Have You PechaKucha’d?

It’s ok if you haven’t, but we have!  Bench, Inc. was pleased to be asked to join Richmond’s DisruptHR event held last Thursday evening at the Frontier Project in Scott’s Addition.  Although it may sound strange, PechaKucha is both legal, safe and highly intense.  What an eye opener!

PechaKucha — Japanese for “chit chat” — is a presentation format whereby speakers are given exactly five minutes and 20 Powerpoint slides to get their message across to an interested audience.  Originally created 15 years ago as a strategy to share art, design and architectural concepts, this method has evolved to become a style of presentation used for business topics such as human resources and many others.  PekaKucha offers a speedy transfer of information that seems well-matched to our world of Corporate A.D.D. Organizers around the world hold PechaKucha Nights (PKN’s) with 10-15 speakers presenting in short order covering a variety of related topics.  Far more than just chit-chat, PKN’s are also sometimes called “Lightning Talks.” Why? They’re both brief and fast… the 20 slides advance on their own every 15 seconds, no matter if the speaker is ready or not!

Last week’s PKN in Richmond was organized by DisruptHR, an international organization that bills itself as “The Rebellious Nature of HR.”  Its purpose is energize, empower and inform people within the field of human resources. As a world-wide event series meant to shake things up, DisruptHR’s version of a PKN is meant to make you think differently and to be inspired.  The mandate is, “teach us something, but make it quick.”

So why attend a PKN?  There could be several reasons for doing so.  As a networking function the energy in the DisruptHR room was vibrant as nearly 150 people mixed and mingled while the speakers plowed through their five minute talks.  As a community builder it offered a chance for like-minded HR folk to feel connected to the larger HR world locally and beyond. However as a professional development event, this method is somewhat challenged to convey clear informational messages due to the strict nature of the format.  

DisruptHR/Richmond started as a cocktail party with a tasty mix of handheld apps and adult beverages.  After socializing and networking, attendees were seated and the 15 presentations were launched in consecutive order.  The talks were interspersed with light banter from the emcee, musical interludes by a live guitarist and a couple of breaks.  Think Ted Talk + Happy Hour. The show moved quickly and was wrapped up within two and half hours.

Looking back at the experience, most presenters agreed: none of us had ever spent so much time preparing for a single five minutes in our lives!  But with the successful completion of any tall challenge comes the glow of satisfaction when it all works out just fine. The camaraderie shared by the presenters was heartfelt as evidenced by the flurry of emails and LinkedIn invitations traded the day after.

By all measures the DisruptHR/Richmond event was a clear success.  The capacity crowd drew attendees from all corners of the Commonwealth and Washington DC.  The high energy mood, good food and drink created a fun & festive atmosphere. The small army of presenters threw themselves into their talks so that participants were drawn into a world of new ideas that encouraged future disruption in their shared field.

It remains to be seen if PechaKucha grows into a mainstream presentation style.  Its unforgiving format provides a superior challenge for even the most experienced speakers.  Audience members benefit from receiving a whirlwind tour of topics that are highly relevant to their profession.

We look forward to the continuation of this series in the years to come.  We also hope that even more of Richmond’s HR professionals get involved to ponder disruptive possibilities!