Taking-On the 20x20: Courtney's Pechakucha Presentation Guide

If you're on this page, you've probably gotten yourself into an infamous Pechakucha Presentation. While the opportunity to present 20 slides on something you're passionate about might seem fun/easy at first, once you dive-in, I'm sure you might find the task to be more challenging than you originally thought (I know I sure did!). My goal with this post is to give you a few pointers I learned while creating my presentation for PKAkron to make your presentation as fun and painless as possible. Here we go!

1. Ideation/understanding of format: To start with, I watched a bunch of example talks from the Pechakucha website to a "feel" for the format, what I liked, what I didn't like. I also wanted to steal some creativity on how to tie-together the story and the photos, and see if anybody had clever tricks. Definitely worth a half hour or so of your time to start here!
2. It's a visual-presentation, so think visual:  Usually people tell you to never lay-out slides first in a presentation and to start with an outline. However, because the PK presentation is so focused on visuals, I'd actually suggest starting with visuals to guide/refine your topic and outline.  I already had an idea of some of the ideas/big points I wanted to get across, so I started by looking for some cool free stock photos to use. I used THIS website, which has a fantastic selection of free photos (remember kids, you can't use copyrighted images in your presentation). Just by looking at images I got some ideas of concepts, so I downloaded a bunch that I liked then moved-on to the next step, just to get my creative juices flowing. Another tip: you can do a custom Google image search now that includes a filter for the license - so if you can't find a good stock photo, you can still use Google and just filter the search. Also, using personal photos is a great "+" - you don't have to worry about copyright, and in my opinion, your story should have some "personal" element to it anyways to make it captivating. Finally, please please please use high-res images! 
3. Outline and repeat: I started to make  high level outline in MS word...this is where things got iterative! I would write an outline, then a basic script, then say the script out loud. I would stop frequently to think about what I was saying, how it sounded, and if it flowed. Then I'd go back and re-write the script. I would do this in parallel with looking at the images I already had, started to lay-out the powerpoint and order things, then go-back and get new images as-needed. I re-ordered the presentation  A LOT as I practiced.
4. Timing: Once I was pretty comfortable with my script, I started to worry about the timing. I suggest not starting out worrying about the 20-second-thing because it will limit your thinking and creativity. It's much easier to dilute something down to its core after you have fully thought-out your concept/idea. Remember: you can set powerpoint up to change slides automatically every 20secs and rehearse that way, or use the stopwatch on your phone.
5. Transitions: A sneaky way to leave yourself some "wiggle" room with the 20-second rule is to construct your slides in such a way that there is a smooth transition between them - don't make the slides too tightly tied to your words. This way, if you're a bit over or under time on one slide, if it changes on you, the audience won't be too lost. I also left transition slides in the presentation when I was jumping topics to allow me to speed up/slow down/adjust as-needed in case I got off on my timing. These are slides with very little content to you can play around with your words as-needed.
5. PRACTICE! I'll be honest, I practiced multiple times every day for about 4 weeks until the presentation. Some of that was when I was just working on the script, but I'd say I had it down cold 2 weeks before. The practicing was brutal (I mean really, who enjoys that?) but it definitely paid off. By the time I got to the presentation, I understood my content. Note: There's a difference between memorizing and truly understanding your talk - I tend to avoid strict memorization because a small slip-up will throw you off. Rather, if you practice so much that you truly understand your topic and your slides, even if you mess up, you're able to recover.
6. Impress 'em: This might seem obvious, but do your best to tell a story and end of a big point. Don't just say "thank you" and walk off stage. (if you Google TED talk guides on how to end a presentation, you'll get some good examples - I actually did this and ended up re-writing the ending of my presentation because of it).  If you want to leave a lasting impression, if you can, go in without note cards. I actually find notecards more distracting (losing your place, crashing and burning, panicking, etc), so I actually suggest avoiding the training-wheels from the get-go so you never become reliant upon them. (This will also impress the crowd...most, if not all the talks I've seen have had people reading off of paper, which just looks unprepared).