Finding new ways to engage conference participants is a challenge for many conference organizers.
Entertainment, the Internet and media have transformed society into the participatory culture. Today’s conference audiences are accustomed to quick action, rapid scene changes, racing soundtracks and the ability to change their direction with a click. They expect visceral stimulation and are unwilling to sit passively for long periods of time.
Enter Pecha Kucha and Ignite.
Pecha Kucha: “20X20 6:40”
Pecha Kucha, Japanese for chatter, started in 2003 in Tokyo by two architects as a new way to deliver PowerPoint presentations.
The design is simple: 20 slides, each shown for 20 seconds for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Slides advance automatically as the speaker presents. The objective is to keep the presentations brief to give more people a chance to present. In an hour’s time, audiences’ can hear about nine presentations.
Ignite: “20X15 5”
Ignite started in December 2006 in Seattle by O’Reilly’s Brady Forrest and Esty’s Bre Pettis. They wanted a way for people to share ideas and network in an informal setting.
Ignite has two parts: contests where people make things and Ignite talks. Inspired by Pecha Kucha, Ignite talks follow a similar design: 20 slides, advanced automatically every 15 seconds for a total of five minutes. In an hour’s time, audiences can hear about 12 presentations.
What’s The Goal Of Incorporating Pecha Kucha Or Ignite Into Your Conference?
If you are considering adding Pecha Kucha or Ignite models to your conference, what is your goal?
- To provide a new form of information sharing?
- To promote participation of more speakers?
- To increase learning and retention?
- To entertain and keep the attention of your audience with a new presentation model?
Both Pecha Kucha and Ignite are great models of using short concise presentations to provide information. They are great for entertainment too.
Unfortunately, they are not great models to promote learning and retention. If you provide consecutive speakers every five to seven minutes, you’ve done nothing but created a series of unconnected information dumps for your audience.
Tweaking Pecha Kucha And Ignite To Increase Learning
Yes, Pecha Kucha and Ignite models can keep an audience’s attention with their rapid fire presentations and flood of PPT slides. Yes, they follow the brain-friendly rule of chunking information into 10 minute segments.
But here’s where they fall short.
Working (short-term) memory can hold three to five pieces of information at any given time. Information in working memory has duration of about 20 seconds. If the information is not rehearsed or repeated, given more attention, connected to previous knowledge or discussed, it decays or is replaced.
In order for the information to be encoded into long term memory, it must be integrated with previous knowledge and experiences in our long term memory. That takes time and intentionality.
Providing a series of speakers without giving participants any time for reflection or discussion overwhelms the cognitive thinking process. It creates a cognitive overload and the brain does not remember much.
Learning occurs when the learner abstracts meaning and connects the information in the working memory with existing knowledge in long-term memory.
This means the learner must be given time to reflect and make meaning of the new information. The learner needs time to process the new information and connect it to past knowledge in long term memory.
To use Pecha Kucha or Ignite models effectively, build five to 15 minute discussion periods after each presentation. Allow attendees to talk with each other about the information, not just ask the presenter questions. Consider an emcee that can facilitate audience discussion by asking relevant questions after each presentation.
That will help attendees transfer new information from working to long-term memory.
What do you like about Pecha Kucha or Ignite? How can you integrate these models effectively into your conference schedule?