400 Seconds: PechaKucha International Day Coming to Columbus Theatre Thursday

Thursday February 20th marks the first annual International PechaKucha Day, which celebrates the unique storytelling platform in various events nationwide. Maybe you’ve heard of PechaKucha, maybe you haven’t. For those of you in the latter ‘know’ let me give you some background. PechaKucha is a creative presentation style that originated in Tokyo in 2003 by two celebrated architects. It was created in response to the long-winded, dragging presentations we all know too well.

PechaKucha, which means “chit chat’ in Japanese, gives presenters a platform to tell their story (on literally anything, your call, just don’t try to sell anything!) but in a very particular capacity. Each presentation (typically done in a Google Slides or adjacent format) is allotted 20 images and 20 seconds per image. The images move on with or without you, and your visuals guide your story. Every month has a theme. For example, this month’s theme is “We Are Providence,” and you can either stick to it… or not. It’s free form at its finest.

“It gives people an opportunity to share the stuff they’re excited about,” says current Providence organizer Chris Donovan. “What makes it so exciting is that every delivery is different. It’s interesting to see what people do with the constraints and the potential of where and how they use it.”

I’ve seen quite a few PechaKucha presentations but never presented until January of this year. I found the format and time constraints intimidating. For better or worse, my tirades are legendary so, in the end, 400 seconds doesn’t feel like enough time to say anything. But it is! It allows you to stay on point, tell your story, and give only what you need. It’s a challenge but also just really damn fun.

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PechaKucha nights are global events and, after Tokyo, Providence boasts the most longevity and frequency of events than any other host city. Touching down in March 2009,  its 11th year has a steady and ever-growing following of supporters who come every month to celebrate people, their stories, and their platform. The nights, which are held at different venues every month (past sites include: Sin Bakery, Federal Hill Pizza, The Avenue Concept, The Guild) are a gorgeous mix of everything and everybody and despite the repeat following, it’s not a clique nor a pod. It’s a community. As Donovan says, “PechaKucha audiences are a curious group of people. They come to listen to people talk about what they love. They put their phones down and connect.”

This sentiment comforted me given my main apprehension over presenting was…who cares what I have to say? I love telling stories about my childhood so for my PechaKucha, I presented on all the things that scared me as a kid and well, people cared about what I had to say. In fact, after I was finished, folks came up to me to share the things that scared them as kids: the, “Groove is in the Heart” music video, Teddy Ruxpin, Jell-O. I loved it. People are wired for social connection, even if those connections are quirky and vulnerable. It satisfies our innate need for community and prevents our ideas and stories from withering away. It also reminds us that we have more in common than we’re led to believe. A little chit-chat goes a long way.

You can celebrate the International Anniversary of PechaKucha this Thursday evening at the Columbus Theatre. Doors at 7:20pm. Details here.