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« iPad Observations | Main | SXSW 2010: Visual Note-Taking 101 Podcast + Slides »

Pecha Kucha Sketchnotes Talk: Video, Slides & Notes

On Tuesday May 11th I performed a Pecha Kucha presentation 'Lessons Learned from Sketchnotes' at PechaKucha Milwaukee #7 and had a great time.

Pecha Kucha is a presentation approach using 20 slides x 20 seconds per slide. The slides switch automatically, every 20 seconds until your 6:40 time is up.

Here's the video of my performance:

You can see that I was a little nervous at the start, but settled into a groove and focused on telling my story. As I got into the flow of the story, it felt great to see people in the crowd enjoying the experience. What a rush!

Check out my Pecha Kucha slide deck on Slideshare.

Public Speaking is OUT of My Comfort Zone

Public speaking is something I want to do more of, but it's something I feel I have much to learn about. My solution is to get into positions where I have to speak (and prepare) to move my comfort zone out farther and farther.

I think doing Pecha Kucha with the added challenge of tight timing has really moved me to a new level and I'm excited about speaking more and improving as a result.

Pecha Kucha Advice

For those about to perform a Pecha Kucha talk, I'd like to capture tips and things I've learned from this experience, in the hope that my knowledge can help you.

1. Choose a topic you know really well. — I felt completely knowledgeable about sketchnotes having discovered them 3 years ago. I've been practicing the sketchnotes as a discipline and a approach for a while now, which gave me confidence.

2. Invest time in preparation — I was most pleased in having invested a good amount of time in establishing a flow on a whiteboard and preparing a unified set of slides from that hard work. This also made me more confident.

3. Ideas and memorization — I decided to deliver my talk without any notes — facing the audience and talking directly to them without distraction. I know when I read a speech I stiffen up and don't sound natural and I didn't want that.

On advice of James Carlson my friend and Pecha Kucha presenter , I wrote out my talk within 20 cells of a spreadsheet, to help me see where it was generally long and short. Eventually those wordy texts were boiled down to 20 ideas I could memorize.

I didn't memorize the words related to the ideas, instead I memorized the ideas themselves in proper order (1-20) which allowed for spur of the moment improvisation within the structure.

This turned the talk into a storytelling performance rather than reading of cards or looking at the slides for cues. My slides instead supported the story I told, not the other way around.

4. Practice, A LOT! — I invested time in practicing my talk over and over again, probably 30+ times. I did the talk on my own, with my wife, work colleagues and friends until the story was in my head and flowed well. Repeated practice helped me calm down once I started talking.

5. Practice with Audiences — I think it's critical that you perform the talk multiple times, with your slides in front of real people. Performing the talk in private had some value, but as I performed the talk in front of others I received great feedback and reduced the stress I had speaking for others, bit by bit.

6. Nail the Timing — I found that by performing the talk with my slides and also with Peeky, an iPhone timer that buzzed every 20 seconds, I was able to get the words to the right length and feel how they worked with my slides.

I ditched the iPhone app after James Carlson suggested I become aware of my slides as they reflect off of hard surfaces and the crowd, so I could stay focused on the audience. That was a huge help for me in sensing the slides changing behind me.

7. Find Friends in the Audience — I always like to find friends in audiences if I can, as they help me connect with those I'm speaking to and provide the confidence that there are people out there supporting me.

I was blessed to have so many friends at Tuesday's Pecha Kucha, supporting and cheering me on as I shared my story. Thanks everyone!

Go Pecha Kucha!

If you have a chance to see or present at a Pecha Kucha night, go for it! The approach is challenging in a good way for speakers and lots of fun to watch as an audience.

I feel much more confident after presenting a talk at a Pecha Kucha night, and I hope lessons I've learned and shared will help others prepare for a talk of their own.

Thanks Jon and Dylan at 800-CEO-READ for the opportunity!

Related Links

YouTube: Video of my talk
Slideshare: Pecha Kucha slide deck.
Dwellephant: PECHA KUCHA RECAP • 5.11.2010

Reader Comments (8)

Via Twitter, I happened across your Flickr set, then Austin Kleon's blog (I'd met Austin before), and to here.I wanted to thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and sketchbooks, as I shared with Austin, it's reenergized my work and given me quite a lift. As you say, sketching is good therapy.
May 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLea Hernandez
Lea, thanks for the kind words! It's exciting to see how sharing generously has helped my work spread and encourage others to try sketchnotes. That's my reward. :-)
May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
Love your talk, Mike. I always thought that I was weird to take notes that way. Then I saw Shane Mac's notebook. Then now that I have seen your video, I realize there is a whole "army" of people who are taking notes that way. How cool is that!!!
June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGiang Biscan

Many congrats on a good talk Mike - you certainly didn't come across as that nervous - speaking is a crafted art & if youre interested, check out my top ten speaking tips (which challenge some of your own in a good way):

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDK

Great job, Mike! Very good talk and very, very good public speaking tips. I hope you will do more public speaking.

The key for me is to do it often enough to not get rusty between talks. Toastmasters has been a great place for me to stay sharp since you get to speak each meeting and give a real 5-7 minute speech every few weeks.

I'll be taking a group to PechaKucha Night in Nashville in a few weeks. It'll be my first and I'm excited to see how it goes.

October 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNick Smith

Thanks Nick! I went to a Toastmasters event with a friend once, maybe I should reconsider that again. Hmm.

Good luck with your Pecha Kucha presentation!

October 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde


I think this was a good talk. Giving a Pecha Kucha talk for the first time must be very nerve racking. I've never done one, but if I did I think your tips would be very useful.

I liked the way you used your Sketchnote style for your slides - simple and uncluttered. Perhaps you can now go down as the guy who'e invented "Sketchslides" too!

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Slater

That's a mighty horror of our world; the fact inventors usually get little if nothing for their inventions or are swamped with litigation, while marketers and managers of the inventions get filthy rich. Samuel Goodyear, the Wright Brothers, and the stories of Jerome Lamelson come to mind. It's a major problem; how to compensate originators.

On another note. Im interested in the idea of people having their possessions expropriated and how they deal with it. There was a rich landowner in Malibu (circa 1923) whose land was taken to build the Pacific Coast Highway. She fought in court, lost, then finally decided to use the Pacific Coast Highway as a transit route for her pottery business, allowing her to reach customers throughout California.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Ohene

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