Getting to the (Power) Point

Muma College uses the Pecha Kucha format to train faculty to translate their research to broader audiences.

MANY SCHOLARS SPEND years developing research before presenting their findings via pages and pages of text. And, yet, while they can write detailed and often complex academic papers, those same scholars might be apprehensive about the idea of reducing their hard work to a presentation lasting just six minutes and forty seconds.

This past March, that was the challenge before seven academics—both professors and grad students—at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida in Tampa. They had agreed to use Pecha Kucha, a concise presentation style developed in 2003 by two architects, to communicate their research to an audience. The Pecha Kucha format has strict limitations: The speaker can present just 20 PowerPoint slides, each shown for only 20 seconds before automatically advancing to the next.

Pecha Kucha presentations are much like job interviews, in which people must convey important information in a limited amount of time, explains Kaushal Chari, associate dean. If speakers go on too long, their presentations could go on without them; if they don’t speak long enough, they could be faced with uncomfortable silence before the next slide appears. The exercise was meant to help the researchers develop communication skills such as brevity and timing—both key in reaching nonacademic audiences.

At Muma’s Pecha Kucha event, speakers presented on topics ranging from the identification of risk among cloud services to the effect of alcohol consumption on speculative investment behavior.

Pecha Kucha nights are now held in more than 1,000 cities worldwide. To learn more about this presentation style, visit www.pechakucha.org.