Do You PechaKucha? By: Laura Winton

Pecha Kucha is a once-a-month event at the Figge Museum where you can learn about everything from making instruments to fundraising for nonprofits and hear poetry, fiction, and drama from people around the Quad Cities, all in 6 minute and 40 second increments.

Pecha Kucha (which is pronounced, puh-CHA kuh-CHA, Melissa Mohr at the Figge explains, not PECH’ a KUCH’ a) is Japanese for “chit chat,” according to every professor’s favorite website, Wikipedia.  The idea is that you present your work along with 20 slides, timed at 20 seconds per slide.  No variation.  That comes out to 400 seconds, or 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  No problem!  That’s not even as long as a class presentation at Western!

According to said Wikipedia site, “PechaKucha Night was devised in February 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Tokyo‘s Klein-Dytham Architecture (KDa), as a way to attract people to SuperDeluxe, their experimental event space in Roppongi, and to allow young designers to meet, show their work, and exchange ideas.” There is also a website called PechaKucha 20 x 20 ( which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the form/event in 2013 and there is also a Facebook page for global PechaKucha (  There are articles on the Facebook page about the healing potential of art as well as about how cinema can connect with different genres and be a place for “informal learning.”  On all of these sites, you can find out about what others are doing with their 6:40 for personal or professional growth and/or social change.

Says David Deprez of the Maastrict, Germany PechaKucha, it is so important that as a student you go out of your comfort zone, out of the faculty, out of your student house – because it’s the only way to connect to the city.”  Thinking about student groups at WIU, this is a great event to do poetry at, a great event for students involved in Toastmasters who want to get more public speaking experience, and frankly, it is just a good place for any student who wants to talk about their field, what they do, present a short paper, etc.

Melissa Mohr who runs the Figge’s PechaKucha program, says that “PechaKucha is all about celebrating creativity and allowing community members to share their passions and hobbies in a fun way. I’m constantly impressed by the energy at these events, and love to see new connections happening between people with similar interests.”  The chance to interact with other people who are PechaKuchaing is one of the singular joys of speaking/performing at this event.

To sign up for Pecha Kucha, all you need to do is to contact Melissa Mohr at the Figge Museum.  That is literally the only thing you have to do.  (By the way, Mohr also teaches part time in the art history program, so she is very easy for Western students to get in touch with.)  Melissa adds “The great thing is that the only presentation requirement is for you to love your topic and select twenty images. We’ll take care of the rest. We’ve had presentations on traveling to China, to breeding and showing poodles, to mountain bike racing.”

You can perform or speak once per year.  As someone who has participated for four years now, with poetry, drama, and part of my thesis presentation from another school, I can tell you how challenging it is to stay on track with the slides and I recommend that you include slides that can go with different sections of your talk, because you will either fall behind or be ahead of your slides.  No one is ever perfectly on cue!  That’s ok, because the audience knows that and is very “forgiving” about it.

I will be honest and tell you that I did a piece about my mother back in July and I broke down in tears several times while I was reading it.  I knew that was a possibility and I went ahead with that piece anyway.  Afterwards, several people came up to me and talked about the passing of their parents.  People want to connect with you and be on your side, and they will.  When I did my thesis project in 2015, I passed out phrases to audience members that they could speak during my presentation, which was very fun.  Once again, people came up to me and commented on the presentation.

The perks of performing at the Figge, in addition to the audience being very patient and tolerant, is that you will get to showcase your work in front of a number of artistic-minded people who more than likely don’t know you and will more than likely not see you again, unless you become a regular at PechaKucha. If you have severe speaking anxiety, there are plenty of other speakers/performers and it’s a relatively short length of time, so you needn’t feel bad if you don’t do well your first time out!  But you will do fine because you have your text in front of you and slides behind you for people to look at. And as I used to tell my public speaking classes, no one has ever died from stage fright!  (At least, that’s what the textbook said.)  “Once they attend an event and see how much fun it is to give one of these short 20×20 presentations, they’re ready to sign up” says Mohr. Really, creativity is the only limit to what you can do during PechaKucha.

PechaKucha night is always held during the museum’s free Thursday events.  They have $6 burger and fries baskets on PechaKucha night.  And the event ends early so you can go look at the art while you are there.  Usually they are held on the last Thursday of every month, but be sure to check the museum’s website at or by calling 563.326.7804 x2026, especially during the holiday months, when schedules get wiggy.

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