One of the first things I teach to the MBA students studying entrepreneurial business in my class called Creativity & Innovation in Organizations at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Business and Management is a practical skill: presentation. Specifically, how to pitch an idea. Whether you’re a startup looking for venture financing or simply trying to get an idea implemented in a large company, you won’t move that idea along to action unless you can pitch it well.
I teach two specific formats: short and long. But neither one is longer than 20 minutes, which is about the maximum attention span of a busy professional. The short format is called pecha-kucha (a Japanese phrase meaning “chatter” and pronounced “peh-CHAHK-chah”), and the long format, devised by Guy Kawasaki, is called 10/20/30. I have them use pecha-kucha (the students call it 20-20) for presenting reading assignments, and 10-20-30 for projects and longer case studies.
Pecha-kucha was invented in 2003 by two architects, Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, working in Tokyo. They owned a small event venue called Super Deluxe that wasn't doing very well. Pecha-kucha was their innovative answer to the question of how to revive the space. They invited designers and architects and artists to present their work and ideas. But there were some rules:
- Exactly 20 images (slides)
- Each slide displayed for exactly 20 seconds (total of six minutes and 40 seconds)
The format made for an effective, efficient, entertaining, and rather elegant presentation. It wasn’t long before Pecha Kucha night became a hit, with hundreds attending. There are now Pecha-Kucha nights held in hundreds of cities all over the world, and the schedule is posted at Pecha-Kucha.org.
There is even a Pecha-Kucha for Haiti. In February, on the seventh anniversary of Pecha-Kucha Night, 117 cities came together on a single day and held events across the globe to support Architecture for Humanity’s plans for rebuilding in Haiti. Over 200 events have been held since, and Architecture for Humanity just announced that the proceeds and donations allows them to build the first Pecha-Kucha School in Haiti.
I first learned about pecha-kucha in a W ired article by Dan Pink, who was on a fellowship in Japan at the time, and I enjoyed Dan’s pecha kucha on Emotionally Intelligent Signage.
I learned about 10/20/30 nearly a half decade ago in Guy Kawaskai’s blog post called "The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint." In the post, Guy said:
“As a venture capitalist, I have to listen to hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their companies. Most of these pitches are crap...I am evangelizing the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.”
According to Guy, 10 is the optimal number of slides because a normal human being simply can’t comprehend more than 10 concepts in a single meeting. As for the content, the 10 slides should be devoted to:
- Your solution
- Business model
- Underlying magic/technology
- Marketing and sales
- Projections and milestones
- Status and timeline
- Summary and call to action
I use a slightly modified version of these topics for my students when presenting their projects, but it’s pretty close. And I can attest to the effectiveness of the outline.
As for timing, 20 minutes leaves time in a one-hour meeting for logistics and discussion. And the 30-point font is a lifesaver. Guy’s right when he says the reason many people jam a slide with text is that they don't know their material and are more comfortable reading off the slide. Bad idea, because not only does it make for an ugly and boring visual, your audience can read ahead, and all of sudden you’re the one behind!
When it comes to slide design, less is definitely more. If you want to hone your slides to be both visually appealing and impactful, visit Garr Reynolds’s site, PresentationZen.com, or pick up his book by the same name.
Finally, here’s a quick test to gauge how well your pitch is going: is your audience leaning in or sitting back?Matthew E. May is an innovation consultant and the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. He blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter here.