informal, jargon-free language, don’t worry too much about polish, don’t worry if the slide moves on before you do. The visual aspect of the presentation has a great way of moving it forward and engaging people even when our presenters are lost for words. Generally, people that can talk more in-depth about their topic rather than covering too much ground usually fare best. Twenty seconds for twenty slides goes faster than you’d think!

What do you hope guests take away from a PechaKucha event?

We want them to leave inspired and a little bit more in love with their city and the beautiful minds that fill it. They might make friends or contacts, they might get a bit of motivation to push through a project or start a new one. It’s all about inspiration. We live in a small place and it’s important to remember that exciting things are happening all the time even if we can’t see it.

What’s next for PechaKucha? 

More events! More inspiring talks! More awkward introductions from Jess or myself! We are hoping to have one last PK before 2015 is out… Watch this space. Or just follow us on Facebook. That’s where we do the things.