The Daily Illini

A speedy story: PechaKucha Night provides C-U with creative outlet

By Arielle Kramer

Saturday’s local event reflects a national trend. Originating in Tokyo around 2003, the event is known as PechaKucha Night, meaning “chit-chat” in Japanese. Young participants prepare a 6-minute and 40-second speech, entailing 20 slides with 20 seconds each, no more and no less. Now 13 years later, more than 300 locations host this event.

This presentation style, that turned into an international event, was started in 2003 in Tokyo by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture after they came to the conclusion that architects often speak for too long.

Karissa McDermott, an individual on the organization committee for the Champaign-Urbana location, explains what the event is all about.

“People present onstage in front of an audience. They stand at a podium and speak while their slideshow runs on a big screen,” McDermott explained. “The presenters can speak about anything they’re passionate about. It can be work, it can be a hobby they have, it can be a story they have to tell, it can be something personal and heartfelt, anything that they want they can speak about.”

The goal of the presentations are not to sell a product or idea to the audience, but to provide an open, judgement-free platform for people to share their stories to their community.

“It’s not a sales pitch; it’s not anybody trying to sell or convince the audience of anything,” McDermott pointed out. “It’s purely for the sake of people wanting to share their ideas or anything that’s happened to them. The only mission of this event is to bring the community together and have everyone share ideas and get inspired by community members.”

Although the event started in Tokyo, there are now over 500 locations worldwide that host the PechaKucha event, with the Champaign-Urbana location being the 217th to join in.

McDermott has been on the organization committee for two years now and has seen a very wide range of topics between presentations — something that makes this event so unique.

“The great thing is is that since it’s such an open-ended thing, people can literally talk about anything they want,” said McDermott. “We’ve had people present about everything from how to grow your own burrito to their poetry or people presenting on the birth of the Internet and really, really interesting, diverse topics. It really shows a range of the people we have in this town and how creative and innovative people are.”

Feb. 6 will be Champaign-Urbana’s 20th volume. In honor of the 20th presentation, all 12 presenters will be returning members.

Brandon Dohman, who first presented in 2011, will be one of the presenters returning to the 20th anniversary event. His past two presentations were about his various hamburger recipes, and his upcoming one will be about the history of the strongman, ranging from ideas of masculinity to what makes people strong.

He said his experience of presenting stories to a large group of people opened a new window of opportunity for him.

“It was really cool to get out and share my hobbies with a lot of different people,” Dohman said. “A lot of people came up after me, and said, ‘Hey, that was cool’ and asked me about the burgers.”

Dohman also explained that PechaKucha is a very unique concept because it’s a different, one-of-a-kind format that most people aren’t used to.

“I think it’s an interesting artistic concept that’s not like paintings or a play or something like that,” Dohman said. “It’s cool to have someone show off their passion that’s not in a drawing or structured event. I look at is as something very similiar, but it’s another way for someone to show their passions but in a more intimate way.”

David Monk, another presenter that will be returning to speak at PechaKucha all-star night, has a passion for prairie preservation and restoration. He also feels as though the setup of the event and the judgement-free area it provides allows people to bond together over each other’s ideas.

“It gives people a chance to look at the small elements of what people do,” Monk said. “I think it’s excellent at bringing the community together. It’s a great way to bring people together, especially young people together with the older people.”

Dohman said PechaKucha night allows people to be themselves.

“The stories are very personal. They’re getting on stage and presenting to 300 to 400 people about something they may have not shared with many other people,” Dohman said. “It’s a weird outlet; it’s a cool way for people to get out and expose themselves in a way that they maybe never would and hopefully give somebody else the courage to do something similar. They may see themselves in someone else’s shoes and go after a new adventure.”

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