Today: Mar 03, 2024

PechaKucha: Not your average lecture

Michael Bellmore
Special to the Southern News
In under 20 minutes, an architect explained a high-tech habitat of his own design; a woman exhibited photos from her Bali vacation; and a professor revealed his online gaming habits, all while a relaxed audience enjoyed drinks and Malaysian cuisine.
This was the scene at PechaKucha Night in Bentara, and there were plenty presenters yet to go.
According to the organization’s website, PechaKucha, which translates roughly from Japanese to “chit chat,” is a micro lecture event that takes place in hundreds of cities around the world. One of those cities happens to be New Haven, where the event is organized by Greta Hotopp.
“There’s a lot of innovation going on in New Haven,” Hotopp said. “We’re each in our offices and our homes all day getting things done, and this is a way to find out who’s doing what around us.”
Hotopp, who is a financial derivatives consultant and business strategist by day, began the New Haven cell of PechaKucha back in August 2009. With the help of like-minded individuals and volunteers, and equipment borrowed from the Eli Whitney Museum and others, Hotopp has created a casual venue where anyone can give a presentation on almost anything, so long as that presentation has something to do with creative ideas and innovation.

“It doesn’t matter what your credentials are,” Hotopp said. “It’s about the person and the ideas they want to put out there.”

Hotopp said that PechaKucha is a place where people from a wide variety of backgrounds, ranging from research scientists to arctic-antarctic wildlife photographers, are able to come together and share their ideas on equal footing.

“The mix of topics is an attraction of PechaKucha,” Hotopp said.
The event’s format, according to Hotopp, makes lecturing more accessible to both audience and presenter. Posters for PechaKucha Night are adorned with the tagline, “20 images x 20 seconds.” Presenters are allowed 20 slides, and given 20 seconds to explain each slide. That means each person has fewer than seven minutes to give their entire presentation. This forces brevity, and results in concise speeches that are easily digestible for the audience.
Ian Applegate, an experienced presenter at PechaKucha night, said that while these rules may possibly make giving a lecture more challenging, they also make them more effective.
“It’s a constraint,” Applegate said, “but at the same time, it’s the same kind of constraint as with any sport. There’s a list of rules, however inhibiting. Sometimes it just seems that not touching the ball makes soccer more interesting.”
He said PechaKucha Night is also a great networking tool. At his first event, Applegate
showcased the educational entertainment books that he draws and writes, and afterwards met someone with experience in the same field. As a result of PechaKucha, he said he found a mentor.
“If you’re really doing something that’s positive and worthwhile and truly beneficial to the community, then it’s totally the place to go and explain your ideas,” Applegate said.

Bill Brown, the director of the Eli Whitney Museum, said that PechaKucha exposes people to aspects of their community that they would not have otherwise witnessed.

“This is an opportunity for people to encounter things that they didn’t know existed in New Haven,” Brown said. “You end up feeling, at the end of the evening, that your time has been generously rewarded.”

The next PechaKucha Night will be held at Bentara in New Haven on Feb. 9. Visit PKN-NewHaven.com for more information.

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