People think that I am an extrovert, and they couldn’t be more wrong. I’m quite simply an introvert who has gone great lengths to hide her fear of speaking in public. Make it till you fake it, as they say. So when I was asked to participate in a Pecha Kucha Night here on MDI – I thought, oh god. I have to do this or they’ll figure me out.
Pecha Kucha is a presentation format created a design firm in Japan to highlight new ideas, without presenters running on and on. You get to present 20 slides for 20 seconds each and then you’re done. Pecha Kucha Nights are becoming very popular events – where people gather to learn more about other folks in their community. The short format is excellent for those of us with short attention spans, and is easier on the presenter as well. The slides help the presenter tell the story – as well as keep to the time limit.
Finding a Topic:
I was surprised, and honored, to be included as one of 8 presenters for the first ever Pecha Kucha MDI
When Astra from the Abbe Museum contacted me back in February to ask me if I would present, I assumed they had a particular topic in mind, and that’s why they asked me.
“Nope!” She said. “We just think you’d tell an interesting story.”
Okay. No pressure.
I decided to talk about my career as a special effects artist in Hollywood for 2 reasons.
1) it’s s topic I’m very familiar with, and have some good stories about.
2) it’s something that makes me fairly unique in a small Maine community.
Making your slides:
They wanted the slides 2 weeks ahead of time! A brilliant move on their part – because it made me step up and prepare.
Every blog I read about pecha kucha advised to plan out your speech before you make your slides, but I decided to reverse the process.
I design websites, so creating the visual part of the presentation first makes more sense for me. And making the slides was the fun part. Planning the speech not so much. Always start with the fun part. With every image I added to my slideshow, I thought of another detail I could talk about. I figure I made about 40 slides more than I needed as I changed my path through my story, but I don’t regret that time spent.
Preparing to speak:
I started by practicing my speech, without visual aids, alone in my car. Then I worried about timing and slides.
Both Keynote and Powerpoint have a timed playback feature so I could emulate the 20 second presentation style. Practicing with timing was the WORST. I stumbled. I mumbled. I would end sentences with “and….. I’ll talk about something super interesting here.” Mostly I feared that I would be like a deer in the headlights.
The solution I came up with was to make a list of 3 bullet points per slide to guide me when I got lost. I’m good at getting lost.
I put little images next to the bullet points in case I couldn’t see the slides during the presentation. I printed out my list and carried it around like a security blanket.
I admit that I made this list 2 hours before the presentation. Last minute deadlines yo!
Did I mention I was nervous? At 3 am the night before I woke up to the thought “Crap, they’re probably going to record this.” Just another thing to sweat over.
Then when I arrived at the Library there were at least a hundred people in the audience. At this point I gave up feeling nervous and thought “What the hell, I’m either going to tank or I’m not.” Oh what wisdom comes with age, and a nice glass of spanish red.
I didn’t present until after intermission – another detail I had angst over which turned out to be a blessing.
Seeing the other presentations made me realize a few things.
1) we were all nervous, and all doing this for the first time.
2) the audience was just so happy to be there and loving every word.
3) there could be no failure in that environment.
From the first presenter to the last – everyone had a different style and a completely different topic, and everyone was fantastic.
Every topic presented was interesting and well thought out. The topics were climate change, the love of birds, a a journey through a little town in India, the perfect pie crust, a story of a favorite aunt, a womans fearless journey to Africa, and anecdotes from animated movies. In 6 minutes and 40 seconds you have a chance to get engaged, learn a bit, and still leave wanting more information. It’s like the best date ever.
Our MC was a Lyzz Bien – the most fabulous drag queen MDI or Maine shall ever see, and her thoughtful and hilarious introductions for each presenter tied the whole evening together.
I honestly don’t remember much about presenting, except that people laughed in all the right places, and I didn’t trip on my way to the podium.
And the best part? So many people approached me afterwards and told me how wonderful it was to learn more about me. I’m fairly new to the MDI community – and I feel like that community expanded exponentially in the space of, well, 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
Another best part? This presentation was the first time since I left Hollywood 5 years ago, that I’ve put that experience into one concise story. The career I made as an effects artist was a bittersweet one, and I was so burnt out when I left, that I never took the time to look back on it with fresh eyes. Now I can almost see what other people see, that I had an unusual and pretty cool experience in another part of the world, in a time shaped an entire industry. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had, and incredibly thankful for the chance to share it with my new friends and neighbors here on MDI. I couldn’t be more pleased that I was included in the first ever Pecha Kucha MDI – and I know I will attend every future event. I can’t wait to see what else I can learn about my new home, and the people who live here.
For other Maine Pecha Kucha Nights visit www.pechakuchamaine.org