You can say anything you want. It's great if you stick to the evening's theme. It's fine if you don't. You get 20 slides at 20 seconds each. 6 minutes total. Not a second more.
That's the structure for Pecha Kucha.
Last night, I had the chance to experience my very first Pecha Kucha night here in San Francisco. Pronounced "pay-cha-ka-cha", Pecha Kucha nights were born in 2003 by a small group of designers as a place to pitch their ideas and projects to each other within the guidelines of a short presentation infrastructure. Given how long-winded artists and designers can be about their work, the structure of the evening gives everyone a chance to have the spotlight for 6 minutes. The word Pecha Kucha means "the sound of conversation" in Japanese which aptly describes the buzz in the room of 400+ people listening to each other's ideas.
Today, Pecha Kucha nights can be found in hundreds of cities around the world and have expanded far beyond the scope of design projects. Each Pecha Kucha event centers around a certain theme, which can be used for inspiration but is in no way required. Last night's theme was "Verde, Verte" which some used as a platform to talk about urban green design projects. However, you certainly don't have to be a designer or architect to present. In fact, some of the more interesting speakers last night were photographers and community activists sharing their work that was completely unrelated to the theme. The blessing and the curse of the event is the strict 20-slides/20 seconds guideline, which gives you just enough time to pitch an idea but not enough time expand upon it and/or lose your audience's attention.
Starting a Pecha Kucha evening is fairly easy and fully supported by the organization. Most major U.S. cities already have their own Pecha Kucha chapter -- click here to see events from your city. I'm considering presenting in the next San Francisco Pecha Kucha, providing I can muster the courage to be the center of 400 people's attention for 6 entire minutes. Stay tuned!