Does your audience beat the fish?

At Future Positive, we’re here to make the complex more compelling, and we’re always looking for ways to go about it. One of our favourites is PechaKucha (not to be confused with a certain yellow Pokémon).

Literally translating as ‘Chit Chat’ in Japanese, it was created in 2003 by a Tokyo-based architecture firm. It was initially intended to attract people to an event space aimed at sharing designers’ work and ideas who wanted to ‘show more, tell less’; but that was just the start. Since then, it’s grown across the world, with more than 50,000 people presenting at over 1,100 global PechaKucha Nights every year.

The format is simple; you present 20 slides with 20 seconds of commentary per slide – meaning the entire thing is never longer than 400 seconds – about the time it would take to brew a stovetop espresso (Rich is fancy) or eat 40 biscuits (Craig’s a pro).

It’s used for comedy, for learning and, increasingly, for business. So what can we learn from its success and how do we use its principles in our own work?

  1. Humans are changing

A study conducted by Microsoft in 2018 found that the average attention span of a human had shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 8 seconds in 2018*. (To put that in context, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds). This means that long-format, copy-heavy content is increasingly moving down the priority list. And yes, we get the irony that you’re reading this in a blog. If you’re still with us you’re already beating the fish! The unstoppable rise of tech and media overload means we’re constantly visually over-stimulated: we’re all guilty of a bit of doomscrolling whilst watching TV.

PechaKucha dictates just one image per slide – aiming to really pull focus and communicate a single thing in a memorable way. We often use this technique when presenting creative ideas; having just one point to absorb at a time creates an instant connection. And it allows the recipient to listen to the narrative without being distracted by the need to focus on every detail of your busy slide. Which leads us to…

  1. 1 picture = 1000 words

According to Nielsen Research**, 38% of brand recall, 23% of brand awareness, and 25% of purchase intent result from video impressions that are less than two seconds long. With a bit of focus, it’s possible to make a huge impact in a short time, and using visual shorthand is key to this success.

We tie our creative thinking into recognised characters and concepts to help our clients instantly understand what we’re trying to get across. Through the use of moodboards and photography, the imagery can evoke emotions that we then back up with the narrative.

In PechaKucha, with just 20 seconds to get your point across, you don’t waste time having to explain something that people already understand. Instead you can use the time available to explain the new concept or information you’re trying to communicate.

  1. It’s about time

How long do you normally talk about your slide? One minute? Two? Talking for exactly twenty seconds is tricky! Practicing your narrative and timing yourself is essential to a successful PechaKucha, so you can cut any waffle and get to the point. It’s also a great idea to have both a ‘core’ set of content and some additional backup content, so if you’ve gone too fast you have some extra to add in, and if you’ve gone too slowly you have bits that you can easily cut out.

Sometimes when we present ideas we don’t say anything at all – simply letting the audience absorb the content themselves. After all, you’re not always around to talk potential customers through your marketing communications, so making sure it’s strong enough to stand on its own is a great discipline to get into.

For some great examples of PechaKuchas or to find out more, visit (we’re a big fan of Feeling PhiloSLOTHical) and if you want to hear Helen’s PechaKucha on Why Ponies are Awesome, Craig’s Top 20 Biscuit Countdown, or help applying PechaKucha principles to your own campaigns just get in touch.


**Nielsen Research